Robert Clive

Major-General the Right Honourable
The Lord Clive
Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive by Nathaniel Dance, (later Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Bt).jpg
Lord Clive in military uniform. The Battle of Plassey is shown behind him.
By Nathaniel Dance. National Portrait Gallery, London.
Governor of the Presidency of Fort William, Bengal
In office
Preceded byRoger Drake
as President
Succeeded byHenry Vansittart
In office
Preceded byHenry Vansittart
Succeeded byHarry Verelst
Personal details
Born(1725-09-29)29 September 1725
Styche Hall, Market Drayton, Shropshire, England
Died22 November 1774(1774-11-22) (aged 49)
Berkeley Square, Westminster, London
Alma materMerchant Taylors' School
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain / British Empire
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1746–1774
UnitBritish East India Company
CommandsCommander-in-Chief of India
Battles/warsWar of the Austrian Succession
Battle of Madras
Second Carnatic War
Siege of Arcot
Battle of Arnee
Battle of Chingleput
Seven Years' War
Battle of Chandannagar
Battle of Plassey

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, KB, FRS (29 September 1725 – 22 November 1774), also known as Clive of India, Commander-in-Chief of British India, was a British officer and privateer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He is credited with securing a large swath of South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan) and the wealth that followed, for the British East India Company. In the process, he also turned himself into a multi-millionaire. Together with Warren Hastings he was one of the key early figures setting in motion what would later become British India. Blocking impending French mastery of India, and eventual British expulsion from the continent, Clive improvised a military expedition that ultimately enabled the East India Company to adopt the French strategy of indirect rule via puppet government. Hired by the company to return a second time to India, Clive conspired to secure the Company's trade interests by overthrowing the locally unpopular heir to the throne of Bengal, the richest state in India, richer than Britain, at the time. Back in England, he sat as a Tory Member of Parliament in London.[1]

Clive was one of the most controversial figures in all British military history. His achievements included establishing control over much of India, and laying the foundation of the entire British Raj (though he worked only as an agent of the East India Company, not the British government). For his methods and his self-aggrandisement he was vilified by his contemporaries in Britain, and put on trial before Parliament. Of special concern was that he amassed a personal fortune in India. Modern historians have criticised him for atrocities, for high taxes, and for the forced cultivation of crops which exacerbated famines.[2][3][4]

Early life

Robert Clive was born at Styche, the Clive family estate, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, on 29 September 1725 to Richard Clive and Rebecca (née Gaskell) Clive.[5] The family had held the small estate since the time of Henry VII. The family had a lengthy history of public service: members of the family included an Irish chancellor of the exchequer under Henry VIII, and a member of the Long Parliament. Robert's father, who supplemented the estate's modest income as a lawyer, also served in Parliament for many years, representing Montgomeryshire.[6] Robert was their eldest son of thirteen children; he had seven sisters and five brothers, six of whom died in infancy.[7]

St. Mary's in Market Drayton, whose tower Clive is reputed to have climbed

Clive's father was known to have a temper, which the boy apparently inherited. For reasons that are unknown, Clive was sent to live with his mother's sister in Manchester while still a toddler. Biographer Robert Harvey suggests that this move was made because Clive's father was busy in London trying to provide for the family.[8] Daniel Bayley, the sister's husband, reported that the boy was "out of measure addicted to fighting".[9][10] He was a regular troublemaker in the schools he was sent to.[11] When he was older he and a gang of teenagers established a protection racket that vandalised the shops of uncooperative merchants in Market Drayton. Clive also exhibited fearlessness at an early age. He is reputed to have climbed the tower of St Mary's Parish Church in Market Drayton and perched on a gargoyle, frightening those down below.[12]

When Clive was nine his aunt died, and, after a brief stint in his father's cramped London quarters, he returned to Shropshire. There he attended the Market Drayton Grammar School, where his unruly behaviour (and improvement in the family's fortunes) prompted his father to send him to Merchant Taylors' School in London. His bad behaviour continued, and he was then sent to a trade school in Hertfordshire to complete a basic education.[7] Despite his early lack of scholarship, in his later years he devoted himself to improving his education. He eventually developed a distinctive writing style, and a speech in the House of Commons was described by William Pitt as the most eloquent he had ever heard.[6]

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