The Merchant and the State: The French in India, 1666-1739 (2 Volumes)
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The Merchant and the State: The French in India, 1666-1739 (2 Volumes)

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Item Code: IDE248
Author: Aniruddha Ray
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8121511119
Pages: 1108 (Color Illus: 7)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 1.74 kg


From the Jacket:


The brief survey of the activities of the French East India Company in India, based principally on the unpublished factory records of the French archives, deals with their problems, their linkage with the mercantile groups and their relation with the local rulers. Starting with their arrival at Surat in 1666, this study closes with the occupation of Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1739, which marks the change of attitude of the European powers including the French towards the Mughal Empire. However this work tries to give a total appraisal of the activities of the French and not their commerce only thus trying to understand the perception of the French in India, revealing in turn the changing Indian politico-economic situation.

The fortune of the French in India declined from the end of the seventeenth century but considerably improved with the formation of another Company in 1719. New factories were established at Mahe, Karikkal and Patna. By 1730s, the investment of the company touched the English investment in Bengal where the activities of Dupleix, narrated here from his unpublished private letters, shows the rising commerce and the increasing aggressive attitude of the French.


About the Author:


Aniruddha Ray, retired Professor of Calcutta University, has published the following, namely, edn. of S.N. Sen, Foreign Biographies of Shivaji (1977); Some Aspects of Mughal Administration (1984); ed. with S.K. Bagchi, Technology in Ancient and Medieval India (1986); The Rebel Nawab: Revolt of Vizier Ali Khan of Oudh (1990); trans. and ed. with Ratnabali Chatterjee, Society & Culture of Medieval Bengal (in Bengali), (1992); with S. Arasaratnam, Masulipatnam and Cambay. A History of Two Ports-towns 1500-1800 (1994); ed. with others, Murshidabad Affairs, 1821-1850 (1995); Economic History of Mughal India (in Bengali), (1996); Economic History of Sultanate Period (in Bengali), (1997); Adventurers, Landowners and Rebels. Bengal c. 1575-c. 1715 (1998); Jadunath Sarkar (in Bengali), (1999); Medieval Indian Towns (in Bengali), (1999); ed., Tipu Sultan and His Age (2002); and ed. with K.S. Mathew and M.A. Nayeem, History of the Deccan (2002). Prof. Ray was the Secretary of the Indian History Congress. He has participated in seminars in USA, France, England, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Bangladesh.


This is not the story of French commerce in India. It is a simple narrative of activities of the French in India since their arrival in India in 1666 on behalf of the newly formed French Company of the Indies. The aim of this narrative is to show the factors and circumstances leading to the establishments of different factories in India and their activities, in the background of the changing fortunes of the Company in France, their policy decisions and their effects on the functioning of their factories in India. In a broader sense, this narrative deals with the problems faced by the French personnel in India while confronting the State power and their attempts to overcome these problems. At the same time, the relation between the French and the Indians, particularly merchant and arti- sans, in different factories has been outlined as far as available in the documents.

Among the French scholars who tried to look at the working of the French Company in India, perhaps the most successful was Paul Kaeppelin, whose work on the Company till the early eighteenth century still remains a classic work. Published in 1908, the work of Kaeppelin was based primarily on the French Company records kept in France. It is quite understandable that Kaeppelin had very little information on seventeenth century India at his disposal at that time and he relied only on the French records and the accounts given by the British historians writing in the nineteenth century. As a result, the work of Kaeppelin was limited to the activities of the French only, which often prevented him from explaining the shifts and changes of the French attitude to the local authorities. The full perspective of the changing Indian scenario was not available to Kaeppelin in the early twentieth century.

While Kaeppelin had concentrated only on the French Company and India, with an account of the earlier disastrous French experiment at Madagascar, the recent classic work of Philippe Haudrere covered the activities of the French since 1719 till the dissolution of the Company at the end of the eighteenth century. Here, Haudrere had looked at the activities of the Company in a global perspective with a far greater emphasis on trade. Unlike that of Kaeppelin, Haudrere relegated the Indian activities of the French into a distant background, giving much more importance to the Company affairs in France and the network established by the Company almost worldwide. Such an emphasis on global policy could explain partly the shifts of the Company policies towards the factories set up in different continents; but Haudrere did not go into the details of each enterprise. Extremely rich in statistical data on commerce, investment, personnel, ship-building, etc., with tables to show the comparative positions of different French factories region- wise, the work points to the emergence of France as worthy rival to the English in India since the 1730s that coincided with Dupleix becoming Director of the Bengal factory. Since the detailed activities of the factories were not included in the work of Haudrere, the gradually changing view of Dupleix in relation to the state power has not been discussed in his work. This narrative, here, lays emphasis on such changing perceptions of the French, particularly that of Dupleix, in view of the increasing trade of the French in India. The late nineteenth century work of J.B. Malleson emphasized the French political activities in India, but he had discussed more the Anglo-French rivalry, with the secondary and timid role of the Indians, in the contest.

