Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey, soldier and first British administrator of Bengal, who was one of the creators of British power in India.
In his first governorship (1755–60) he won the Battle of Plassey and became master of Bengal.
In his second governorship (1764–67) he reorganized the British colony.
In 1755 he was sent out again to India, this time as governor of Fort St. David and with a lieutenant colonels commission in the Royal Army.
The rivalry between French and British interests in southern India gave Clive his opportunity.
He volunteered for military service, received an ensign’s commission, and participated in several battles against the French; he distinguished himself at Pondicherry in 1748, before the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle temporarily ended hostilities.
In 1751 Clive offered to lead an expedition to relieve Trichinopoly (Tiruchirappalli), where Mohammed Ali, the British candidate for nawab, or ruler, was besieged by Chanda Sahib, the French candidate.
Clive seized Arcot, Chanda Sahib’s capital.
The siege of Trichinopoly was finally lifted, and a truce in 1754 recognized Mohammed Ali as nawab.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 confirmed this, and in 1765 the emperor at Delhi admitted British hegemony in southern India.
When Robert Clive went home in 1753, William Pitt the Elder called him a “heaven-born general“.
Clive returned to India in 1755 as governor of Fort St. David and as lieutenant colonel in the royal army.
In 1756 Siraj-ud-Daula, the new nawab, seized and plundered Calcutta.
Many English fled to ships and escaped, but 146 were imprisoned in a small underground dungeon called the Black Hole.
Only 23 remained alive.
Clive led a relief expedition from Madras in October; he rescued the English prisoners in December, took Calcutta in January, and defeated the nawab’s army in February.
Peace was made, and the East India Company’s privileges were restored.
In June 1757, at the Battle of Plassey, he defeated Siraj-ud-Daula and became company governor and virtual master of Bengal.
In declining health Clive went to England in 1760.
He was given an Irish peerage, knighted, and made a member of Parliament.
In 1765, he returned to Calcutta as governor and commander in chief.
Clive limited the company to Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, bringing these states under direct company control.
He reformed the company’s administrative practices, restored financial discipline while abolishing abuses, and reorganized the army.
His efforts made the company sovereign ruler of 30 million people who produced an annual revenue of £4 million sterling.
Clive left India in February 1767.
Five years later, the company appealed to the British government to save it from bankruptcy caused by widespread corruption.
Clive’s enemies in Parliament claimed that he was responsible for the situation.
After a long trial he was exonerated; but continuing attacks on his integrity, together with illness and physical exhaustion, led him to commit suicide in London on Nov. 22, 1774.