The Government of Lord Minto

The decade after Wellesley was an interlude in the development of British rule. During that period both Sindhia and Holkar plundered the chiefs of Rajasthan, thus in a sense preparing them to be reconciled to future British overlordship as a lesser danger. Meanwhile, Pindari bands raided the Nagpur (base of the Bhonsle dynasty) and Hyderabad states in widening circles and thereafter entered British territory. The Pindaris were dispossessed villagers and discarded soldiers-the human victims of the frequent wars of the period. They had the elusiveness of guerrillas, and they received the tacit tolerance of the Maratha princes but not the goodwill of the population, who were their principal victims.

Lord Minto who served as Governor-General between 1807-1813 was occupied with the revived French danger, which was considered serious once again, with the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) in Europe and Napoleon I’s resulting alliance with Russia. To guard against a French-sponsored Russian attack, British missions were sent to Afghanistan, to Persia, and to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab. The first two proved fruitless, but the Treaty of Amritsar (1809) with Ranjit Singh defined British and Sikh spheres of influence and established firm relations for a considerable period. Minto’s other achievement was the capture of the Île de France (Mauritius) and Java from the French-controlled Dutch; the former island became a colony, while the latter was restored to the Dutch under the subsequent peace treaty. Another result of this episode was the acquisition of the key island of Singapore by Stamford Raffles in 1819.

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