23rd February 1768 Nizam Signed Treaty For Supremacy With British

Mysore Wars

1767 to 1799
Kingdom of Mysore — versus — British East India Company

First Mysore War — 1766-1769      Second Mysore War — 1780-1783
Third and Fourth Mysore Wars — 1789-1799     



The Mysore Wars, fought between 1767 and 1799 were the first and gravest threats to British dominions, after they had established their supremacy in India during the Carnatic Wars. There were several reasons why they were especially difficult and dangerous for Britain. First, Hyder Ali and his son Tippoo Sultan were exceedingly determined and energetic in their opposition to Britain. Other native armies that Britain faced were often poorly generalled and poorly equipped, but such was not the case in the Mysore Wars. Hyder Ali and his son were long time allies of the French, employed foreign officers in his armies, and were sophisticated in the used of European weapons. They were clever diplomats as well as generals, and turned several of Britain’s allies against her.

Second, the East India Company did not have effective leadership for many years from the time Clive left India to the arrival of Warren Hastings in 1773, and the Madras presidency, which was responsible for the wars, was poorly administered. The Company had experience in extracting revenue, and in fighting battles, but did not have an over-arching vision to guide their policies, and was not equipped to deal with the demands of properly governing the territories which they had acquired. In short, the Company was poorly administered during this period, and its activities were highly controversial even at the time. It was in fact, only during the Mysore wars, that British fully realized that maintaining the status quo was not an option, and they would either have to fight for their empire in India, and govern it properly, or lose it altogether.

Hyder Ali and Tippoo Sultan remain controversial figures. They bravely and competently resisted British rule, yet at the same time they were brutal tyrants who held human life in low regard. They burned villages, terrorized the natives, forced many of their subjects to relocate or convert to Islam, and ruled mainly by ruthless coercion. They had courage and resolve, but unlike other Indian rulers, such as Akbar, they had not the magnanimity required of truly great leaders.

First Mysore War : 1766-1769

The first Mysore war broke out very shortly after the close of the Seven Year’s War, and only two years after Britain had decisively put down a rebellion in Bengal and secured their dominant position in India. Hyder Ali was a Moslem General, and the de facto leader of the Mysore Kingdom, who Britain had encountered on several occasions during the Carnatic Wars. As a strong French ally, and a leader of the most sophisticated and well equipped armies in the south of India, he was recognized as a dangerous foe even before the outbreak of the Mysore Wars. Britain controlled the area immediately around Madras, but depended on alliances with other principalities in the area. They agreed to provide troops the help their ally, Nizam of Hyderabad fight the Mysores, but instead Hyder Ali used treachery to turn Britain’s allies against them. The Troops sent to fight the Mysores were surrounded by foes rather than allies, but fought their way out successfully. After several more battles, a treaty declaring peace and returning the situation to the status quo.

Date Battle Summary
1767   Battle of Trincomalee (First )British victory
Fought September 3, 1767, between the British, under Colonel Smith, and the Mysore army, under Hyder Ali. Hyder attacked the British camp, but was beaten off with a loss of 2,000 men while the British lost 170 only.
1767   Battle of Trincomalee (First )British victory
On September 26 of the same year, a second engagement took place near Trincomalee, when Colonel Smith, with 12,000 British and native troops, came unexpectedly upon the united armies of Hyderabad and Mysore, 60,000 strong, under Hyder Ali, while rounding a hill which separated them. The superior discipline of the British enabled them to take full advantage of the surprise, and they inflicted an overwhelming defeat upon their opponents’ disordered masses. Hyder Ali lost over 4,000 men and 64 guns, the British loss being 150 killed and wounded.
1767   Siege of Ambur (First )British victory
This strong fortress was held by a garrison of 500 Sepoys, under Captain Calvert, and a detachment of Mysore troops under Mukhlis Khan. This man had assumed the status of an independent chief, but being suspected of intriguing with Hyder Ali, was arrested by Calvert. Hyder laid siege to the place November 10, 1767, but Calvert, now secure from treachery within, held out with his small garrison till December 6, when the approach of a relieving force obliged Hyder to raise the siege.
1768   Battle of Ooscata (First )British victory
Fought August 23, 1768, when the camp of the Mahratta contingent, under Morari Rao, forming a part of Colonel Donald Campbell’s column, was attacked by a detachment of Hyder Ali’s army. The Mahrattas repulsed the Mysore cavalry with a loss of about 300, at a cost to themselves of 18 only.
1773   Siege of Tanjore (Fourth )British victory
The fortress was besieged, August 20, 1773, by a British force, under General Joseph Smith, and defended by a garrison of 20,000 men, under the Rajah, Laljaji, and his Vizier Monacji. On September 16, a breach having been effected, the besiegers delivered an assault at midday, when their garrison were taking their usual noon-day rest, and meeting with little opposition, made themselves masters of the place.
Commander Short Biography
Hyder Ali Muslim Ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. Allied with the French against the British.
Story Links Book Links
Hyder Ali and the Mahrattas  in Peeps at History – India  by  Beatrice Home
How Hastings Raised Money for the Wars  in India  by  Victor Surridge

