Clive, Robert, Baron Clive of Plassey (plăsˈē) [key], 1725–74, British soldier and statesman. He went to India in 1743 as a clerk for the British East India Company and entered the military service of the company in 1744; he soon distinguished himself in the fighting against the French. Clive's brilliant capture of Arcot (1751) and the relief of the siege of Trichinopoly (1752) thwarted Dupleix, who had been on the verge of achieving French hegemony in S India. In 1757, Clive, then governor of Fort St. David near Madras (now Chennai), recovered Calcutta (now Kolkata) from the nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula. Then, after defeating the nawab at Plassey, he replaced him with the more compliant Mir Jafar. Bengal thus passed under effective British control, and Clive became the first governor. His victories over the Dutch at Biderra (1759) consolidated the British position as the dominant European power in India. Returning (1760) to England, he was given an Irish peerage as Baron Clive of Plassey. As governor of Bengal again from 1765 to 1767, Clive greatly reduced corruption and inefficiency in a formerly disordered administration and reached a settlement with the states of Bihar and Orissa. But his assumption of the right to collect the revenues of those states involved the company in the complexities of wide territorial administration, which it was ill equipped to handle. This was one of the factors that eventually led the British government to assume responsibility for British rule in India. After his return to England, Clive was bitterly attacked by politicians and others and was accused by Parliament of peculation. He was acquitted (1773) after a long investigation, but, broken in health, he committed suicide.
See the famous Essay on Clive by T. B. Macaulay; G. B. Malleson, Lord Clive and the Establishment of the English in India (1962); M. Edwardes, Plassey: The Founding of an Empire (1970); L. Stephens, Robert Clive and Imperialism (1981).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.