The Marathas managed to overcome the crisis caused by their defeat at Panipat and after a decade recovered their control over Delhi. However the old Maratha Confederacy controlled by the Peshwa had given way to five virtually independent states. Peshwa at Pune, Gaikwads at Baroda, Bhonsle at Nagpur, Holkars at Indore, and Scindias at Gwalior. The Peshwa’s government was weakened by internal rivalries, and the other four leaders were often hostile to one another. Despite this, the Marathas were still a formidable power. The internal conflict among the Marathas was best utilized by the British in their expansionist policy.
The First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-82)
In the case of the Marathas, the first British intervention was at the time of dispute over succession to the Peshwaship following the death of Narayan Rao. After the death of Narayan Rao, Raghunath Rao (Raghoba) became the Peshwa, but his authority was challenged by a strong party at Poona under Nana Phadnavis. The party recognised the infant born posthumously to Narayan Rao’s wife, Ganga Bai, as the Peshwa and set up a council of regency in his name. Having failed in his bid to capture power, Raghunath Rao approached the British for help. The Treaty of Surat between the English and Raghunath Rao was concluded in 1775. However, the majority of the Supreme British Council in Calcutta was opposed to the Surat treaty, although Warren Hastings himself had no objection to ratifying the treaty. The council sent Colonel Upton to Poona to negotiate a peace with the Poona regency. Accordingly, Upton concluded the Treaty of Purandhar in 1776. The treaty, however, did not take effect due to opposition from the English government in Bombay.
In 1781, Warren Hastings dispatched British troops under Captain Popham. He defeated the Maratha chief, Mahadaji Scindia, in a number of small battles and captured Gwalior. Later on 17th May 1782, the Treaty of Salbai was signed between Warren Hastings and Mahadaji Scindia.
* Raghunath Rao was pensioned off and Madhav Rao II was accepted as the Peshwa.
* Salsette was given to the British.
* The Treaty of Salbai established the British influence in Indian politics. It provided the British twenty years of peace with the Marathas.
The internal affairs of the Marathas
The internal affairs of the Marathas deteriorated further after the close of the first Maratha War. Nana Fadnavis grew fond of power, jealous of Mahadaji Scindia and became progressively inclined to seek the support of the English. The young Peshwa, Madhava Rao II, tried to improve the affairs but could not check the rivalry of the Maratha chiefs. Mahadaji Scindia died in 1794 and was succeeded by his grand nephew Daulat Rao Scindia. His death left Nana Fadnavis supreme at Poona and the English to expand their influence in north India. Peshwa Madhav Rao II committed suicide in 1795, and BajiRao II, worthless son of Raghunath Rao, became the Peshwa. The death of Nana Phadnavis in 1800 gave the British an added advantage.
Jaswant Rao Holkar and Daulat Rao Scindia were fighting against each other. The Peshwa supported Scindia against Holkar. The Peshwa and the Scindia agreed to help each other.Holkar marched against the Peshwa. The combined forces of Scindia and the Peshwa were utterly defeated in 1802 and captured the city. BajiRao II approached Lord Wellesley, the then Governor-General of India, for help. Lord Wellesley welcomed the Peshwa and made him sign the Treaty of Bassein, in other words, the Treaty of Subsidiary Alliance, accepting the status of a British subsidiary in 1802. As an immediate to the Treaty of Bassein, the British troops marched under the command of Arthur Wellesely towards Poona and restored the Peshwa to his position. The forces of Holkar vanished from the Maratha capital.
The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-05)
After accepted the subsidiary alliance by the Peshwa, Daulat Rao Scindia and Raghoji Bhonsle attempted to save Maratha's independence. But the well prepared and organised army of the English under Arthur Wellesely defeated the combined armies of Scindia and Bhonsle at Assaye and Argaon.
The English forced them to conclude separate subsidiary treaties namely the Treaty of Deogaon and the Treaty of Surji-Arjungaon respectively in 1803. But, Yashwant Rao Holkar (also called as Jaswant Rao Holkar) was yet undefeated. He had not participated in the war so far. Holkar plundered the territory of Jaipur and, in 1804, the English declared war against him. Yashwant Rao Holkar made an attempt to form a coalition of Indian rulers to fight against the British. But his attempt proved unsuccessful. The Marathas were defeated, reduced to British vassalage and islolated from one another.
* The Maratha power was gradually weakened.
* The English East India Company started becoming the paramount power in India.
The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-18)
The Third Anglo-Maratha War was the final and decisive conflict between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India. It began with an invasion of the Maratha territory by British East India Company troops. The troops were led by the Governor General Hastings and he was supported by a force under General Thomas Hislop.
The Peshwa Baji Rao II's forces, followed by those ofMudhoji II Bhonsle of Nagpur andMalhar Rao Holkar III of Indore, rose against the British. Daulat Rao Scindia of Gwalior remained neutral. The Peshwa was defeated in the battles of Khadki and Koregaon and several minor battles were fought by the Peshwa's forces to prevent his capture. Bhonsle was defeated in the battle of Sitabaldi and Holkar in the battle of Mahidpur.
*The Maratha confederacy was dissolved and Peshwaship was abolished.
* Most of the territory of Peshwa Baji Rao II was annexed and became part of the Bombay Presidency.
* The defeat of the Bhonsle and Holkar also resulted in the acquisition of the Maratha kingdoms of Nagpur and Indore by the British.
* The Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa of Maratha was given an annual pension of 8 lakh rupees.