#9. Nearly there, folks, and today we swing east, away from the usual European theatre, but for surprisingly the first time in this series we find ourselves pitted against our traditional enemies, the French.
Our timescale now is the Seven Years' War, where in North America we complete victory against the French and become dominant, setting the seeds for tomorrow's finale, but today we are in the east, with "Plassey; And How An Empire Was Won".
This book promotes the fact that it was the French rather than us honourable Brits who first began the attempt to spread rule over the collapsing Moghul Empire under General Dupleix. Fortunately for us we just happened to have soldiers, a load of money, and a guy called Clive of India on hand. What's the chance of that, eh?
Plassey effectively destroyed the French presence in India, although readers of the Life of Pi will be aware that Pondicherry remained under French control for almost another 200 years, finally transferring to India as late as 1956. The change of policy from fortified trading post to effective control of whole provinces also began the creep where to protect this province that one had to be secure, and to protect that one the next one... effectively ending up with that oh-so-successful Afghan campaign. Wars in Afghanistan always go so well, I've noticed.
At its height the East India Company had an army of over a quarter of a million men, compared to the 'official' British Army of around a hundred thousand at the time, making it almost a sovereign state in its own right. Only after the mutinty of 1857 did control pass officially to the British Government.
In terms of changing world history, this is easily an important event, since failure here could have knocked the British back to mere trading partners and removed the need to control Egypt (for Suez), various ports in the Mediterannean, even Gibraltar.
And it would have meant Poppa Me wouldn't have been born in Madras, and I might not have been born at all. As a major part of world history that might not mean a lot, but it would have stopped me writing this.