19 June, 2021

The Orchard’s Bitterest Mangoes

Plassey, with its web of cruelty, loot and intrigue, is relived in fresh pungency

The Orchard’s Bitterest Mangoes

Treason, playboy princes, multinational corporations and exotic locations. If Plassey were a television serial that would probably be the promo for it. Sudeep Chakravarti’s Plassey brings dense research to bear on a battle that did in a sense change the course of Indian history since it established the British as a power in eastern India.

Chakravarti traces the history of the East India Company’s trade in the east, the constant fallings out with the nawabs, starting with Murshid Quli Khan and Shaista Khan, moving on to Alivardi Khan, the last of the powers in the region, and ending with the outmanoeuvred Siraj-ud-Daulah. Tellingly however, he starts his book with the young ‘Bob’ Clive at his uncle’s, where he earned a reputation for temper and fisticuffs. Robert Clive, his uncle wrote, had a tendency for heroics even though he did listen when admonished. Clive’s greed and Siraj’s pride came into direct conflict.

For some British historians, most people were unaware of who was in control of the...

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