Second Mysore War : 1780-1783


The second Mysore war was triggered by the entry of France into theAmerican Revolutionary War, but the underlying hostilities had been brewing for some time. Hyder Ali was an inveterate enemy of the British and an ally of the French. Soon after France declared war on Britain, one of the major ports of the Mysores was taken. His son Tippoo immediately retaliated, first against the Marathas, and soon after he surrounded and annihilated a British army that was en routeto meet its reinforcements. This battle in which Britain lost over 3000 killed or taken prisoner, was the worst defeat Britain had yet suffered in India. The war continued badly for Britain until Warren Hastings took charge in Madras and sent Eyre Coote against Tippoo. Finally, Tippoo was defeated in several battles, and the British also managed to blockade the Mysore ports and prevent any support from France from reaching him. Hyder Ali himself died during the course of the war, but not in battle. The war was finally brought to a close in 1784 by a treaty in which both sides agreed to return conquests made during the war. The war was effectively a draw with both sides loosing heavily and neither able to gain a decisive advantage.

Date Battle Summary
1780   Siege of Tellicherry (Second )British victory
This place, held by a small British garrison, and very imperfectly fortified, was besieged June, 1780, by a Mysore force, under Sirdar Ali Khan. Aid was sent to the garrison from Bombay, and a most gallant defense was made till January 18, 1782, when reinforcements arrived, under Major Abington, who, aided by the garrison, stormed the Mysori entrenchments, capturing all their guns, 60 in number, and 1,200 prisoners, among whom was Sirdar Ali.
1780   Battle of Perembacum (Second )Mysoris victory
Fought September 10, 1780, when a Mysore force, 11,000 strong, under Tippu Sahib, surrounded and cut to pieces a detachment of Sir Hector Monro’s army, 3,700 in number, under Colonel Baillie. Only a few, including Baillie himself, escaped the massacre.
1780   Battle of Ponani (Second )British victory
Fought November 19, 1780, when a force of British and native troops, about 2,500 strong, under Colonel Macleod, entrenched near Penani, were attacked before daybreak by a strong force of Mysoris, under Tippu Sahib. The Mysoris were repulsed at the point of the bayonet, with a loss of 1,100. The British loss was 87 only.
1780   Siege of Wandewash (Second )British victory
This fort, defended by a small native garrison, under Lieutenant Flint, who had only one other European with him, was besieged, December, 1780, by the Mysoris, under Hyder Ali. Flint held out with the utmost gallantry till January 22, 1781, when the approach of Sir Eyre Coote forced Hyder Ali to raise the siege. The garrison had then only one day’s ammunition left.
1781   Battle of Porto Novo (Second )British victory
Fought July 1, 1781, between 8,500 British troops, under Sir Eyre Coote, and about 65,000 Mysoris, under Hyder Ali. Hyder occupied a strongly entrenched camp, blocking the British advance upon Cuddalore. Here he was attacked by Coote, and after a day’s hard fighting the position was stormed, and Hyder forced to retreat. The British lost 306 only, while the Mysoris are computed to have lost 10,000.
1781   Battle of Pollicore (Second )British victory
Fought August 27, 1781, between 11,000 British, under Sir Eyre Coote and the Mysoris, 80,000 strong, under Haidar Ali. Coote seized the village of Pollicore, turning Haidar’s flank and forcing him to retreat, after an action lasting eight hours. The British lost 421 killed and wounded, the Mysoris about 2,000.
