First Anglo-Maratha War (1775–1782)

first anglo maratha war

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The first ever war between the Britishers and the Marathas is referred to as the First Anglo-Maratha war. The Britishers arrived in India with the purpose of trading but they gradually started intervening in the political affairs of the country which disturbed many rulers. In pretense of offering help, they secured their interests in several ways. Today, you will be reading one such story from India’s past that brought the Marathas and the British in violent confrontation with one another.

In this article, we will be discussing the background, the causes of the first Anglo-Maratha war and the treaties signed. Also, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and important dates are provided to ease out on your efforts of studying. Let’s dive into the article right from here.

First Anglo-Maratha war in brief 

The first Anglo-Maratha was fought between the Britishers and the representatives of the Maratha empire. The battle started with the Treaty of Surat in 1775 and ended with the treaty of Salbai in 1782. Other treaties that were signed during this period include the Treaty of Purandar and the Treaty of Wadgaon. The war ended with the victory of the Marathas against the Britishers. 

Background of the First Anglo-Maratha war 

  • Madhavrao Peshwa, the 9th Peshwa of the Maratha empire succumbed to tuberculosis on 18 November 1772 in his favorite Ganesha Chintamani Temple. Following that, his younger brother Narayanrao succeeded the throne of Peshwa. 
  • Raghunathrao who was the uncle of Narayanrao plotted to kill the latter with his wife Anandibai and his personal servant Tujali Pawar. The 18-year-old Narayanrao was assassinated by his palace guards on 30 August, 1773.  
  • However, Gangabai, wife of the deceased Narayanrao gave birth to a son on 18 April 1774. The 40-day old infant named Madhavrao II was made the new Peshwa and Raghunathrao fled towards Surat. 
  • Twelve Maratha chiefs came together and formed the Baarbhai Council (“Twelve comrades”) serving as regents to the newly appointed peshwa. Nana Fadnavis was the chief among others. The foundation of this group was laid by Sakharam Bapu who was an influential minister of the Marathas. 
  • The Baarbhai carried out a conspiracy against Raghunathrao known as the “Baarbhai Conspiracy”. Raghunathrao was overthrown and a battle ensued between him and Baarbhain in 1774. 
  • After negotiations between Baarbhai and Raghunath Rao failed, the latter decided to get help from the Britishers. Having transporting Raghunathrao to Surat, a treaty was signed between him and the British East India Company. This Treaty was known as the Treaty of Surat which was signed on 6 March, 1775.  
  • As per the Treaty, certain regions like Thane, Salsette, Bassein (Vasai) were to remain under the British control. The land revenues were worth Rs 19 lakhs. Additionally, Rs 1 lakh was given for the military expenses (Hindustan Times) . The Britishers in turn would make attempts to establish Raghunathrao as the Peshwa and provide him with 2,500 soldiers. 
  • The British Calcutta Council condemned the Treaty of Surat as going for a full-fledged war against the Marathas was not possible. Colonel Upton was sent to Surat to annul the treaty. 
  • A new treaty was brought into place, known as the Treaty of Purandhar, on 1 March, 1776. It was a pact between the British’s Supreme Council of Bengal and the regency. 
  • As per the Treaty of Purandhar, the support given to Raghunathrao was abandoned and he was reduced to a pensioner. However, the British continued to gain revenues from the Salsette and Broach districts. 
  • Since Raghunathrao couldn’t return to Pune, he was offered refuge by the Bombay government. 
  • Nana Fadnavis violated the treaty which stated that the regency could not aid the French by any means. He offered a port on the West coast to the French which irked the Britishers. They retaliated by sending an army towards Pune. 

Who won the First-Anglo Maratha war? 

The first Anglo-Maratha war was won by the Marathas against the Britishers. The latter surrendered in the month of January 1779. Following this, a treaty was signed between the two as a measure of peace. This Treaty was known as the Treaty of Salbai. 

