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In the 18th century Britain seized the opportunity offered by its East India Company to establish a mercantile colony European merchants had been trading in India since the 16th century however the largest trade organization in India during the 17th century was the English East India Company Beginning in that time period Britain formed and maintained an economic relationship with India Confrontations in the 18th century between the English East India Company and the French East India Company ultimately led to the British occupation of India Both companies contested for Indian states around their lands for whoever held the most profitable lands would have the most profits Indians were drawn into the conflict as both British and French recruited sepoys to assist in the battles The most favorable area to control was Bengal According to the French traveler Bernier The knowledge I have acquired of Bengal in two visits inclines me to believe that it is richer than Egypt It exports in abundance cottons and silks rice sugar and butter It produces amply for its own consumption of wheat vegetables grains fowls ducks and geese It has immense herds of pigs and flocks of sheep and goats In 1756 Siraj al-Dawla the Nawab of Bengal invaded Calcutta the principal fort of the East India Company in order to gain control over the East India Company There in an episode that became known as the Black Hole of Calcutta 123 British were kept prisoners and died in a small locked room In retaliation Robert Clive was sent to regain Calcutta and essentially Bengal Robert Clive led the outnumbered British army to victory against the poorly trained Indian troops of Siraj al-Dawla According to Clive there were about fifteen thousand horse and thirty-five thousand foot about fifteen thousand horse and thirty-five thousand foot with upwards of forty pieces of cannon in the army of the Nawab Clives defeat of the Nawab of Bengal at Plassey in 1757
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