Historians have sought to explain France's late entrance in the East India trade. They cite geopolitical circumstances such as the inland position of the French capital, France's numerous internal customs barriers and parochial perspectives of merchants on France's Atlantic coast, who had little appetite for the large-scale investment required to develop a viable trading enterprise with the distant East Indies.
The first French expedition to India is believed to have taken place in the first half of the 16th century, in the reign of King Francis I , when two ships were fitted out by some merchants of Rouen to trade in eastern seas; they sailed from Le Havre and were never heard of again. In a company was granted letters patent by King Henry IV , but the project failed.
Fresh letters patent were issued in , and two ships went to India, only one returning.
In , Marcara succeeded in establishing another French factory at Masulipatam. In , Saint Thomas was taken but the French were driven out by the Dutch. Chandernagore present-day Chandannagar was established in , with the permission of Nawab Shaista Khan, the Mughal governor of Bengal.
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The French, though, found themselves in continual conflict with the Dutch and the English. The French regained the town in through the Treaty of Ryswick , signed on 20 September From their arrival until , the objectives of the French, like those of the British, were purely commercial. Dupleix's ambition clashed with British interests in India and a period of military skirmishes and political intrigues began and continued even in rare periods when France and Great Britain were officially at peace.
Under the command of the Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau , Dupleix's army successfully controlled the area between Hyderabad and Cape Comorin. After a defeat and failed peace talks, Dupleix was summarily dismissed and recalled to France in In spite of a treaty between the British and French agreeing not to interfere in regional Indian affairs, their colonial intrigues continued.
The French expanded their influence at the court of the Nawab of Bengal and increased their trading activity in Bengal. This led to the Battle of Plassey in , where the British decisively defeated the Nawab and his French allies, resulting in the extension of British power over the entire province of Bengal. David in Cuddalore District to the ground in , but strategic mistakes by Lally led to the loss of the Hyderabad region, the Battle of Wandiwash , and the siege of Pondicherry in The French had lost their hold now in South India too.
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Governor Jean Law de Lauriston set to rebuild the town on its former layout and after five months European and Tamil houses had been erected. In the French East India Company, unable to support itself financially, was abolished by the French Crown, which assumed administration of the French possessions in India.
Successive governors tried, with mixed results, to improve infrastructure, industry, law and education over the next years. The results of this measure were not very satisfactory, and the qualifications for and the classes of the franchise were modified. Agricultural production consisted of rice, peanuts, tobacco, betel nuts and vegetables. This clip will be relevant for teaching History. Jeremy Paxman explores how the British Empire affected migration around the World. Jeremy Paxman explores how the British Empire expanded rapidly in Africa in the late 19th century. Jeremy Paxman explores how in the Caribbean, the whole population played cricket but the black and white populations rarely played together.
Jeremy Paxman explores the legacy left behind by the British Empire. Jeremy Paxman explores how the early British settlers in India actively embraced Indian life and culture. Jeremy Paxman explains how Britain today is a nation of many cultures, and many of these connections have their roots in the British Empire. Jeremy Paxman explores how the British used Indian troops to control their empire.
This clip is from the series Empire. Teacher Notes Students could be asked to describe how the British gained control of India in the 18th and 19th and the methods used to maintain that control. For 40 minutes we drifted slowly, the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat, past the mile-long succession of mighty towers and projecting bastions of the fort, each decorated with superb Mughal kiosks, lattices and finials. It seemed impossible that a single London corporation, however ruthless and aggressive, could have conquered an empire that was so magnificently strong, so confident in its own strength and brilliance and effortless sense of beauty.
Historians propose many reasons: the fracturing of Mughal India into tiny, competing states; the military edge that the industrial revolution had given the European powers. But perhaps most crucial was the support that the East India Company enjoyed from the British parliament. The relationship between them grew steadily more symbiotic throughout the 18th century. Returned nabobs like Clive used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats — the famous Rotten Boroughs.
In turn, parliament backed the company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the French and British East India Companies trained their guns on each other.
As I drifted on past the fort walls, I thought about the nexus between corporations and politicians in India today — which has delivered individual fortunes to rival those amassed by Clive and his fellow company directors. The country today has 6. But the biggest Indian corporations, such as Reliance, Tata, DLF and Adani have shown themselves far more skilled than their foreign competitors in influencing Indian policymakers and the media. By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harmful to free enterprise, and economic growth.
And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harmful to democratic expression. It was the nearest the British ever got to putting the EIC on trial, and they did so with one of their greatest orators at the helm — Edmund Burke. Burke thus correctly identified what remains today one of the great anxieties of modern liberal democracies: the ability of a ruthless corporation corruptly to buy a legislature. And just as corporations now recruit retired politicians in order to exploit their establishment contacts and use their influence, so did the East India Company.
So it was, for example, that Lord Cornwallis, the man who oversaw the loss of the American colonies to Washington, was recruited by the EIC to oversee its Indian territories. A private English gentleman, and the servant of a joint-stock company, during the brief period of his government he is the deputed sovereign of the greatest empire in the world; the ruler of a hundred million men; while dependant kings and princes bow down to him with a deferential awe and submission. Enough was enough. The same parliament that had done so much to enable the EIC to rise to unprecedented power, finally gobbled up its own baby.
The East India Company limped on in its amputated form for another 15 years, finally shutting down in Meanwhile, in a nice piece of historical and karmic symmetry, the current occupant of Powis Castle is married to a Bengali woman and photographs of a very Indian wedding were proudly on show in the Powis tearoom. Today we are back to a world that would be familiar to Sir Thomas Roe, where the wealth of the west has begun again to drain eastwards, in the way it did from Roman times until the birth of the East India Company.
When a British prime minister or French president visits India, he no longer comes as Clive did, to dictate terms. In fact, negotiation of any kind has passed from the agenda. For the corporation — a revolutionary European invention contemporaneous with the beginnings of European colonialism, and which helped give Europe its competitive edge — has continued to thrive long after the collapse of European imperialism.
When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy. Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family.
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Covertly, companies still govern the lives of a significant proportion of the human race. The year-old question of how to cope with the power and perils of large multinational corporations remains today without a clear answer: it is not clear how a nation state can adequately protect itself and its citizens from corporate excess.
As the international subprime bubble and bank collapses of have so recently demonstrated, just as corporations can shape the destiny of nations, they can also drag down their economies. A powerful corporation can still overwhelm or subvert a state every bit as effectively as the East India Company did in Bengal in Corporate influence, with its fatal mix of power, money and unaccountability, is particularly potent and dangerous in frail states where corporations are insufficiently or ineffectually regulated, and where the purchasing power of a large company can outbid or overwhelm an underfunded government.
This would seem to have been the case under the Congress government that ruled India until last year. The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. The most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current. Follow the Long Read on Twitter: gdnlongread.
The British Raj Defined India Throughout the 1800s
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