Treaties signed during the First Anglo-Maratha war 

Treaty of Surat 

  • The Treaty of Surat was signed on 6 March 1775 between the Britishers and Raghunathrao of the Maratha empire. It was a mutual agreement concerning the two sides of the group where one would serve the other. While on one hand, Raghunathrao ceded the territories like Salsette, Thane and Bassein, on the other the British would make every endeavour to reinstate their partner as a Peshwa. The British would even receive revenues from Surat and Bharuch districts and would provide 2,500 soldiers to Raghunathrao. 
  • Even after the dissolution of the Treaty of Surat, the British retained receiving revenues collectively from the Surat and Bharuch districts. 

Treaty of Purandar 

  • Warren Hastings estimated that the Maratha empire was not weak in any terms. He realized the strength of the Baarbai Council or the group of the “Twelve Brothers”. Therefore, he sent his agent Colonel Upton to immediately annul the former treaty I.e., the Treaty of Surat. This treaty would be replaced by a new one with the regency of the Maratha empire. 
  • The Treaty of Purandar was a doctrine signed on 1 March 1776 between the Marathas and the British East India Company’s Supreme Council of Bengal. The two parties to the doctrine, Warren Hastings and Nana Phadnavis agreed on their set terms and conditions. As per the treaty, the British would be able to secure Salsette. The Marathas will curb giving importance to the French and will barely recognize their existence. 

Treaty of Wadgaon 

  • The Poona government signed a treaty with the French violating the Treaty of Purandhar. As per the Treaty of Purandhar, the Marathas should simply ignore the French’s existence in India. The British reacted by sending troops under Colonel Egerton. 
  • The British forces traversed the areas of Khopoli, Bhor Ghat and moved towards Karla. The Maratha troops attacked and the British forces retreated. It was victory for the Marathas as they had surrounded the British soldiers from all sides.  
  • Reinforcements were even sent from northern India but they arrived too late to be of any use for the British troops. These reinforcements were under the command of Colonel Thomas Wyndham Goddard who later served as the General of the army. As a result, the Treaty of Wadgaon was signed between the two groups. 
  • However, the British Governor General of Bengal, Warren Hastings rejected the treaty as the Bombay officials did not have any legal authority to sign it. He even ordered Goddard to consolidate British interests in the area. 

Battle of Wadgaon, Bhor Ghat and Durdah 

  • The Battle of Wadgaon was successively followed by the Battle of Bhor Ghat and the Battle of Durdah. In the battle of Wadgaon, Goddard led an army of 6000 soldiers to storm Bhadra Fort and he captured Ahmedabad on 15 February 1779. 
  • The army consisted of Arab and Sindhi soldiers on foot and 2000 horses. This was followed by the capture of Bassein on 15 February 1779. Goddard marched towards Pune and fought in the Battle of Bhor Ghat but he had to retreat with his troops. The regency that made him retreat mainly included Parshurambha, Tukoji Holkar and Haripant Phadke as the lead. 
  • A Bengal detachment was also sent under the command of Captain Popham and the assistance from Rana of Godhad. They captured Gwalior on 4 August 1780. Another force under Major Camac was also sent to harass Mahadji Shinde but the former was routed back to Hadur. 
  • The supplies of the Britishers were cut but they carried out a raid in a desperate attempt to fulfil their immediate needs. However, they even stole weaponry and elephants. At Sironj, Mahadji Shinde won a decisive victory against forces led by Camac. The latter avenged himself at the battle of Durdah on 24 march 1781. 
  • Colonels Murre, Popham and Camac came together to defeat the regency of the Maratha empire but eventually, the latter stood out as the champion. This brought an end to the first Anglo-Maratha war. A treaty was consecutively signed by the two parties known as the Treaty of Salbai. 

Treaty of Salbai 

  • The Treaty of Salbai was the outcome of the first Anglo-Maratha war. It was signed by the British East India company and the representatives of the Maratha empire. Both the signatories agreed to keep their terms and conditions agreeable to one another. 
  • The British East India Company would continue to receive revenues from Salsette and Bharuch districts that they were receiving since the Treaty of Surat. They also mentioned that the French would not be able to establish settlements in the territories of the Marathas. Moreover, the Marathas would make every attempt to reoccupy the Carnatic by defeating Haider Ali. 
  • In return, the Marathas will be able to reclaim some of the territories occupied by the British, including the area west of the Jumna River. As per the treaty, the Britishers would pension off Raghunathrao and recognize Madhavrao II as the peshwa of the Maratha empire. The treaty brought peace for a temporary period which was followed by the Second Anglo-Maratha war. 

