In general most work on the expansion of British power in India focuses on the struggles on land, or the naval clashes with the French in Indian waters, but as this book demonstrates several Indian powers also had fleets, and used them against British sea power.
We start with a look at the earliest clashes between Indian and European ships, after the arrival of the Portuguese in Indian waters. This sets the scene for an examination of the two main opponents of British naval power, the Marathas and Mysore. These two powers acted in rather different ways - the Marathas developed a powerful coastal navy and provided fairly long term resistance. In contrast Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan attempted to create a navy that could cut the British off from India, formed an alliance with the French and tried to form alliances along the British sea route. However their efforts came to nothing and their fledgling fleet played very little part in the four Anglo-Mysore Wars.
The main strength of the book is the author's in-depth knowledge of Indian naval warfare, from the types of ships involved to the personalities involved. This allows him to make sense of the British accounts of clashes with Indian ships, which tend to be a bit vague on details, and to follow the evolution of naval policy in the various Indian states.
The author is a little judgemental on occasions - rather that describing what Indian powers 'could' have done, he talks about what they 'should' have done. The Moghul's status as foreign invaders in their own right is ignored, and the coup that removed the legitimate dynasty of Mysore is justified as putting a stronger ruler in place.
This is an excellent study of a neglected but important aspect of Anglo-Indian history, and comes highly recommended.
Part I: Early Naval Resistance: The Historical Background
1 - Calicut: The City of Spice
2 - Surat: Home of the Gujurat Sea Trade
Part II: The Saffron Banner: Irregular Naval Warfare against an Emergent Britain
3 - Bombay: A Poor Little Island
4 - Alibag: Fleet Base of the Maratha Northern Command
5 - London: From Where India Came to Be Governed
6 - Vijaydurg: The Strongest Place in All India
Part III: The Tiger of Mysore: A Conventional Navy to Oppose British Dominance
7 - Jamalabad: Main Fleet Base of the Mysore Navy
8 - Port Louis, Isle de France: The Grand Arsenal
Author: Philip MacDougall