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Peshwa Bajirao I & Maratha Expansion

Mirza Firuz Shah


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Book Review





Subject Era:


V.G. Dighe







Publisher and Place:

Karnatak Publishing House, Bombay - 1944



ISBN 10|13:


Royal Mughal Ref:


Publisher date:



In the long and distinguished galaxy of Peshwas, Baji Rao Ballal was unequalled for the daring and originality of his genius and the volume and value of his achievements. He was truly a Carlylean Hero as King or rather as a "Man of action". If Sir Robert Walpole created the unchallengeable position of the Prime Minister in the unwritten constitution of England, Baji rao created the same institution in the Maratha Raj at exactly the same time.

And yet no worthy study of such a career was written in English before this volume, and indeed no full and correct history of Balaji Bajirao could be written before 1930, in which year the vast mass of Peshwa State Papers (in Marathi) preserved in the Poona Daftar began to be published and a few years later Chevalier P. S. Pissurlencar and Dr. Braganza gave to the world the invaluable original documents of that time in the Portuguese language, and the Jaipur Maharaja's archives were ransacked yielding the best raw material for the history of the Maratha penetration into Northern India during those years, mostly in the Persian language. Before that date our knowledge of this great Peshwa and his times had been confined to Grant Duff's book composed a century and a quarter ago at the dawn of Maratha historiography, which was supplemented merely by the Persian sources on some special campaigns used by Irvine in his Later Mughals and some Marathi historical letters printed by Parasnis (viz. the correspondence of Brahmendra Swami) and Rajwade (relating to the Janjira Campaign).

But the revolution in Maratha historiography which has been created by the discovery and publication of original sources in diverse languages in the life-time of the present generation, had not before this been represented by any attempt at presenting a synthesis of these materials. That much needed work has been now done by Dr. V. G. Dighe in the present thesis composed in 1940-41 and by Rao Bahadur Sardesai in his new Marathi Riyasat Vol, V, published a year later.

Dr. Dighe's work of which I was an examiner, impressed me so much by its outstanding merit that I moved the Bombay University to assist in printing it and placing it before the vast English reading public. This has now been done and the students of Indian history will be thankful to the University for its liberality to scholarship and to Dr. Dighe for presenting us with a scientifically written and full history of one of the most momentous epochs in the life of the Maratha race,

As the title of the book indicates the author's main subject has been the expansion of the Maratha power during those eventful years (1720-1740) , and naturally the details of the internal affairs of Maharashtra have been crowded out by the bigger issues of foreign policy and military adventure which had to be minutely and critically studied here. But even in the domestic or constitutional sphere a valuable contribution of Dr. Dighe is his fresh and penetrating analysis of the relations between Raja Shahu and his great minister by which much popular misconception has been corrected. Dr. Dighe has made a compact presentation of the subject and touched up salient features with a commendable economy of words. But the chapters on the Janjira Campaign and the capture of Bassein in this volume are the most detailed and documented accounts of these two heroic achievements of the Maratha race to be found in any language and they lead the reader by clear steps through the tangled maze of war and diplomacy and their interaction, Here is new light presented in its full splendour.

This volume will form a very valuable addition to the growing literature on Maratha History, and long continue as a standard authority in its own field.


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Mirza Firuz