1781   Battle of Sholingur (Second )British victory
Fought September 27, 1781, between the British, 10,000 strong, under Sir Eyre Conte, and the Mysoris, numbering about 80,000, under Hyder Ali. Hyder was surprised in the act of striking camp, and though a series of cavalry charges enabled him to withdraw his guns in safety, it was at a cost of 5,000 men that he eventually made good his retreat. The British loss did not exceed 100.
1781   Siege of Negapatam (Second )British victory
Siege was laid to this place October 21, 1781, by a British force, 4,000 strong, under Colonel Braithwaite. The garrison, partly Dutch and partly Mysore troops, though 8,000 in number, did not wait for a bombardment, but surrendered November 3.
1782   Battle of Arnee (Second )Drawn Battle
An indecisive action fought June 7, 1782, between the British under Sir Eyre Coote, and the Mysore troops under Hyder Ali.
1783   Siege of Mangalore (Third )Mysoris victory
This place was besieged June 20, 1783, by Tippu Sahib with his whole army, and was defended by a small British garrison, under Colonel Campbell. On the conclusion of peace between France and England, the French officer assisting Tippu withdrew, and on August 2 an armistice was arranged, during which the garrison was to receive regular supplies. This article was evaded, and the defenders half starved, and after some delay Tippu renewed the siege. No attempt, however, was made to relieve the place, and after a gallant defense, Campbell surrendered January 26, 1763.
Commander Short Biography
Hyder Ali Muslim Ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. Allied with the French against the British.
Tipu Sultan Took over the Mysore Kingdom on the death of his father Hyder Ali. Fought the British in a series of Anglo-Mysore wars.
Warren Hastings Early Governor of India. Was tried for corruption, but acquitted after a lengthy trial.
Eyre Coote After Clive, greatest of British generals during early years of British Rule in India. Fought at Porto Novo.

Third and Fourth Mysore Wars : 1789-1799


The third Mysore war was provoked by Tippoo Sultan, when he made a night attack on British lines. The war began shortly after Cornwallis, who had no association with the East India Company but was a respected military leader, was persuaded to become Governor-General of India. He soon took personal charge of the war and led several successful campaigns against Tippoo. At the same time, he resolve to drive the French entirely out of India, since their continued interference with the Native tribes caused untold headaches for the British. Deprived of any support from the French, and opposed by a competent and level-headed general, Tippoo finally agreed to make terms. He was required to give up much of his property, and hand over both of his sons as hostages in order to treat with the Britains.

The fourth Mysore was in some respects a continuation of the third. Tippoo Sultan was still a resolute enemy of the British, and was thought to be plotting with the French. Shortly before the fourth war broke out, Napoleon was in Egypt actively trying to make his way toward India, and Lord Wellesley, the new governor was determined to rid India of the Mysore menace. The British again besieged his capital of Seringapatam, and offered him a pension to retire, but he refused, preferring to die like a soldier than to live on British dole. He was killed in the siege when the British stormed the city, and his remaining dominions were split up between several Hindu kingdoms and the British Company.

