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Born in Shropshire, Robert Clive gained a post as a scribe in the East India Company in 1743, but reached India (1744) deep in debt after a prolonged voyage out to India, after which he tried to shoot himself. He quickly transfered to the military branch of the company, which was then engaged in the Carnatic Wars, and rose rapidly through the ranks, reaching captain by 1751. In the same year he was allowed to try out a plan for the capture of Arcot, capitol of the Carnatic, where he was then besieged. The defense of Arcot (23 September-14 November 1751) made Clive's name. With just over 200 men, he held off a 10,000 strong attacking army, and once reenforced was able to go on the attack. He was absent from India from 1753 to 1755, having returned to England to regain his health. In 1756, the new nabob of Bengal, Suraj Dowlah, broke his treaty with the East India Company, and occupied Calcutta, imprisoning the Company staff he found there in the Black Hole of Calcutta. Clive commanded the land forced sent against Suraj Dowlah, and on 23 June 1757 defeated his army at the battle of Plassey, deposing him, and gaining control of Bengal for the East India Company, who appointed him governor of Bengal (1757-1760). He returned to England in 1760, where he became MP for Shrewsbury (1760-64), and was granted a Irish peerage (1762). In 1765 he was sent back to Bengal to restore good goverment, where he reformed civil and military administration and gained the offical lordship of Bengal for the East India Company with the agreement of the last Nabob. When he returned to England in 1766, in poor health, his great wealth caused much jealousy, and he was forced to endure a parliamentary inquiry (1772-3), and although he was clearted, soon afterwards he committed suicide. William Pitt the Elder called him the 'heaven sent general', and his victories won control of India for Britain.

See Also
Books on the Seven Years's War
Subject Index: Seven Years' War

1 November 2000