The Anglo Maratha Wars – British Conquest of Maratha

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Anglo-Maratha War

There were three Anglo-Maratha wars (or Maratha Wars) fought during the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century between the British and the Marathas. At the end, the Maratha power was destroyed and British supremacy established.

First Anglo-Maratha War (1775 – 1782)

Background and course

  • The third Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao who is also known as Nana Sahib lost the Third Battle of Panipat on 24 January 1761. He had lost his own son Vishwasrao in the Battle of Panipat. He died on 23 June 1761.
  • He was succeeded by his son Madhav Rao.
  • Madhav Rao was able to recover some of the Maratha power and territories which they had lost in the Battle of Panipat.
  • The English were aware of the growing Maratha power and it made them uneasy.
  • When Madhav Rao died, there was a struggle for power in the Maratha rule.
  • Madhav Rao’s brother Narayan Rao became the Peshwa but his uncle Raghunath Rao wanted to become the Peshwa for this, he sought the help of the English.
  • So, the Treaty of Surat in 1775 was signed according to which Raghunath Rao surrendered Salsette and Bassein to the English and in return he was given 2500 soldiers.
  • The British and the army of Raghunath Rao attacked the Peshwa and won.
  • The British Calcutta Council under Warren Hastings annulled this treaty and a new treaty, the Treaty of Purandhar was signed in 1776 between the Calcutta Council and Nana Phadnavis, a Maratha minister.
  • Accordingly, Raghunath Rao was given a only pension and Salsette was retained by the British.
  • But the British establishment at Bombay violated this treaty and sheltered Raghunath Rao.
  • In 1777, Nana Phadnavis went against his treaty with the Calcutta Council and granted a port on the west coast to the French.
  • This led the British to advance a force towards Pune. There was a battle at Wadgaon near Pune in which the Marathas under Mahadji Shinde secured a decisive victory over the English.
  • The English were forced to sign the Treaty of Wadgaon in 1779.
  • There was a series of battles at the end of which the Treaty of Salbai was signed in 1782. This ended the first Anglo-Maratha war.



  • The East India Company retained Salsette and Broach and also obtained a guarantee from the Marathas that they would retake their possessions in the Deccan from Hyder Ali of Mysore.
  • The Marathas also promised that they would not grant any more territories to the French.
  • All territories taken by the British after the Treaty of Purandhar were ceded back to the Marathas and Raghunath Rao was to live as their pensioner.
  • The English accepted Madhav Rao II (son of Narayan Rao) as the Peshwa.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803 – 1805)

Background and course

  • After Tipu Sultan’s Mysore was captured by the British in 1799, the Marathas were the only major Indian power left outside of British domination.
  • At that time, the Maratha Confederacy consisted of five major chiefs, the Peshwas at Pune, the Gaekwads at Baroda, the Holkars at Indore, the Scindias at Gwalior and the Bhonsles at Nagpur.
  • There was internal power struggle among themselves. Baji Rao II who is son of Raghunath Rao was installed as the Peshwa after the death of Madhav Rao II.
  • In the Battle of Poona in 1802, Yashwant Rao Holkar, the chief of the Holkars of Indore defeated the Peshwas and the Scindias.
  • Baji Rao II sought British protection and signed the Treaty of Bassein with them.
  • As per this treaty, he surrendered territory to the British and agreed to the maintenance of British troops there.
  • The Scindias and the Bhonsles did not accept this treaty and this caused the second Anglo-Maratha war in central India in 1803.
  • The Holkars also joined the battle against the English at a later stage.



  • All the Maratha forces were defeated by the British in these battles.
  • The Scindias signed the Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon in 1803 through which the British got the territories of Rohtak, Ganga-Yamuna Doab, Gurgaon, Delhi Agra region, Broach, some districts in Gujarat, parts of Bundelkhand and Ahmednagar fort.
  • The Bhonsles signed the Treaty of Deogaon in 1803 as per which the English acquired Cuttack, Balasore and area west of Wardha River.
  • The Holkars signed the Treaty of Rajghat in 1805 according to which they gave up Tonk, Bundi and Rampura to the British.
  • As a result of the war, large parts of central India came under British control.

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817 – 1818)

Background and course

  • After the second Anglo-Maratha war, the Marathas made one last attempt to rebuild their old prestige and they wanted to retake all their old possessions from the English.
  • They were also unhappy with the British’s interference in their internal matters.
  • The major reason for this war was due to the British conflict with the Pindaris whom the British suspected were being protected by the Marathas.
  • Peshwa Baji Rao II’s forces, supported by those of Mudhoji II Bhonsle of Nagpur and Malhar Rao Holkar III of Indore, rose against the East India Company.
  • Pressure and diplomacy convinced the fourth major Maratha leader, Daulatrao Shinde of Gwalior, to remain neutral even though he lost control of Rajasthan.
  • British victories were swift, resulting in the breakup of the Maratha Empire and the loss of Maratha independence. The Peshwa was defeated in the battles of Khadki and Koregaon. Several minor battles were fought by the Peshwa’s forces to prevent his capture.



  • The Treaty of Gwalior was signed in 1817 between Shinde and the British, even though he had not been involved in the war. As per this treaty, Shinde gave up Rajasthan to the British.
  • The princes of Rajputana became symbolic feudal lords who accepted the British as the paramount power.
  • The Treaty of Mandasor was signed between the British and the Holkar chief in 1818. An infant was placed on the throne under British guardianship.
  • The Peshwa surrendered in 1818. He was dethroned and pensioned off to a small estate in Bithur (near Kanpur). Most parts of his territory became part of the Bombay Presidency.
  • His adopted son, Nana Saheb became one of the leaders of the Revolt of 1857 at Kanpur.
  • The territories annexed from the Pindaris became the Central Provinces under British India.
  • This war led to the end of the Maratha Empire. All the Maratha powers surrendered to the British.
  • An obscure descendent of Chhatrapati Shivaji was placed as the ceremonial head of the Maratha Confederacy at Satara.
  • This was the last major war fought and won by the British. With this, the British controlled most parts India directly or indirectly.

The main Reason for Maratha Losing was due to the Lack of unity among the Maratha chiefs themselves, relationship with ruling neighboring states and provinces and Failure to understand the British political and diplomatic strengths.

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