Date Battle Summary
1789   Battle of Travancore (Third )British victory
Fought December 28, 1789, when Tippu Sahib, with about 15,000 Mysoris, made a night attack upon the British lines. Having thrown down a portion of the rampart, a small advance party were hastening to open the gate, when. they were assailed by a detachment of the garrison, and hurled back into the trench. This repulse threw the advancing troops into confusion, and they were routed with a loss of over 2,000.
1790   Battle of Calicut (Third )British victory
Fought December 10, 1790, between 9,000 Mysore troops under Hussein Ali, and a British force of one European and two native regiments under Colonel Hartly. Hussein Ali occupied a strong position in front of Calicut, which was attacked and carried by Hartley with a loss of 52 only. The enemy lost 1,000 killed and wounded, and 2,400 prisoners, including their commander.
1791   Battle of Arikera (Third )British victory
Fought May 13, 1791, between the British under Lord Cornwallis, and the forces of Tippu Sahib. The latter was encamped between Arikera and Seringapatam, and was attacked by Cornwallis, who attempted to surprise him by a night march, but was foiled by heavy rain. A frontal attack on Tippu’s position was, however, successful, and, aided by a flank movement under Maxwell, resulted in the total defeat of the Mysore troops, with a loss of over 2,000. The British loss amounted to 500. This is also known as the battle of Carigat.
1791   Siege of Bangalore (Third )British victory
This place was besieged by the British under Lord Cornwallis, March 5, 1791, and notwithstanding numerous efforts to relieve it on the part of Tippu Sahib, it was taken by storm on the night of the 21st, Tippu’s final attempt being beaten off by the reserve with heavy loss. The British casualties were few.
1791   Siege of Savandroog (Third )British victory
Siege was laid to this place December 10, 1791, by a column of Lord Cornwallis’ army, about 4,000 strong,. It was defended by a strong garrison of Mysoris, and was considered impregnable, but a practicable breach having been effected, it was taken by storm eleven days later, the garrison offering little resistance. The assailants did not lose a man.
1792   Siege of Seringapatam (Allied Campaign in France )British victory
This city was besieged, February 5, 1792, by 22,000 British and native troops, with 86 guns, under Lord Cornwallis, and defended by a Mysori garrison, under Tippu Sahib. On the 6th an assault upon the outlying works was successful, all the redoubts commanding the city being carried, at a cost to the assailants of 530, while the Mysoris lost 20,000. On the approach of reinforcements, under General Abercromby, on the 16th, Tippu consented to treat, and peace was signed in the following month.
1799   Battle of Sidassir (Fourth )British victory
Fought March 6, 1799, between the advance guard of General Stuart’s force, composed of three regiments, under Colonel Montresor, and 12,000 Mysoris, under Tippu Sahib. Montresor’s small force withstood the attack of Tippu’s troops for over six hours, and their ammunition was all but exhausted when Stuart came up, and drove back the enemy with a loss of 2,000 men. The British lost 143 killed and wounded.
1799   Battle of Malavilly (Fourth )British victory
Fought March 20, 1799, when the camp of the British force, under Lord Harris, marching on Seringapatam, was attacked in force by Tippu Sahib. The enemy was thrown into confusion by a charge of cavalry, under General Floyd, and retired with a loss of about 1,000, The British losses were trifling.
1799   Siege of Seringapatam (Second )British victory
The second siege by General Harris, opened April 6, 1799, when the city was defended by a garrison of 20,000, under Tippu. On May 3, the breach was declared practicable, and the place was stormed by 4,000 men, under General Baird. Tippu was slain in the rout which followed the assault. The British losses during the siege amounted to 1,464. About 8,000 Mysoris fell in the assault.
Commander Short Biography
General Cornwallis British leader defeated at Yorktown in Revolutionary War. Later served as governor in India.
Marquess Wellesley Governor-general of India, fought Second Maratha and Mysore wars. Later, promoted Catholic emancipation.
Tipu Sultan Took over the Mysore Kingdom on the death of his father Hyder Ali. Fought the British in a series of Anglo-Mysore wars.
Story Links Book Links
How We Cleared the Road to Empire  in Peeps at History – India  by  Beatrice Home
Tippoo Sultan  in Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Mutiny of Vellore  in Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Of Mysore, Marathas, and Mutiny  in India  by  Victor Surridge

Image Links

Tippoo Sahib
in Peeps at History – India

Tippoo Sultan’s body was found buried beneath those of his followers.
in Our Empire Story

