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French in India

Read in detail about arrival of French, the empire they built and their subsequent decline in India.

The French were the last Europeans to arrive in India. Among the major European powers, The French East India Company was the last to be formed.  

Establishment and expansion of French East India Company:

  • It was founded by Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1664 during the reign of king Louis XIV.
  • The French established their first factory at Surat in 1668, and in 1669, they built another factory at Masulipatam.
  • They also established a factory at Chandranagar in Bengal in 1673.
  • In 1674. The French acquired the areas of Pondicherry from the Sultan of Bijapur, thus establishing a French colony in Pondicherry. In 1701, Pondicherry was made the capital of the French settlements in India.
  • Until 1741, the French were mainly interested in commercial activities and developed various trading posts at Mahe, Karaikal, Balasore, and Qasim Bazar, however this perspective changed after the arrival of Joseph Marquis Dupleix, the most ambitious Governor-General of the French East India Company. He had a burning desire to establish a French empire in India.
  • Dupleix was made the Governor General of all French territories in India in 1742.
  • He made alliances with many local rulers and also interfered in their succession disputes. 

Decline of French East India Company: 

  • Dupleix’s plans for territorial expansion became a reason for conflict between French and British which led to the Carnatic wars.
  • France and Britain were on opposite sides of the camp at the War of Austrian Succession that broke out in Europe in 1740. This led to the beginning of the first Carnatic War. The war ended in 1748 with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. As per the treaty, Madras was given back to the English in exchange for Louisburg in North America to France.
  • In the second Carnatic War, the French were defeated by British forces and Dupleix was criticized by the French authorities because of heavy losses to the French company. Due to this, Dupleix was called back to France.
  • In the third Carnatic War, The French suffered a humiliating defeat and lost their Indian possessions including Pondicherry, Mahe and Karaikal to the British.
  • Third Carnatic War which ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. As per the Treaty, Chandannagar and Pondicherry were returned to the French but they were barred from fortifying them or having troops in them. They could only have commercial activities.

Post Independence, Pondicherry was handed to the Indian Union in November 1954, while Chandernagore was restored to India in May 1950. When the French Parliament ratified a deal with India in 1962, the remaining areas of French settlement were restored to India.

We this, we conclude this topic here. 

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