The First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69):
Blinded by their easy successes in Bengal, the English concluded a treaty with Nizam Ali of Hyderabad and in return for the surrender of Northern Circars committed the Company to help the Nizam with troops in his war against Haider Ali. Haider already had territorial disputes with the ruler of Arcot and differences with the Marathas. Suddenly Haider found a common front of the Nizam, the Marathas and the Nawab of Carnatic operating against him.
Undaunted, Haidar played the diplomatic game, bought the Marathas allured the Nizam with territorial gains and together with the latter launched an attack on Arcot. After a see-saw struggle for a year and a half Haidar suddenly turned the tables on the English and appeared at the gates of Madras.
The panic-stricken Madras Government concluded the humiliating treaty on 4, April 1769 on the basis of mutual restitution of each other’s territories and a defensive alliance between the two parties committing the English to help Haidar in case he was attacked by another power.
The Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84):
The treaty of 1769 between Haider Ali and the English Company proved more in the nature of a truce. Haidar Ali accused the Company of not observing the terms of the defensive treaty by refusing to help him when the Marathas attacked Mysore in 1771.
Further, Haider found the French more helpful in meeting his military demands for guns, saltpetre and lead than the English. Some French military hardware naturally found its way to Mysore through Mahe, a French port on the Malabar coast. Under the circumstances the English attempt to capture Mahe which Haidar considered to be under his protection, was a direct challenge to Haidar Ali.
Haidar Ali arranged a joint front with the Nizam and the Marathas against the common enemy-the English East India Company. In July 1780 Haidar attacked Carnatic and captured Arcot, defeating an English army under Colonel Baillie.
Meanwhile the English detached the Marathas and the Nizam from the side of Haidar. The second round of the struggle too proved inconclusive.
The Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-92):
British imperialism, true to its very nature, considered every peace treaty as a breathing time for another offensive against Tipu. Acting against the letter and spirit of the policy of peace and non- expansion loudly proclaimed in Pitt’s India Act. Lord Cornwallis worked on the anti-Tipu suspicions of the Nizam and the Marathas and arranged a Triple Alliance with them against Tipu.
Convinced of the inevitability of a war with the English, Tipu had sought the help of the Turks by sending an embassy to Constantinople in 1784 and again in 1785 and on to the French king in 1787. Tipu’s differences with the Raja of Travancore arose over the latter’s purchase of Jaikottai and Cranganore from the Dutch in Cochin state. Tipu considered the Cochin state as his tributary state and thus considered the act of the Travancore Raja as violation of his sovereign rights. He decided to attack Travancore in April 1790.
The English, itching for a war, sided with the ruler of Travancore and declared war against Tipu. At the head of a large army Cornwallis himself marched through Vellore and Ambur to Bangalore and approached Seringapatam. The English captured Coimbatore only to lose it, latter supported by the Maratha and Nizam’s troops the English made a second advance towards Seringapatam. Tipu offered tough resistance, but realised the impossibility of carrying further the struggle. The Treaty of Seringapatam resulted in the surrender of nearly half of Mysorean territory to the victorious allies. The British acquired Baramahal, Dindigul and Malabar while the Marathas got territory on the Tungaohadra side and the Nizam acquired territories from the Krishna to beyond the Pennar.
Tipu had also to pay a war indemnity of over three crores rupees. Tipu lost heavily in this round of strength and could only save his kingdom from total extinction by preparation and planning which seemed beyond his resources. Cornwallis summed up the Company’s gain: “We have effectively crippled our enemy without making our friends too formidable”.
The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799):
The East India Company’s policy in India alternated wars with spells of peace for recuperation of their resources. The arrival of imperialist Lord Wellesley as Governor-General in 1798 in the backdrop of Napoleonic danger to India augured ill for the maintenance of status quo. Wellesley was determined to either tame Tipu to submission or wipe out his independence altogether.
The charge against Tipu Sultan of planning intrigues with the Nizam and the Marathas or sending emissaries to Arabia, Zaman Shah of Afghanistan or Constantinople or the French in the Isle of France or the Directory at Versailles were convenient excuses to force down the desired end. Tipu’s explanation that only “40 persons, French and of a dark colour, of whom 10 or 12 were artificers and the rest servants paid the hire of the ship, came here in search of employment” did not satisfy Wellesley.
The operations against Tipu began on 17 April and with the fall of Seringapatam on 4, May 1799 brought to a close the history of Mysore’s independence. Tipu died fighting bravely. The members of Tipu’s family were interned at Vellore. The English annexed Kanara, Coimbatore, Wynead, and Dharpuram besides the entire sea coast of Mysore. Some territories were given to the Nizam. A boy of the earlier Mysore Hindu royal family was installed on the gaddi of Mysore and a Subsidiary Alliance was imposed.