Tipu himself stood firing coolly at his advancing foes
in India


The East India Company became the real master of Bengal from 1765.But Robert Clive, the Governor of Bengal wanted to save the Company from taking direct responsibility of the administration of the province. So the administration of Bengal was divided into two parts. The Company was vested with the power to run the military and external affairs and to receive revenues. The Nawab was to collect revenues, to administer justice and to maintain law and order. This system was known as Dual System or Double Government .This system held a great advantage for the British. They had power without responsibility. The Nawab and his officials had the responsibility of the administration, but not the power to enforce it. The Company’s authority tried to extract as much wealth as possible from Bengal. The abuses of the Dual System and the drain of wealth led to the impoverishment and exhaustion of Bengal.

In 1772 Warren Hastings became Governor of Bengal and with the passing of the Regulating Act he became Governor General. We will discuss about Regulating Act in Unit 2. Hastings’s main objective was to consolidate the British power in India. He brought servants of Company under control and discontinued the annual tribute payable to the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. He cut down the annual allowance of Nawab of Bengal and extracted money from Raja Chet Singh of Benaras and the Begums of Awadh. He received a sum of 40 lakhs for helping Shuja-ud-daula of Awadh.

Hastings waged wars against the Marathas and Mysore. The important war fought during the Governor-Generalship of Warren Hastings was the First Anglo-Maratha war. The main cause of the war was interference of the Bombay Government in the mutual discords of the Marathas. The Bombay Government without the permission of the Government of Calcutta signed a treaty with Raghoba, one of the contenders to the Maratha throne and decided to help him in the succession war. The Calcutta government disapproved of it and ordered the Bombay government to stop the war. Warren Hastings sent a British Colonel to start peace negotiation with Nana Phadnavis, the supporter of Raghoba’s rival Madhab Rao II. Accordingly the Treaty of Purandhar was signed on 1st March, 1776. However this treaty was neither approved by the Courts of Directors, nor was it ratified by the Marathas. So the Anglo-Maratha war was resumed. Initially the British army met with humiliating defeats. But Warren Hastings vigorously pursued the war which came to an end with the Treaty of Salbai. This treaty enhanced the power and prestige of the British in India.

The Second Anglo-Mysore war was fought during Warren Hastings’s tenure. After the first Anglo-Mysore war the treaty of Madras was signed under which it was agreed that the Company and Mysore ruler Hyder Ali would help each other in case a third party invaded any one of them. However, when the Marathas attacked the Mysore, the British did not help. Hyder Ali was further irritated when British occupied Mahe and Guntur. So he made alliance with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad and declared war against the British. In the midst of the war Hyder Ali died and his son Tipu Sultan continued the war. The Treaty of Mangalore brought an end to the war. The treaty established friendly relation between the British and Mysore.

Warren Hastings left India in 1785. Sir John Macpherson succeeded him as temporary Governor-General. Later on Lord Cornwallis (1786-93) and Sir John Shore (1793-98) came to power. As far as possible both of them followed the policy of non-intervention. Lord Cornwallis concentrated mainly on reforms. He introduced the Permanent Settlement in Bengal in 1793 which fixed the land revenue in Bengal permanently, doing away with the system of periodic assessment. The Third Anglo-Mysore war was fought during his tenure against Tipu Sultan. The British defeated Tipu and signed the Treaty of Seringapatam. By this treaty half of the dominion of Tipu was taken away and divided among the British, the Marathas and the Nizam.

The next large scale expansion of British rule in India occurred during the Governor Generalship of Lord Wellesley who came to India in 1798.Till then the British had followed the policy of consolidating their gains and resources in India and making territorial gains when necessary. By 1797 the two strong Indian powers, Mysore and the Marathas had declined in power. Political conditions in India were favourable for expansion. To achieve his political aims Wellesley relied on three methods-the system of Subsidiary Alliance, outright war and the assumption of the territories of previously subordinate rulers.