The first book of S.P. Sen (The French in India, Calcutta, 1947), covering the activities of the French in India between 1664 and 1693 (till the fall of Pondicherry) was based principally on the Memoires of Francois Martin and other papers. He had generally looked at the process of the first expansion of the French in India. Since it was principally a survey work, then unknown to the Indian scholars, this pioneering work of an Indian has remained a source book of the French activities in India. The details of the French activities in India found in the Company letters however has remained beyond the pale of such a survey work. Thus the actual working of the French factories, their problems in the background of the Company policies and the activities of the local Indian chiefs, has not been looked into. The details of the French trade as well as their activities, particularly in Bengal, were not covered either. The recent publication of the Memoires of Francois Martin with English translation reduced the value of this pioneering work. Apart from Bengal, the establishment of factories at Calicut, for example, or the problems of the French at Masulipatnam since its beginning in 1669, were absent in the work of Sen. Since we have fully utilised the French version of the Memoires of Francois Martin, the work of Sen has not been referred to in this work, which does not in any way reduce the importance of this pioneering study. Actually his study shows that a further amplified work should be undertaken by an Indian scholar on the basis of French documents, most of which have remained unpublished.

So far the history of the growth of Pondicherry or Chandernagore has not been studied properly, although some Bengali writings of Harihar Sheth and others had appeared on early Chandernagore. In recent years some attempts have been made to look at the growth of Pondicherry from the early eighteenth century. The English and the Dutch trading practices, particularly in Bengal, were well covered by competent scholars, but French trade of the early period was not studied in that way. The thesis of Indrani Rayon the French trade in India during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries remained unpublished. A few articles written by her have now been collected in a book form and published. Some of these articles have been utilized here.

An attempt has been made here to record the growth of Pondicherry and Chandernagore as urban areas. The land records regarding the purchase of land in Bengal and Balasore have been shown at proper places in chronological sequence so as to merge into the policies then dopted by the French. For example, the French attempted to empty huge investment on the program of building at Chandernagore and Qasimbazar at a time when there was very little prospect of French trade due to the European war. In case of Pondicherry, it was different. Pondi- cherry grew despite the French. The details of the conflict between the French clergy, the French administration and the local population in the early eighteenth century have been traced in detail here. These would be interesting elements for the study of the history of the French urban areas in India, not studied so far. It would be clear to anyone that the growth of Pondicherry and Chandernagore, at least during the first half of the eighteenth century, had no settled program or policy. The controversy among the French administrators on the question of the fortification of Pondicherry would show this very clearly.

Interestingly, as we would see, the case of the French presence at Surat was different. Here the French first settled in 1666 and continued there for more than a century. But since 1702, no French ship carne to Surat due to the huge debts that the French had contracted at Surat during the declining days of the first French East India Company. Even when after 1719, the new French Company began to liquidate the debts in India, Surat was marginalised much to the chagrin of the Mughal merchants and the Frenchmen stilI living there. Given the situation, the attitude of the Mughal Governor of Surat was perfectly friendly since he did not allow the creditors to run down the factory. How the French managed to get out of the situation, particularly from the clutches of the Bohra brothers and Mulla Abdul Gaffur, has been recounted here in detail. This episode remained unknown to the Indian or even to the European historians. Similarly one could see the French at Masulipatnam since their arrival there in 1669, the conflict with the local authorities due to the arrest of their Armenian broker Marcara A vacin and the parting of ways between the French and the Masulipatnam authorities. As we would see, it was a temporary halt and by 1689, the French were back with a Jarman. Some of these documents are reproduced in the Ap- pendices in English with a free translation from the French text.

The French attempts to penetrate the Malabar and Coromandel Coasts have been traced here briefly for the simple reason that these were more or less known. Only the French activities at Kaveripatnam and later at Mahe, which then grew into a French enclave, are recounted here with some details. Similarly the French acquisition of Karikkal is described from the extant French documents fortunately printed by Alfred Marti- neau. Once again, the Appendices at the end of the text in this work supply all such documents in full.

