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The French – Advent of the Europeans in India

The French – Advent of the Europeans in India

Although the French harboured a wish to engage in the commerce of the East since the opening years of the sixteenth century, their appearance on the Indian coasts was late. Indeed, the French were the last Europeans to come to India with the purpose of trade.

During the reign of Louis XIV, the king’s famous minister Colbert laid the foundation of the Compagnie des Indes Orientales (French East India Company) in 1664, in which the king also took a deep interest. The Compagnie des Indes Orientales was granted a 50-year monopoly on French trade in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Note :- This post will be available in Hindi soon

The French king also granted the company a concession in perpetuity for the island of Madagascar, as well as any other territories it could conquer. The Company spent a lot of its money and resources in trying to revive the colonies of Madagascar but without any success.

Then in 1667, Francois Caron headed an expedition to India, setting up a factory in Surat. Mercara, a Persian who accompanied Caron,
founded another French factory in Masulipatnam in 1669 after obtaining a patent from the Sultan of Golconda. In 1673, the French obtained permission from Shaista Khan, the Mughal subahdar of Bengal, to establish a township at Chandernagore near Calcutta.

Pondicherry—Nerve Centre of French

Power in India

In 1673, Sher Khan Lodi, the governor of Valikondapuram (under the Bijapur Sultan), granted Francois Martin, the director of the Masulipatnam factory, a site for a settlement. Pondicherry was founded in 1674. In the same year, Francois Martin replaced Caron as the French governor.

The French company established its factories in other parts of India also, particularly in the coastal regions. Mahe, Karaikal, Balasore and Qasim Bazar were a few important trading centres of the French East India Company.

After taking charge of Pondicherry in 1674, Francois Martin developed it as a place of importance. It was indeed, the stronghold of the French in India.

Early Setbacks to the French East India Company

The French position in India was badly affected with the outbreak of war between the Dutch and the French. Bolstered by their alliance with the English since the Revolution of 1688, the Dutch captured Pondicherry in 1693. Although the Treaty of Ryswick concluded in September 1697 restored Pondicherry to the French, the Dutch garrison held on to it for two more years.

Once again, under Francois Martin’s able guidance Pondicherry flourished and turned out to be the most important settlement of the French in India. Again there was a bad turn in the fortunes of the French company in India when the War of Spanish Succession broke out in Europe. Consequent to this, they had to abandon their factories at Surat, Masulipatnam and Bantam in the early 18th century. The French in India had another setback when Francois Martin died on December 31, 1706.

Reorganisation of the French Company

In 1720, the French company was reorganised as the ‘Perpetual Company of the Indies’ which revived its strength. This was further enhanced by the stewardship of two active and wise governors, Lenoir and Dumas, between 1720 and 1742. Further, the French India was backed by the French possession of Mauritius and Reunion in the southern Indian Ocean.,

The Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy: the Carnatic Wars

Background of Rivalry

Though the British and the French came to India for trading purposes, they were ultimately drawn into the politics of India. Both had visions of establishing political power over the region. The Anglo-French rivalry in India reflected the traditional rivalry of England and France throughout their histories; it began with the outbreak of the Austrian War of Succession and ended with the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War. Specifically in India, the rivalry, in the form of three Carnatic wars, decided once for all that the English and not the French were to become masters of India.

In 1740, the political situation in south India was uncertain and confused. Nizam Asaf Jah of Hyderabad was old and fully engaged in battling the Marathas in the western Deccan while his subordinates were speculating upon the consequences of his death. To the south of his kingdom lay the Coromandel coast without any strong ruler to maintain a balance of power. Instead, there was the remnant of the old Vijayanagara empire in interior Mysore, Cochin and Travancore on the Malabar coast, and in the east the small states of Madura (Madurai), Tanjore (Thanjavur) and Trichinopoly (Thiruchirapally).

The decline of Hyderabad was the signal for the end of Muslim expansionism and the English adventurers got their plans ready. Also, there was the Maratha kingdom of Tanjore, providing the Peshwa of Pune an excuse for interference whenever he pleased.

