In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Battle of Plassey, 1757

  • Introduction
  • Printed Sources
  • General Overviews
  • Colonial Accounts of the British Forces in India
  • “Military Revolution” and the European Armed Forces in South Asia
  • Officers and Soldiers of the East India Company
  • Military Technology
  • Indigenous Princely Armies
  • Bengal Nawabi’s Ground Force
  • History of Bengal
  • East India Company State
  • Eighteenth-Century Indian State System
  • Bengal Nawabi
  • Economic Dimensions
  • Biographies of British Commanders and French Officers
  • Biographies of Indian Leaders
  • Autobiographies and Journals
  • Battle
  • Campaign

Military History Battle of Plassey, 1757
Kaushik Roy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0227


The battle of Plassey was fought in a mango orchard on the bank of the Hugli River on 23 June 1757, between the British East India Company’s force led by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Clive against the Bengal Nawabi (Muslim regional polity) Army commanded by the Bengal Nawab (Muslim ruler) Siraj-ud-daulah. This battle is considered to be a turning point in the history of the modern world. The battle was brief but the consequences proved to be far reaching. Despite the volume of ink that has flowed as regards Plassey, historians are still debating over various issues concerning the battle. Was the armed clash between the Company and the Bengal Nawabi inevitable? And who was responsible for this encounter: the “debauch” Siraj or the greedy Company traders? Was the defeat of Siraj foreordained? Did Plassey result in Bengal’s economic decline? Did Plassey signify the foundation stone of British rule in India which gave rise to the largest empire in the nineteenth century? We are clear on one ground. In terms of battle casualties, Plassey was a marginal affair. Only five hundred soldiers on the nawab’s side and fifty in Clive’s army were casualties. However, this armed confrontation’s effect on the social, political, and economic spheres of both Britain and India were enormous. In fact, one British official, just after this battle, coined the term that a “revolution” had indeed occurred in Bengal. The Urdu and Persian speaking Indians used the term “inqilab” (an upsurge that resulted in complete break with the past). Again, it would be simplistic to accept that Plassey was a binary struggle between the British and the Indians. Another European power, the French, were also involved. Plassey also had immense consequences on the trading activities and political interests of the Dutch and French in South Asia. The different dimensions regarding the cause, course, and consequences of the “decisive” battle of Plassey are discussed in the following sections.

Printed Sources

In English, the most notable is the collection Anon 1870, followed by three volumes of Hill 1905. Srinivasachariar 1952 selections of Robert Orme’s documents detail the military rise of the British in South India before Plassey. Among the Persian sources, Hussein-Khan 1832 is notable. While Hussein-Khan provides a pan-India account, Yusuf Khan’s Tarikh-i-Bangala 1982 and Sarkar 1998 are regional histories of Bengal focusing on the first half of the eighteenth century. Salim 1975 is a pro-British Persian history of Bengal.

  • Anon, ed. Indian Records with a Commercial View of the Relations between the British Government and the Nawabs Nazim of Bengal, Behar and Orissa. London: G. Bubb, 1870.

    The collection showcases the treaties which were forced on the nawabs by the East India Company from June 1757 onward. The overall tenor of the treaties and the farmans (orders) issued by the helpless nawabs show that with the passage of time, British control over the political and economic spheres was increasing and the nawabs were becoming Roi fainéant.

  • Bengal Nawabs containing Azad-al-Husaini’s Naubahar-i-Murshid Quli Khani, Karam Ali’s Muzaffarnamah and Yusuf Ali’s Ahwal-i-Mahabat Jang. Translated by Jadunath Sarkar. Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1998.

    This volume is a compilation of three books translated into English from Persian. The first book is about one Mughal noble Murshid Quli Khan II who led an expedition to Assam and was governor of Orissa when Alivardi killed Nawab Sarfaraz Khan and ascended the Bengal masnad (throne). The second book authored by Karam Ali provides interesting detail about Siraj-ud-daulah’s offensive against the East India Company at Kasimbazar and at Chitpur, a suburb of Calcutta. The third book authored by Yusuf Ali is a detailed account of the life and times of Alivardi until the accession of Siraj. Originally published in 1952.

  • Indian Records Series, Bengal in 1756–1757, A Selection of Public and Private Papers dealing with the affairs of the British in Bengal during the Reign of Siraj-ud-Daulah. Edited by S. C. Hill. 3 vols. London: John Murray, 1905.

    The most copious collection of documents in English is provided in the three volumes edited by Hill. Includes Notes and Historical Introduction. Those researchers who are not able to consult Robert Orme’s multivolume manuscript in the British Library, London, will find this selection particularly useful. However, Hill’s introduction which runs for more than two pages in the first volume is dated.

  • Riyazu-s-Salatin by Ghulam Hussain Salim. Translated by Abdus Salam. Delhi: Idarah-I Adabiyat-I Delli, 1975.

    Following the late Victorian assumption, Salim asserts that the British victories over the Bengal nawabs were due to the Christian Franks’ (the Indian scholars of eighteenth century called the British/English hatmen or Franks) superior intellectual and moral faculties. After all, Salim was an official of the British-Indian government in the late nineteenth century. Nevertheless, Salim’s history provides a lot of important factual details. Translated from Persian. Originally published in 1903.

  • The Siyar-ul-Mutakherin, A History of the Mohamedan Power in India during the Last Century by Mir Gholam Hussein-Khan. Vol. 1. London: Oriental Translation Fund in association with John Murray, 1832.

    Revised from the translation of Haji Mustafa, and collated with the Persian original by Lieutenant-Colonel John Briggs. Hussein-Khan paints the decline of the all-India Mughal Empire after the death of Aurangzeb and the rise of independent nawabis in Bengal and Awadh. Khan especially stresses the treachery of Alivardi Khan against the lawful Nawab Sarfaraz Khan which resulted in the Battle of Giria on 26 April 1740.

  • Srinivasachariar, Diwan Bahadur C. S., ed. Selections from Orme Manuscripts. Annamalainagar, India: Annamalai University, 1952.

    This collection shows the experience gained by the East India Company in the 1740s during its tussle with the French and Indian rulers in the Coromandel Coast. This knowledge was put to good effect in Bengal in the 1750s.

  • The Tarikh-i-Bangala-i-Mahabatjangi of Yusuf Ali Khan. English translation of Persian by Abdus Samad. Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1982.

    The author was a contemporary of Alivardi Khan and gives copious details about the nawab’s problems with the Marathas and the Afghans of Bihar. This in turn allowed the British traders to strengthen their position within the Bengal Suba (Mughal province). As regards Siraj, Yusuf absolves him of the “Black Hole” tragedy.

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