British soldier and administrator who established British rule in India by victories over French troops at Arcot and over the nawab (prince) of Bengal at Plassey in 1757. This victory secured Bengal for the East India Company, and Clive was appointed governor of the province from 1757. He returned to Britain on account of ill health in 1760, but was sent out to Bengal again in 1764, where he held the post of governor and commander-in-chief 1765–66. On his return to Britain in 1767, his wealth led to allegations that he had abused his power. Although acquitted by a Parliamentary enquiry, he committed suicide.
Clive became a clerk in the East India Company's service in Madras (now Chennai) in 1743, then joined the army. During a dispute in 1751 over the succession to the Carnatic, an important trading region, Clive marched from Madras with 500 troops, seized Arcot, capital of the Carnatic, and defended it for seven weeks against 10,000 French and Italian troops. He then sallied out and relieved the British forces besieged in Trichinopoli. He returned to Britain a national hero, and was hailed as ‘Clive of India’. He returned to India in 1755 as governor of Fort St David, and after the incident of the Black Hole of Calcutta, when the city was besieged by the nawab of Bengal, Clive defeated the nawab's 34,000 strong army, with a force of only 1,900 troops outside Calcutta (now Kolkata) in February 1757.
Early career Clive was born in Shropshire, and spent his reputedly wayward childhood and adolescence in Market Drayton. In 1743 his family obtained him a clerkship in the British East India Company's service in Madras (now Chennai). Arriving in 1744 in debt after a protracted journey, he found the work so tedious and his loneliness so depressing that he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. Rivalry between the French and British East India companies was intense at this time. Both sought to increase their spheres of influence to the other's detriment by alliances with the Indian princes. When the War of the Austrian Succession broke out in 1742, with France and Britain on opposite sides, the fighting soon spread to India. In 1746 the French captured Madras. Clive was taken prisoner but escaped to Fort St David where, in 1747, he obtained an ensign's commission in the British East India Company's service.
Military success Clive's outstanding military aptitude rapidly attracted attention. He was promoted to captain, and in 1751 proposed a plan to relieve the beleagured British garrison in Trinchinopoli by a bold diversionary attack on Arcot, capital of the Carnatic, an important trading centre. Clive marched from Madras with a 500-strong troop, seized Arcot, and defended it for seven weeks against 10,000 French and Indian forces. After the French withdrew with heavy losses, he relieved the British besieged in Trichinopoli. These and Clive's subsequent victories led to a settlement in southern India in 1752 which greatly enhanced British power in the region. In 1753 Clive was invalided home, returning to Britain a national hero and acclaimed ‘Clive of India’.
Governorships In 1755 Clive returned to India as lieutenant-colonel and governor of Fort St David. At Madras he learned that Siraj-ud-Daula, the new nawab of Bengal, had driven the British from Calcutta (now Kolkata) and imprisoned his captives in the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta. With a force of 1,900 men, Clive defeated the nawab's army of 34,000 outside Calcutta in February 1757, and forced him to make peace. In Europe the Seven Years' War had begun and Clive, discovering that Siraj-ud-Daula intended to assist the French, set out from Chandernagore with 3,200 men, and on 23 June completely defeated the nawab's army at Plassey, dethroning him in favour of Mir Jafar who paid Clive personally nearly £250,000 in return. Following this victory Bengal in practice fell to the British East India Company, and Clive became governor of Bengal from 1757 to 1760, when ill health forced him to return to Britain. He was elected MP for Shrewsbury and in 1762 created Baron Clive in the Irish peerage. In 1765 he returned to Bengal to reform its administration as governor and commander-in-chief, where his ruthless elimination of inefficiency and corruption made him many enemies. At this time the British East India Company was given formal control over Bengal and other important regions by the Mughal emperor of India. On his return to England in 1767, he was accused of corruption and threatened with impeachment. In a parliamentary enquiry held from 1772 to 1773 he was virtually acquitted, the Commons unanimously accepting a resolution that Clive had rendered ‘great and meritorious services in this country’ but censuring his dealings with Mir Jafar. Clive, however, remained obsessed by the charges, became addicted to opium, and eventually committed suicide.
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