First Anglo-Maratha War

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First Anglo-Maratha War

This article on ‘First Anglo-Maratha War” contains an introduction, background, Treaty of Surat, Treaty of Purandar, Battle of Talegaon, final war and Treaty of Salbai, and conclusion.


The First Anglo-Maratha War was fought between the Maratha Army and the British East India Company. The British Forces were ultimately defeated in the series of battles that took place during the period between 1775 and 1882.

The treaty of Salbai was made and the regions that were conquered by the British East India Company after the Treaty of Purandar were returned to the Marathas. However, British retained control over Salsette.

The war started as a result of  the Treaty of Surat. The war come to an end with the Treaty of Salbai.


Madhav Rao, the Maratha Peshwa, died on 18 th November, 1772, in a young age of twenty eight. His brother Narayan Rao became the new Peshwa. In August, 1773, Narayan Rao Peshwa was murdered. Raghunath Rao, the uncle of Madhav Rao and Narayan Rao, took charge of the new Peshwa. But a few days later, it was known that a conspiracy, hatched by Raghunath Rao Peshwa, led to the murder of Narayan Rao Peshwa. As the news of the plot of murdering Narayan Rao Peshwa came on the surface, the Maratha Sardars of Pune wanted to discard Raghunath Rao from Peshwaship.

Under the leadership of Nana Phadnavis a Regency Council known as Barobhai was formed. This Regency council took the charge of the Maratha administration after removing Raghunath Rao and nominating the minor son of Narayan Rao, Madhu Rao Narayan, the new Peshwa.

Treaty of Surat

The Maratha leaders now tried to curb the power and influence of Raghunath Rao. Raghunath Rao tried to secure help from Sindhia and Holkar. But he failed. Then Raghunath Rao signed the treaty of Surat with the English on 6 March, 1775. The English welcomed the golden opportunity of intervening into the Maratha Kingdom, taking advantage of the internal feud of the Marathas. Raghunath Rao gave away the wide regions of Gujarat, Salsette and Basin to the Bombay Council of the English Company, in compliance with the provisions of the Treaty of Surat.

Raghunath Rao also agreed to make a monthly payment of Rs. 1 lakhs to the Company as maintenance charge of 2500 English troops. The image of Raghunath Raowas further tarnished in the eyes of the Marathas after this humiliating Surat Treaty. The inevitable consequence of the Surat Treaty was the First Anglo-Maratha War. At this juncture, Mahadji Sindhia, an influential Maratha leader made significant efforts to bring out an understanding between the Barobhai Council and Raghunath Rao. But Raghunath Rao refused to enter into any understanding with the Maratha leaders as he considered the English as his more trusted ally. Mahadji Sindhia then joined hands with the Barobhai Council. The Council of Pune got significant military assistance from Sindhia.

The Initial Stage of the Battle

After the Treaty of Surat in 1775, the combined forces of the English general Keating and Raghunath Rao defeated the Maratha forces . The Bombay and Madras Councils of the English Company were only answerable to the Court of Directors in London up to 1773. But the Regulating Act of 1773 made it imperative for the Bombay and Madras Councils to get clearance for each and every action from the Governor General and his Council in Calcutta. The Governor General Warren Hastings and his Calcutta Council did not approve of the Surat Treaty. Hasting wanted to consolidate the control over the newly acquired province of Bengal at first, and then try for the expansion of British trade in India. But the prime concern of the Company authorities in Bombay was to secure enlarged rights and advantages over the private trade of the Company servants. They had already occupied one of the most important ports of Western India, Surat (1759). The leaders of the Bombay Council Horn Bee, Mostin etc. thought that if they could make Raghunath Rao, the Maratha Peshwa and their commercial interest would be protected in the entire Maratha region. Hence the Bombay Council was interested in entering into a deal with Raghunath Rao through the Surat Pact.

Treaty of Purandar

But Warren Hastings annulled the Treaty of Surat and signed the Treaty of Purandar in March, 1776, with the Barobhai Regency Council of Pune. By the terms of the treaty the English recognized Madhu Rao Narayan as the Maratha Peshwa. The English secured Salsette and Basin along with the right of collecting revenue from Broach. The Marathas paid Rs. 12 lakhs to the English as war indemnity. The Marathas also agreed to pay an annual allowance to Raghunath Rao. The English in return had withdrawn support from Raghunath Rao.

Nullification of Treaty of Purandar: The Bombay Council expressed dissatisfaction over the Treaty of Purandar in an appeal to the Court of Directors in London. The court of Directors did not recognize the Treaty of Purandar and nullified it. The Anglo-Maratha war became inevitable.

Battle of Talegaon

Nana Phadnavis was the leader of the Barobhai Council of Pune. He appointed Mahadji Sindhia his chief military adviser. Within a few days of cancellation of the Treaty of Purandar, Raghunath Rao along with an English force proceeded towards Pune. The Maratha warriors adopted the burnt clay policy and disastrously defeated the English forces in the battle of Talegaon. The English were compelled to sign the Treaty of Wadgaon with the Marathas on 16 January, 1779. The English agreed to return Salsette along with other islands and also to submit Raghunath Rao to the hands of the Maratha Council of Pune. They also agreed to withdraw forces sent from Bengal in the region.

Final War and the Treaty of Salbai

But the Governor General Hastings did not accept the humiliating Treaty of Wadgaon. He sent a large army to invade Mahadji Sindhia’s jagir in Malwa. In August, 1780, an English general occupied the fort of Gwalior. Mahadji Sindhia soon came to Malwa for defending his own kingdom. Sindhia was defeated by an English commander in the Battle of Sipri. But the English could not stage a final victory and the war continued. By this time the hostile camp of Warren Hastings in the Calcutta Council became active and lodged a complaint against him to the Court of Directors. The English Company was also involved in a war against Haidar Ali and it became almost impossible for the English to continue wars in two different fronts against the two formidable enemies. Moreover, Hastings was very much apprehensive of the formation of an anti-English coalition by the Indian powers. Realizing the complexity of the situation Hastings proposed for a peace with Sindhia. Sindhia accepted the proposal and accordingly the Treaty of Salbai was signed between the English and Sindhia on 17 May, 1782.


The English agreed not to give any further support to Raghunath Rao and recognized the Peshwaship of Madhu Rao Narayan. The English company only kept Salsette and Broach with them. They left to the marathas the remaining conquered areas including Basin. Mahadji Sindhia got back all his territories, situated on the western banks of the Jamuna River. In the clause 16 of the Treaty of Salbai it was stated that Mahadji Sindhia would act as a guarantor for mutual agreement of the provisions. In 1783, the leader of the Maratha Council, Nana Phadnavis ratified the treaty. The First Anglo-Maratha War came to a close.

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