The French classical scholars have often described Francois Martin as the founder of Pondicherry. It is doubtful in more than one sense. He was not the first Frenchman to set his foot on Pondicherry, then known as Puducherry. Nor was he the first European to do so as we have shown here. One might say that, like Job Charnock at Calcutta, Francois Martin had set the ball rolling at Pondicherry. As we would see, his role as so- called "founder" has often been exaggerated. He could neither get the fortification or even the walling of the city completed nor could he keep the Jesuits at bay. The work of Le Noir, later Governor of Pondicherry, was far more important in that sense; unfortunately he could get little credit from the Indian scholars. Here, therefore, an attempt has been made to show the development of Pondicherry under Le Noir so that a clear comparison could be made between him and Martin. Of course the situations were different and Martin could claim the credit of securing Pondicherry from the Maratha invaders. But how far the Maratha Governors of Jinji were interested in taking over Pondicherry remains a debatable issue. They were far more interested in milking the golden cow rather than have a new one for themselves. A study of the history of the Marathas at Jinji from the Maratha papers might reveal more on the French activity than has been imagined so far. In any case the facts are laid bare here for the readers to give their judgement.

The Indian scholars accepted Dupleix as a man who brought the French Company to a very comfortable position so as to challenge the English dominance. However the Indian scholars, mostly using the English records, studied the activities of Dupleix in his attempts to carve out a piece of territory in south India. Thus they had not given importance to his roaring private trade during his stay at Chandemagore between 1731 and 1740. An illuminating article by Indrani Ray from the private papers of Dupleix showed this aspect clearly. The excellent French study by Alfred Martineau on Dupleix in Bengal remained largely unnoticed by the Indian scholars. Here we would look into the work of Martineau from the same set of documents, as were utilized by him and would come to a slightly different position.



List of Plates x
Acknowledgements xi
Abbreviations xvi


Volume I
Establishment and Stagnancy


Chapter 1
Early Efforts
Voyages till 1531 1
Madagascar 5
French in Madagascar 10
Colbert and France 13
Madagascar and Francois Martin


Chapter 2
Formation of the Company
The Company in France 26
The Company in Motion 29
Madagascar Problem 33
France and India


Chapter 3
Early Years in India: Establishment and Expansion
Expeditions to India 41
Francois Caron in India 42
Francois Caron at Surat: Conflict 45
Conflict at Masulipatnam 52
Marcara Avacin: Aftermath 62
Masulipatnam: Last Episode


Chapter 4
Problems of Survival
Surat 1670-1672 85
La Haye and San Thome, 1672 91
Pondicherry, Masulipatnam and San Thome 97
Post San Thome


Chapter 5
New Beginnings (1675-1686)
The Company 123
Pondicherry Since 1675 129
Bijapur, Masulipatnam and Tanjore 135
Surat, 1675-1686


Chapter 6
Prelude to Transfer to the Company of St. Malo
The Company, 1684-1692 182
Surat, 1686-1697 194
Masulipatnam and Pondicherry, 1686-1697 214
Kaveripatnam, 1686-1693 269
Bengal, 1673-1697


Chapter 7
The Company, 1697-1706 336
Surat, 1698-1707 354
Pondicherry, 1693-1706 372
Bengal, 1697-1705


Chapter 8
Working of the Company of St. Malo
The Company, 1706-1709 442
Pondicherry, 1706-1719 453
Surat, 1708-1719 483
Bengal, 1706-1719


Volume II
New Company and Expansion


Chapter 9
The Company of 1719
Company of Law, 1719-1731 511
Other Overseas Domains 520
Overseas Commerce: Some Observations


Chapter 10
Road to Expansion 1719-1732
Pondicherry, 1719-1731 534
Bengal, 1720-1731 599
Surat, 1720-1732 626
Calicut and Mahe 651
Chapter 11
Administrative Structure 698
Pondicherry, 1727-1739 704
Surat, 1733-1738 726
Mahe, 1730-1739 752
Karikkal, 1738-1739


Chapter 12
Dupleix in Bengal: The Last Flicker, 1732-1739
Dupleix in the Company, (Pre-Bengal Phase) 805
Coastal Trade, Murshidabad and European Companies 812
Chandernagore: Problems 820
New Establishments and Relation with Murshidabad 860
Nadir Shah and the French: New Alignments


Chapter 13
1666-1719 953


Appendices 1-20 993
Bibliography 1044
Index 1053


Sample Pages




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