Thu 11 February 2021 by Thejaswi Puthraya

Mir Jaffer, a name that I kept hearing a lot during the West Bengal elections this year. It was a name connected to Bengal and Indian history but one that I had hardly heard of while at school. And serendipitously I would run into that name again through a book recommendation - "Plassey: The battle that changed the course of Indian history".

Sudeep Chakravarti through his book contends that Plassey was the beginning of the colonisation of India by the British. The British had pockets of presence in India through trading posts and as envoys in multiple courts for many decades until the 1700s but they never seemed to have a large ambition. Events transpiring in Europe (the 100 years war between France and England) and competing trading interests in India first put the two colonial powers onto a war path and sets the tone for the battle in 1757. A yearning for the crown makes Mir Jaffer switch loyalties. While he succeeds in capturing the throne (albeit for a short duration) with the assistance of the British, his name gets stained for ages to come; synonymous with a 'traitor'.

The book makes a lot of effort to provide context for the events that led to the war. It relies on a handful of sources, one which is extensively quoted before the war and the second being the English themselves post-war. Despite being fairly one-sided, the author has worked hard to provide an objective narrative.