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ARISTOCRATS, MERCENARIES AND REVOLUTIONARIES:
The French in India: 1674 - 1815
eBOOK ONLY AVAILABLE ON IDEAINDIA.COM
eBOOK FOR DOWNLOAD
eBook Size: 142 KB; 38 pages;
© Roderick Matthews 2007
In the hundred years after 1660, militarily and culturally France was the pre-eminent power in Europe. The foremost soldiers of the age, Turenne, Condé, de Saxe, fought for Louis XIV and XV. The great military theorists were French; Vauban in engineering, Martinet in drill. The pre-eminent philosopher-writers were French; Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, Rousseau. French manners, tastes and styles were aped across Europe from England to Russia via Prussia, where Frederick the Great, its King from 1740, spoke French and built himself a mini-Versailles.
Yet this hegemony never translated to the world beyond Europe, where the French proved unable to build the type of territorial holdings that the British gained and retained through the eighteenth century. This can, to some degree, be put down to geography, to the long frontiers France shared with the Netherlands and what is now Germany. These borders always forced France to attend to a land war in Europe first before colonial affairs could be properly addressed. The British, who had no land border with France, would have to be fought at sea, or by proxy in Holland – where the Stadtholder was also King of England from 1689-1702, or in Germany - where the Kings of England were also Electors of Hanover after 1714. This meant that in the Anglo-French rivalry knockout blows were only ever going to be delivered outside Europe, where Britain generally proved quicker to the punch.
From 1688 to 1815 there were no less than seven full-scale wars between Britain and France, and these wars are central to developments in India in terms of both trade and territorial possessions. The global success of the British in the Seven Years War (1756-63) meant that with the outbreak of the two subsequent wars, in 1778 and 1793, all the French settlements in India were instantly sequestered. The last phase of the conflict in the East from 1793-1815 was therefore fought at sea, with the French operating out of bases much nearer Madagascar than India. This part of the story went better for the French who successfully disrupted British shipping for a further seventeen years until the two remaining French outposts on the islands of France (Mauritius) and Bourbon (Réunion) were finally captured in 1810.
This eBook examines how the French conducted their colonial affairs in India during the periods when they still had chances to rival the British presence, and how the French laid a political trail for the British to follow.
Roderick Matthews, Historian, Obtained a First from Balliol College, Oxford in Modern History. Studied Medieval History under Maurice Keen. Studied Tudor and Stuart History under Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol College. Studied European History under Colin Lucas, later Master of Balliol College and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Studied Imperial History under Professor Paul Longford, Rector of Lincoln College. Roderick Matthews has written several eBooks on Indian history published by IdeaIndia.Com