Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/184

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


180 THE FOUNDATION OF BRITISH RULE IN INDIA. English, the French, and the Dutch had each factories at Kasim- bazar, as well as at Dacca, Patna, and Maldah. But Calcutta was the separate headquarters of the English, Chandarnagar of the French, and Chinsurah of the Dutch, — these three towns being situated not far from one another on the lower reaches of the Hugh', where the river was navigable for sea-going ships. Murshid Kulf Khan ruled over Lower Bengal prosperously for twenty-one years, and left his power to a son-in-law and a grandson. The hereditary succession was broken in 1740 by All Vardf Khan, a up urper, but the last of the great Nawabs ot Bengal. In his days the Maratha horsemen ravaged the country, and the inhabitants of Calcutta obtained permission in 1742 to erect an earthwork, known to the present day as the ' Maratha Ditch.' 'Black Hole' of Calcutta. — AH Vardf Khan died in 1756, and was succeeded by his grandson, Siraj-ud-riauli (Surajah Dowlah), a youth of only eighteen years, whose ungovernable temper led to a rupture with the English within two months after his accession. In pursuit of one of his own family who had escaped from his vengeance, he marched upon Calcutta with a large army. Many of the English fled down the river in their ships. The remainder surrendered after some resistance, and were thrust for the night into the ' Black Hole ' or military jail of Fort William, a room about 18 feet square, with only two small windows barred with iron. It was our ordinary garrison prison in those times of cruel military discipline. But although the Nawab does not seem to have been aware of the conse- quences, it meant death to a crowd of English men and women in the stifling heats of June. When the door of the prison was opened next morning, only 23 persons out of 146 remained alive. Clive and Watson. — The news of this disaster fortunately found Clive back again at Madras, where also was a squadron of King's ships under Admiral Watson. Clive and Watson promptly sailed to the mouth of the Ganges with all the troops they could get together. Calcutta was recovered with little fighting ; and the Nawab consented to a peace, which restored to the English Company all their privileges, and gave them ample compensation for their losses. Battle of Plassey, 1757. — It is possible that matters might