Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790–92) : Causes and Results

Sansar LochanModern1 Comment

The relations of the English with the state of Mysore had never been cordial. Haider Ali who had usurped power in Mysore from the hands of its Hindu ruler was favourably inclined towards the French from the beginning. That was one reason why the English always attempted to break his power. When the Nizam of Hyderabad also desired to break the power of Haider Ali, the British decided to join hands with him. It resulted in the first Anglo-Mysore War. Haider Ali, in his turn, found a good opportunity to break the power of the English in the South during the course of the first Anglo-Maratha War. He made a common cause with the Nizam and the Marathas against the English and attacked Karnataka. It resulted in the second Anglo-Mysore War. Haider Ali died of cancer during the course of that war. Tipu Sultan, his son, inherited the enmity with the English from his father and continued fighting. The war, however, remained indecisive. Today in this article we will discuss about the causes and consequences of the third Mysore war.

The Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-92)

The third contest between the English and Mysore took place when Cornwallis came to India as the governor-general of the Company. Tipu was a determined enemy of the English. He was trying to seek alliance with foreign powers against the English and, for that purpose, had sent his ambassadors to France and Turkey. Cornwallis, therefore, was convinced of the necessity of subduing Tipu and described the war against him as a ‘cruel necessity’. Cornwallis also tried to find allies from among the native rulers. He made a settlement with the Nizam of Hyderabad concerning the district of Guntur. Tipu Sultan was not consulted while making the agreement which convinced him that the English were preparing for a war against him.

Tipu had certain grievances against the king of Travancore who was a dependent ally of the English. He had provided shelter to many enemy-chiefs of Tipu who used to attack the territories of Tipu in Malabar. He had purchased two ports from the Dutch which were regarded by Tipu well within his territory. He had raised a protective wall which, as Tipu claimed, had crossed his boundary. Tipu desired to settle his conflicts with him with the good offices of the English but when he received no reply from him, he attacked his kingdom in December, 1789. The English decided to fight Tipu on this pretext.

Cornwallis took all precautions before declaring war against Tipu. He entered into negotiations both with the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Marathas entered into a treaty with the English in June, 1790 and the Nizam in July, 1790. Both agreed to help the English against Tipu. It was also agreed that the conquered territory would be divided between the three allies. Though the burden of the war fell mostly on the shoulders of the English, they were assured that Tipu would be left alone in fighting against them. The English, then, declared war against Tipu in 1790.

Treaty of Srirangapatnam

Tipu fought the war alone which continued for two years. The first attack of the English failed. Therefore, in December 1790, Cornwallis himself took the command of the army. He proceeded towards Bangalore and captured it in March 1791. Tipu, however, fought bravely and the English retreated during the rainy season. In November, 1791, Tipu succeeded in Coimbatore. But, his power was exhausted. Cornwallis captured all the hill-forts which obstructed his advance towards Srirangapatnam and reached near its outer wall. Tipu felt desperate an opened negotiations with the English. Cornwallis agreed and the treaty of Srirangapatnam was concluded in March 1792. Its terms were as follows:

  1. Tipu surrendered half the territory of his kingdom to the allies. A part of it was given to the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Marathas extended their boundary up to the river Tungabhadra. The English obtained Malabar and sovereignty over the Raja of Coorg, Dindigul and the neighbouring districts, Baramahal and the mountain passes.
  2. Tipu agreed to pay a huge war indemnity to the English.
  3. Tipu also surrendered his two sons to the English as hostages.

Some scholars have criticised Cornwallis for this treaty. They have contended that Cornwallis signed this treaty in haste and lost the opportunity to finish Tipu, which he could have easily done by pursuing the war a little further. But their contention is not justified. Cornwallis was more diplomatic. He agreed for peace because the English troops were suffering from sickness; there could be a possibility of French support to Tipu; and, the Directors of the Company had asked him to stop the war. More than that was the problem of division of the plunder. If the state of Mysore had been wiped off from the map of India, the allies of the English. i.e., the Nizam and the Marathas would have claimed more share for themselves from its territory which would have gone against the permanent interest of the English. It was particularly true of the Marathas who would have strengthened their position further which could, in turn, threaten the power of the English. Therefore, Cornwallis wisely agreed for peace and allowed Mysore to exist for some time more. He rightfully claimed: “We have effectually crippled our enemy, without making our friends too formidable.”

Points to remember

  1. Tipu was seeking support from some foreign powers agains the English while the English sought the assistance of the Marathas and the Nizam against Tipu.
  2. Thus, both parties were prepared to fight against each other when Cornwallis came to India.
  3. The immediate cause of the third Anglo-Mysore war was the attack of Tipu on an ally of the English, the Raja of Travancore, who had provoked Tipu by some of his actions.
  4. The English purchased the neutrality of the Nizam and the Marathas in 1790 by offering them parts of the conquered territories of Tipu after the war.
  5. The English attacked Tipu in 1790 and, after nearly two years of hard fighting, succeeded in reaching Srirangapatnam, the capital of Mysore.
  6. Tipu sued for peace and the treaty of Srirangapatnam was signed in March 1792 by which Tipu surrendered half the territory of his kingdom, agreed to pay a huge war indemnity and ransomed his two sons to the English.
  7. Thus, the state of Mysore was weakened but not destroyed by the third Anglo-Mysore war.

Source used : NCERT, Tamil Nadu Board, IGNOU Modern History, NIOS textbooks. Wikipedia notes for UPSC exam.

Tags : PDF for UPSC exam short notes on third Anglo-Mysore war. 

Questions for UPSC mains :

Discuss the causes and the results of the third Anglo-Mysore War.


Discuss the Anglo-Mysore relations during the period of governor-generalship of Lord Cornwallis and Lord Wellesley.

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