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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Russian invasion - Battle of Madras 1746 !!

 As Russia's invasion in Ukraine enters the 18th day, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he's open for talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin but only if there is a ceasefire in place. The Ukraine president at a news briefing on Saturday claimed around 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state television, that its troops could target the weapons supply sent by the West. The West ramped up economic pressure on Russia, as the U.S. and its allies downgraded Russian’s trade status — the latest in efforts to further isolate Russia for the invasion.

Any war is bad for economy, more so for the people – and their way of living. The war has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee Ukraine, while others seek refuge in basements, subway stations and underground shelters.  Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy said the mayor of the southern port city of Melitopol was kidnapped, equating it to the actions of “ISIS terrorists. Moscow is making more moves to restrict access to foreign social media platforms. On Friday, Russian’s communications and media regulator said it’s blocking access to Instagram because it’s being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers. That comes after Facebook owner, Meta Platforms, which also owns Instagram, said it had “made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules on violent speech, such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’.” Meta’s statement stressed it would not allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.  Russia has already blocked access to Facebook and limited access to Twitter, but Twitter has launched a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship.

The War of the Austrian Succession  was the last great power conflict with the Bourbon-Habsburg dynastic conflict at its heart. It occurred from 1740 to 1748 and marked the rise of Prussia as a major power.Related conflicts included King George's War, the War of Jenkins' Ear, the First Carnatic War and the First and the Second Silesian Wars.

The pretext for the war was Maria Theresa's right to inherit her father Emperor Charles VI's crown in the Habsburg Monarchy, but France, Prussia and Bavaria really saw it as an opportunity to challenge the Habsburg power. Maria Theresa was backed by Britain, the Dutch Republic and Hanover, which were collectively known as the Pragmatic Allies. As the conflict widened, it drew in other participants, among them Spain, Sardinia, Saxony, Sweden and Russia.There were four primary theatres of the war: Central Europe, the Austrian Netherlands, Italy, and the seas. Prussia occupied Silesia in 1740 and repulsed Austrian efforts to regain it, and between 1745 and 1748, France conquered most of the Austrian Netherlands. Elsewhere, Austria and Sardinia defeated Spanish attempts to regain territories in Northern Italy, and by 1747, a British naval blockade was crippling French trade.

The war ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) by which Maria Theresa was confirmed as Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary. The treaty reflected that stalemate since most of the commercial issues that had led to the war were left unresolved, and many of the signatories were unhappy with the terms. Although the war had nearly bankrupted the state, Louis XV of France withdrew from the Low Countries for minimal benefit, to the dismay of France's nobility and populace. The Spanish considered their gains in Italy inadequate since they had failed to recover Menorca or Gibraltar and viewed the reassertion of British commercial rights in the Americas as an insult.

The 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, sometimes called the Treaty of Aachen, ended the War of the Austrian Succession, following a congress assembled on 24 April 1748 at the Free Imperial City of Aachen.The two main protagonists in the war, Britain and France, opened peace talks in the Dutch city of Breda in 1746. The terms were then presented to the other belligerents, who could either accept them, or continue the war on their own. Austria, Spain, and Sardinia had little choice but to comply, and signed separately. The treaty largely failed to resolve the issues that caused the war, while most of the signatories were unhappy with the terms.

Thousands of miles away, the Battle of Madras or Fall of Madras took place in September 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession when a French force attacked and captured the city of Madras from its British garrison.French forces occupied Madras until the end of hostilities when it was exchanged for the British conquest of Louisbourg in North America as part of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. One of the British defenders, Robert Clive made his name by escaping from the French captors and carrying news of the city's fall to his superiors at Fort St David.

Since the 1720s the colonial rivalry between Britain and France in India had been growing in intensity. Following the French decision to join the War of the Austrian Succession on the opposing side to Britain, the British despatched a Royal Navy squadron under Commodore Curtis Barnett to raid and harass French settlements in India. During 1745 this force attacked a number of French ships, disrupting commerce, and ruining several leading French merchants.In response the French despatched a similarly-sized fleet under the Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais. After fighting an inconclusive battle the two fleets withdrew to repair, with the British retreating to Ceylon and the French using their base at Pondicherry. Wary of fighting another major naval battle – the British commander, Edward Peyton, chose to stay away from the Coramandel coast and withdrew to the safety of Bengal, leaving the British settlements on the Coramandel badly exposed to the French.

The French Governor of Pondicherry Dupleix carried out an  attack on Madras. To gain local Indian approval for this he promised the Nawab of the Carnatic that he would hand over Madras to him once he had captured it from the British.On 7 September 1746 the inhabitants of Madras woke to find a French fleet sitting offshore – and an expedition of soldiers being landed on the shore. The French ships opened fire on the town – but with little effect, struggling to find the correct range and by nightfall a large portion of the garrison had been lulled into a false sense of security.

The following morning the French resumed their bombardment from both land and shore, this time with much more accuracy. The fortifications of Madras had been poorly constructed and were largely unable to resist such an attack. As the number of British casualties grew, the morale of the discipline of the troops collapsed. After a direct strike on the liquor stores, a number of soldiers abandoned their posts and drank themselves into a stupor. Civilians from the town took their places manning the defences – but it was clear resistance was collapsing.On 9 September the Governor of Madras, Nicholas Morse sued for peace. The terms offered to him by La Bourdonnais were surprisingly generous – the French were to take over the fort and warehouses, but the rest of the town would remain under British control. The British troops who had surrendered would be petitioned. This caused a dispute with his superior Joseph François Dupleix who favoured total French annexation of Madras. La Bourdonnais insisted on honouring the peace terms – and for a month the peace agreement he had signed held.

However, when a violent storm blew up in October, La Bourdonnais and his fleet were forced to withdraw and sail for the safety of Pondicherry – a third of his ships were lost in the storm and Dupleix was now in full command of Madras. Dupleix revoked the previously lenient terms and locked up a number of the garrison and civilians. He then set about looting and preparing to destroy Fort St George.A handful of these prisoners led by Robert Clive, a young clerk, dressed up as natives and managed to slip out of their prison. Once outside they were challenged by real Indians, who spoke to them in languages they didn't understand. Clive and his companions hurried on before they could be exposed. After a three-day journey, made mostly by night, they reached Fort St David hundred miles away carrying news of the disastrous French attack on Madras. The story of Clive's escape was the first to bring him wider attention.

However, something occurring in Europe had its deep impact – Madras perhaps otherwise would have had a French story but ended British East India aka United Kingdom.  The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that ended the war made provision for Madras to be returned to the British in exchange for Louisbourg in Acadia which had been captured by British forces in 1745. The French besieged Madras again in 1759, this time without success.

A long and real history – but we only read that India was a British colony and that Britishers were kind and merciful, they instituted Railways and provided education to Indians where Universities like Nalanda, Kanchi and more had thrived !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
15th Mar 2022

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