Sayyid wal Sharif Hyder Ali (c. 1720–82) rose to be commander of Mysore’s army under the rule of Krishnaraja II. Eventually he came to dominate Krishnraja and his government and was given, or took, the title Sarvadhikari, chief minister. A talented administrator and tactician, he resisted the advance of the British East India Company, concluding agreements with the French, who assisted in developing artillery for the army of Mysore. He planned economic development under his own and his son’s regime, improved the productivity of agriculture and textile manufacturing, and for a while Mysore overtook Bengal as India’s primary economic power. By the time of his death, Mysore recorded higher living standards than Britain’s during the industrial revolution. It was this success that allowed Mysore to hold its enemies, both Indian and foreign, at bay. His son, Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu, or Tipu Sultan, continued and developed Mysore’s economic progress from 1782. When Napoleon, following his invasion of Egypt in 1798, attempted to make a strategic alliance with Indian princes in order to drive out the British, an enthused Tipu planted a tree of liberty and declared himself Citizen Tipu. Napoleon’s strategy failed, though Tipu went on to resist British encroachment until he fell in battle defending his capital during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War of 1798–99. When told by a French military advisor to escape Tipu replied “better to live one day as a Tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.” He is considered by many as India’s first freedom fighter.
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