Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

How India was Won, or the Story of Robert Clive

Most of you have heard of a great country named India. The many millions of people there look upon king George as their emperor; and for more than a hundred years India has been a part of the great British empire.

How is it, that this vast country, thousands of miles away, should be ruled by the British race, whose island home seems such a small spot on the map of the world? The story of Robert Clive will help to show us how this came to pass.

This great man lived when George II was king. The people of the little town of Market Drayton, in Shropshire, where he was born, had never before seen such a bold, daring lad, as Robert Clive. He was always the leader of the other boys when any mischief was being done; and he loved to do things which other boys dared not do.

Lord Clive


One day, he climbed up the steeple of the church, and sat on a stone spout near the top. Everyone thought he would fall and be killed, but the daring lad only looked upon it as fun.

He went from school to school, learning very little, and getting into all sorts of scrapes wherever he went. So, when he was about seventeen years of age, his father was very glad to get him a clerk's place, in far-away India.

Now, British merchants had been trading with India for many years, and so had French and Dutch; but none of them owned much land there.

The East India Company, as our traders were known, had three towns to which our goods might be sent, and exchanged for Indian articles.

One of these places was Madras, and it was there that young Robert Clive was sent. The life of a clerk was not a suitable one for a bold, young fellow, who liked to be in the open air all day long: so we find that, at first, he was very dull and sad. Soon, however, a great change came.

It happened in this way. The French, at this time, were trying to get all the power in that part of India, and to drive out the British. To spoil their plans, Clive said that an army should be sent to take the town of Arcot.

The governor thought this very good advice, and sent Clive himself, at the head of a little army of 200 white men and 300 sepoys, or native Indian soldiers. With this little army, Clive marched to Arcot, and when the people in the town saw him coming they fled in sudden fear, leaving the place in his hands.

After a time, they thought they had been rather foolish, and came back in thousands to take the town. Now, Arcot was not a strong place, for the walls were low and broken in some parts; but, in spite of all this, Clive kept it for 50 days against the attack of a big army.

At the end of this time, the enemy gave up the siege, and marched away. Soon, everyone in India was talking of the young clerk, who had shown greater skill in war than generals who had spent all their lives in fighting.

Some years later, news came to Madras of a cruel deed that had been done at Calcutta, another of our trading stations. A young native prince, who hated the British, had suddenly marched against the town, and taken it. He then shut up 146 white people in a small room, which had only one small window in it.

These poor people thought their guards were joking when they were told to enter this room, but they soon found out their mistake. They were driven in at the point of the sword.

During the hot night, the poor captives cried for mercy, and offered large sums of money to have the door opened. But their cruel jailers only laughed at their sufferings, and soon most of the prisoners were dead.

In the morning, only 23 persons staggered out of that dreadful place alive, and ever since it has been spoken of as the "Black Hole" of Calcutta. Clive was sent with an army of 3000 men to punish the prince, or nabob, who had ordered this cruel deed to take place.

When he reached Calcutta, Clive found that the nabob was at the head of 50,000 men. Clive's friends said it would not be wise for their little army to attack another so large, but, in the end, Clive gave the order to fight.

The battle began, and before long the big army was beaten, and the great victory of Plassey was won. Soon, a great part of India came under our rule, and Robert Clive went back to his native country, a famous man.

The title of Lord Clive was given him, and his father and friends were now quite proud of him. Still, he was not happy, for he suffered a great deal from illness; and some men, who were jealous of him, said he had done some wrong deeds in India.

They even brought him to trial; but the judges said he had done wonderful things for Britain, and so he left the court with honour. But, sad to say, he could not forget the cruel treatment he had had from his enemies, and, at last, he took his own life.