Important dates 

  • 1772- Madhavrao died of tuberculosis in the temple of Ganesha Chintamani, Pune (Maharashtra). 
  • 1773- Narayanrao, brother of Madhavrao was assassinated by palace guards with Raghunathrao as the lead plotter. 
  • 6 March 1775- Treaty of Surat was signed between Raghunathrao and the Britishers. 
  • 18 May 1775-In the Battle of Adas, the Britishers lost against Haripant Phadke, one of the regents of the Baarbhai Council. 
  • 1 March 1776- Treaty of Purandhar was signed between the Maratha regents and the British. 
  • 1776- Treaty between France and Poona government was signed by both parties. 
  • 1777- Violation of the Treaty of Purandhar by Nana Fadnavis. 
  • 4 January 1779- Battle of Wadgaon was fought between the British troops under Colonel Egerton and the Marathas. 
  • 16 January 1779- With the surrendering of Britishers against the Marathas, the Treaty of Wadgaon was signed to ensure peace. 
  • 15 February 1779- Thomas Wyndham Goddard captures Ahmedabad and storms Bhadra fort. 
  • 4 August 1780- The Britishers under Captain Popham assisted by Rana of Godhad captures Gwalior. 
  • 11 December 1780- The Britishers capture Bassein. 
  • April, 1781- Battle of Bhor Ghat was fought between the Britishers under General Goddard and the Marathas.
  • 24 March 1781- Battle of Durdah was fought between the Britishers under Colonel Camac and the Marathas under Mahadji Shinde. 
  • 1 July 1781- Mahadji Shinde beats Murre in another battle. 
  • 17 May 1782- The Treaty of Salbai was signed between the Marathas and the British East India Company. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

When was the First Battle of Anglo-Maratha fought? 

Answer: The first Anglo-Maratha war was fought between the period of 1775 to 1782. The battle took place between the forces of the Marathas and the Britishers. The battle was a precursor to the two other successive Anglo-Maratha wars fought in 1803 and 1817. 

What was the most immediate cause behind the First Anglo Maratha war? 

Answer: The most immediate cause of the first Anglo-Maratha war can be attributed to the excessive interference by the Britishers in the internal affairs of the Marathas. Raghunathrao sought help from the Britishers to install him as the peshwa by usurping power from the hands of Madhavrao II, the rightful heir to the throne. With the signing of the Treaty of Surat, the rift between the Marathas and the Britishers became more apparent. 

Why did the Supreme British Calcutta Council give orders to annul the Treaty of Surat? 

Answer: Initially, the Britishers under the Treaty of Surat aimed to enthrone Raghunathrao as the new Peshwa. Colonel Keating led the British troops to war but was decisively repulsed by the army of the regent, Haripant Phadke at Adas. Although the battle of Adas was in favor of Haripant Phadke, the number of war casualties were greater on his side. 

The British therefore realized that defeating Marathas was not an easy task and could be detrimental. Therefore, Warren Hastings of the Supreme Council of Bengal decided to annul the Treaty of Surat. 

What were the results of the First Anglo-Maratha war? 

Answer: The first Anglo-Maratha war ended with the victory of the Marathas against the British empire. Both the parties decided on a mutual agreement termed as the Treaty of Salbai. The treaty was signed in the year 1782 in the month of May. As per the treaty, the British recognized Madhavrao II (also called Sawai Madhavrao) as the Peshwa and pensioned off Raghunathrao. Moreover, the Britishers would be receiving revenues from the Salsette and Bharuch districts. 

The Final thought! 

The First Anglo-Maratha war concluded with the Treaty of Salbai but it was broken at a later date. You must realize that these treaties cannot be termed valid for a longer period of time. They were prone to annulment and violation. With the violation of the Treaty of Salbai that concluded the first Anglo-Maratha war, another chapter in history “The Second Anglo-Maratha war” simply begins.

For now, we hope this article has helped you enlighten on topics relevant to the First Anglo-Maratha war. The topics covered will help you out even in your UPSC preparation. 

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