SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Pemble, John (1968) The invasion of Nepal: John Company at war 1814-1816. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (415MB) | Preview


The Nepal War symbolized an attempt by the East India Company to preserve its territorial income and to end the anarchy which the collapse of the Mogul empire had engendered in north India, by asserting the rights it had inherited from the Mogul vassals. The attempt involved a war against Nepal because the Gurkha dynasty, having already profited by the prevailing chaos to extend its domination over the whole of the eastern Himalayan region, had an interest in the perpetuation of that anarchy. The War did not symbolize an attempt by the East India Company to open the trans-Himalayan countries to British trade. It came about at a time when the Company's old interest in trade with Tibet had been replaced by a paramount concern to propitiate China. As both Nepal and Tibet were now theoretically Chinese vassals, the War was fought not because of, but in spite of a concern to avoid, Himalayan policies of the old type. From a military point of view, the War is interesting because it shows the Bengal army in operation at the beginning of a new stage in its existence: a stage marked on the one hand by a process of structural rationalization, and on the other by the increasing involvement in remote and difficult theatres of war produced by the establishment of British paramountcy in north India. With its inchoate commissariat, intelligence, and organizational machinery, and its new responsibilities, the army required exceptional qualities in its officers. This War eloquently demonstrated the type of leader that the army new needed; but at the same time it revealed that this was the type of leader it was incapable of producing. Humiliating setbacks were suffered as a result of inept command. Out of the four Company major-generals employed, three were dismissed for professional incompetence; and of the three commanders who can be called successful, only one was a Company officer. This was Ochterlony, and even he would have had no opportunity to exercise his talents had it not been for the unforeseeable death of Gillespie, a King's officer. The deterioration of the quality of command was a consequence of the parsimonious application of the system of seniority advancement. None of the dismissed generals was pensioned, and each was subsequently promoted. Ochterlony, because he was a few years their junior, was never promoted, and by the time he died, nine years after the War, was liable to be commanded by both the officers he had, during the course of the War, been appointed to supersede.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:27

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item