Under Subsidiary Alliance system, the rulers of the allying Indian states were compelled to accept a British force within their territory and to pay a subsidy for its maintenance. This alliance also provided that the Indian ruler would agree to the posting of a British Resident to his court, would not employ any European in his service without the approval of the British and would not negotiate with any other Indian rulers without consulting the Governor General. In return the British would defend the ruler from his enemies. In reality, by signing a Subsidiary Alliance, an Indian state virtually lost its independence. Wellesley signed his Subsidiary Treaties with the Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Awadh, Tanjore, Surat and Carnatic. Some other states were also forcefully brought under this Alliance. Lord Wellesley tried to force this Subsidiary Alliance on Tipu Sultan of Mysore, who never accepted it. The British army attacked and defeated Tipu in 1799. Tipu died on 4th May, 1799 while defending his capital. Nearly half of Tipu’s dominion was divided between the British and the Nizam. A reduced portion of Mysore was restored and placed under a ruler and Subsidiary Alliance was imposed on him. In 1801, Lord Wellesley forced a new treaty upon the Nawab of Carnatic compelling him to cede his kingdom to the Company in return for a pension. The Madras Presidency was created by attaching Carnatic to territories seized from Mysore, including the Malabar. The territories of the rulers of Tanjore and Surat were taken over and their rulers were given pension.

Now Wellesley turned his attention to the Marathas. The Maratha Empire at this time consisted of a Confederacy of five big chiefs, namely, the Peshwa at Poona, Gaekwad of Baroda, Sindhia of Gwalior, Holkar of Indore and Bhonsle of Nagpur. The Peshwa was the nominal head of the Confederacy but its members did not share a good relation. Wellesley had repeatedly offered a Subsidiary Alliance to the Peshwa and Sindhia. When on 25th October, 1802 Holkar defeated the combined armies of the Peshwa and Sindhia, the Peshwa signed the Subsidiary Treaty at Bassein to seek British help. In 1803, the British army led by Arthur Wellesley defeated the combined force of Sindhia and Bhonsle twice. In the north also Sindhia’s army was defeated at Lasware. Both Sindhia and Bhonsle became the Subsidiary allies of the British. However Yashwant Rao Holkar gave a stiff resistance to the Company. In the meantime the British statesman and directors of the Company felt the need of checking further expansion to put an end to their expenditure. Wellesley was therefore recalled from India and the Company made peace with Holkar (Treaty of Raighat) giving him back a greater part of his territory.

The next important expansion took place during the Governor-Generalship of Lord Hastings. The Maratha chiefs made a desperate last attempt to regain their independence and old prestige in 1817 under the leadership of the Peshwa. However Lord Hastings struck back with characteristic vigour. He compelled Sindhia to accept suzerainty and defeated the armies of the Peshwa, Bhonsle and Holkar. The Peshwa was dethroned and pensioned off. His territories were annexed to the Bombay Presidency. Holkar and Bhonsle accepted Subsidiary Alliance. To satisfy Maratha pride, the small kingdom of Satara was founded out of the Peshwa’s land and given to the descendants of Shivaji. The Rajputana states, which had been dominated for several decades by Sindhia and Holkar, now accepted British supremacy.

Thus by 1818 the entire Indian sub-continent except the Punjab and Sindh had been brought under British control.

1. Write “True” or “False” :
a) Robert Clive introduced Dual Government in Bengal. (True/False)
b) First Anglo-Maratha war was fought during the Governor- Generalship of Warren Hastings. (True/False)
c) Lord Cornwallis was the immediate successor of Warren Hastings. (True/False)
d) Permanent Settlement in Bengal was introduced by Lord Wellesley. (True/False)
e) Lord Hastings defeated the combined force of Peshwa, Bhonsle and Holkar. (True/False)

2. Answer the following :
a) In Dual System who had the power to collect revenue and maintain law and order?
b) From whom did Warren Hastings extracted money?
c) Which treaty brought an end to the Second Anglo-Mysore war?
d) Who introduced the Subsidiary Alliance?
e) With whom did the East India Company sign the Treaty of Raighat?
f) During which Governor-General’s tenure did the Rajputana states come under British control?


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