Bangladesh consists of the eastern part of what used to be undivided Bengal. The western part is now in India and some of the key events in the history of Britain taking control of the territory that is today Bangladesh took place in modern day India.
As early as the late seventeenth century we were trying to take control in Bengal. But failing.
In 1620, the East India Company had a presence in Bengal, and in 1666 it set up a base in Dhaka. In 1682, William Hedges from the East India Company arrived in Bengal to talk to the Mughal governor there. Hedges was looking for trading privileges, but negotiations got a bit difficult and an English fleet arrived under Admiral Nicholson. What followed is sometimes called Child’s War (not much to do with kids, more to do with Sir Josiah Child, head of the East India Company) or the Anglo-Mughal war. But Child’s War wasn’t child’s play (see what I’ve done there?). It lasted from 1686 to 1690, during which we seized ships and bombarded towns. In the end, though, we lost and had to make concessions to the Mughal emperor, and pay compensation before we could re-establish commercial operations.
By the middle of the eighteenth century we were ready to have another go. In 1756 the new, young nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud Daulah, decided to exert control over the British base in Calcutta (Kolkata) in what is now West Bengal in India. With overwhelming forces he quickly captured it. In response, Colonel Clive and Admiral Watson were sent with the aim of re-establishing the British presence and getting reparation for its losses. After fighting outside Calcutta in January 1757, a peace deal was signed, and we turned our attention to the French, and not in a friendly way, attacking the town of Chandannagar, north of Calcutta. Chandannagar fell, but now Siraj ud Daulah started negotiations with the French, while we started secret negotiations with one Mir Jafar with the aim of replacing Siraj ud Daulah. Then Clive set off with a force to confront Siraj ud Daulah. The two armies met at the Battle of Plassey, or Palashi, in June 1757. Siraj ud Daulah had French help, but he lost. Clive then made Mir Jafar nawab, and when he got too close to the Dutch for our liking, we made Mir Qasim nawab instead.
Victory over Mir Qasim’s army and other allied forces at the Battle of Buxar in 1765 gave the East India Company control over Bengal in many ways. In 1793 the company took control of judicial administration in the territory as well.
William Heath had attempted to take control of Chittagong for the East India Company as early as 1688. In 1766 the company finally took control of the city. We were also given control of areas around Chittagong in the east of what is now Bangladesh, and a period of prolonged fighting followed against the region’s Chakma kings. The Chittagong Hill Tracts became an area where British control faced assorted challenges and was not always solid.
We left Bengal in 1947, when part of it became East Pakistan. The country became independent as Bangladesh in 1971.