The Peshwas were the last of the rulers of Maratha Kingdom, established by Chhatrapati Shivaji
. After the death of Shivaji, the great ruler of the Deccan region, the struggle between the Marathas( the dynasty to which Shivaji belonged) and the
continued. Shahu, the grandson of Shivaji, was named as Balaji, the first Peshwa.
On Balaji's death, his son, Bajirao I succeeded him as the Peshwa. He was an ambitious and far seeking man. Aided by his brother Chimaji Appa, he fought 36 battles and won all of them. When Bajirao defeated the Nizam and the Mughals, the Marathas were established as the supreme power in India.
Following the death of the Peshwa brothers, Bajirao and Chimaji, Balaji Bajirao (Nanasaheb) succeeded as the Peshwa. He, along with his two brothers Sadashivrao and Raghunathrao, continued the rule of Peshwa for the next 25 years. The 1761 Panipat battle between Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdalli, the Mughal ruler, gave a severe blow to the Marathas, with the death of Sadashivrao and Nanasaheb Peshwa's eldest son. Nanasaheb died in the same year. His second son Thorale Madhavrao assumed the title of the Peshwa, with Raghunathrao acting as Madhavrao’s care taker.
Madhavrao Peshwa defeated Hyder Ali of Mysore and the Nizam of Hyderabad. In 1769, Marathas led by Mahadaji Shinde, headed the North India campaign. They defeated the Jats, a race belonging to north India, and took hold of Agra and Mathura. They reinstated the Mughal Emperor on the throne, who was living on the East India Company Pension.
After Madhavrao Peshwa's death in 1772, Raghunathrao's attempts to be the Peshwa were foiled by the ministers. Hurt, he joined the British. The state came under the rule of ministers headed by Nana Phadnavis and Mahadaji Shinde.
In 1796 with no other Peshwa heir, Bajirao II, son of Raghunathrao became the Peshwa. He signed a treaty with the British in 1802, which weakened the Peshwa power. His son, Nanasaheb Peshwa opposed the British with whatever support he could muster. By 1818 the Peshwa power came to an end.