First Carnatic War (1740-48)

Background Carnatic was the name given by the Europeans to the Coromandel coast and its hinterland. The First Carnatic War was an extension of the Anglo-French War in Europe which was caused by the Austrian War of Succession.

Immediate Cause Although France, conscious of its relatively weaker position in India, did not favour an extension of hostilities to India, the English navy under Barnet seized some French ships to provoke France. France retaliated by seizing Madras in 1746 with the help of the fleet from Mauritius, the Isle of France, under Admiral La Bourdonnais, the French governor of Mauritius. Thus began the first Carnatic War.

Result The First Carnatic War ended in 1748 when the Treaty of Aix-La Chapelle was signed bringing the Austrian War of Succession to a conclusion. Under the terms of this treaty, Madras was handed back to the English, and the French, in turn, got their territories in North America.

Significance The First Carnatic War is remembered for the Battle of St. Thome (in Madras) fought between the French forces and the forces of Anwar-ud-din, the Nawab of Carnatic, to whom the English appealed for help. A small French army under Captain Paradise defeated the strong Indian army under Mahfuz Khan at St. Thome on the banks of the River Adyar. This was an eye-opener for the Europeans in India: it revealed that even a small disciplined army could easily defeat a much larger Indian army. Further, this war adequately brought out the importance of naval force in the Anglo-French conflict in the Deccan.

Second Carnatic War (1749-54)

The background for the Second Carnatic War was provided by rivalry in India. Dupleix, the French governor who had successfully led the French forces in the First Carnatic War, sought to increase his power and French political influence in southern India by interfering in local
dynastic disputes to defeat the English.

Immediate Cause The opportunity was provided by the death of Nizam-ul-Mulk, the founder of the independent kingdom of Hyderabad, in 1748, and the release of Chanda Sahib, the son-in-law of Dost Ali, the Nawab of Carnatic, by the Marathas in the same year. The accession of Nasir Jang, the son of the Nizam, to the throne of Hyderabad was opposed by Muzaffar Jang, the grandson of the Nawab, who
laid claim to the throne saying that the Mughal Emperor had appointed him as the governor of the Carnatic. In the Carnatic, the appointment of Anwar-ud-din Khan as the Nawab was resented by Chanda Sahib.

The French supported the claims of Muzaffar Jang and Chanda Sahib in the Deccan and Carnatic, respectively, while the English sided with Nasir Jang and Anwar-ud-din.

Course of the War The combined armies of Muzaffar Jang, Chanda Sahib and the French defeated and killed Anwarud-din at the Battle of Ambur (near Vellore) in 1749. Muzaffar Jang became the subahdar of Deccan, and Dupleix was appointed governor of all the Mughal territories to the south of the River Krishna. A French army under Bussy was stationed at Hyderabad to secure French interests there.
Territories near Pondicherry and also some areas on the Orissa coast (including Masulipatnam) were ceded to the French.

Having failed to provide effective assistance to Muhammad Ali at Trichinopoly, Robert Clive, then an agent (‘factor’) of the English company, put forward the proposal for a diversionary attack on the governor of Madras, Saunders. He suggested a sudden raid on Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic, so as to relieve the pressure on Trichinopoly. He reasoned that in such an event Chanda Sahib would rush to save his capital. Thus, in August 1751, with only a force of 210 men Robert Clive attacked and captured Arcot.

As expected, Chanda Sahib hastened to his capital, taking a force of 4,000 men from Trichinopoly, but failed to get back the fort even after a siege of 53 days, from September 23 to November 14. Now Mysore, Tanjore and the Maratha chief, Morari Rao, came to the aid of Trichinopoly, and of Clive and Stringer Lawrence. Trichinopoly was first relieved of its siege, while General Law of France with Chanda Sahib
remained cooped up in the island of Srirangam. They were forced to surrender in June 1752 when Muhammad Ali executed Chanda Sahib, the British failing to interfere.

Vishal Singh

Vishal Singh

“Hi, I am Vishal Singh. I completed my Graduations in Physics in 2020 at VKSU, Arrah. Now I'm Preparing For Civil Service Exams. I'm Interested Physics as well as History, Polity, Geography, Technology & Science.

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