French East India Company
The French East India Company was founded in 1664 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French minister of finance, with the support of Louis XIV.
In 1674, the company purchased Pondicherry, 137 kilometres south of Madras from a local ruler In 1690-1692, it captured Chandernagore, north of Calcutta, from the Mughal rulers.
Initially, the French projects began to fail due to a combination of great political and imperial schemes with commercial interests. In 1674, the company shifted its focus on increasing commerce and being a strong identity of all time.
The Decline of Commerce
The Dutch captured ‘Pondicherry’ during the Grand Alliance War in 1693. In 1697, the French reclaimed the captured province but lost to its commerce.
By 1706, French business appeared to be on the decline. Between 1708 and 1720, the company's powers were rented to a group of Saint-Malo merchants. However, after 1720, things took a major turn for the worse.
Reorganisation of the Company
The company was reorganised, and during the next two decades, it increased its trade and added new stations. Mauritius was finally captured in 1721, followed by Mahe in Malabar and Karaikal on the eastern coast in 1725 and 1739, respectively.
The Chandarnagar settlement was revived, and the French corporation remained closely supervised by the government, which selected directors and provided fixed dividends.
Although the company's development and official support, its revenues in Europe in 1740 were around half that of England's East India Company. Its trade was large but not sufficient to seriously match that of the English.
Danish East India Company: The company operated temporarily from 1616 from Tranquebar near Nagapattinam in the Madras region, eventually acquiring Serampore in Bengal in 1755.
The Ostend Company: The company was comprised of Austrian Netherlands merchants, which began operations in 1723 and remained a serious competitor until it was removed peacefully in 1731.
The Swedes and Prussians' attempts to establish a presence in India had likewise failed.
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy
In 1740, India looked to be in a somewhat resting state. In the north, Nadir Shah's invasion (1739) was revealed to be a massive attack with little real impact. The Nizamal-Mulk brought some stability to the Deccan.
In the west, the Marathas ruled. However, there remained a struggle for political supremacy in the Deccan between the Marathas, the Mughals, and local kings.
This was the setting against which European events produced an Anglo-French struggle in India.
First Carnatic War
The War of the Austrian Succession began in Europe in 1740, with Frederick II of Prussia taking Silesia (a region in Central Europe mostly located in modern-day Poland); France sided with Prussia, while England sided with Austria from 1742 on.
In actuality, France and Britain entered the conflict less to support their respective allies than to compete for control over their American and Asian colonies. The war's North American campaign was called King George's War, while the Indo-Asian war became known as the First Carnatic War.
This laid the groundwork for an Indian conflict when the English determined that the French Indian trade was too powerful to be left alone and broke their previous objectivity. Both sides focused on sea power for victory, but the French took steps.
In September 1746, Bertrand François Mahé (titled as Comte de La Bourdonnais) drove the British out of Madras in September 1746 with an improvised fleet from Mauritius. However, quarrels between La Bourdonnais and the governor of Pondicherry, Joseph-François Dupleix, prevented the French from profiting from this surprise success, even if the French did defeat an English attack on Pondicherry.
Then, as part of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), the British gained control of Madras in exchange for North America's Cape Breton Island.
Anglo-French Rivalry in the Deccan
While this war signalled a return to the status quo in some aspects, it also resulted in considerable improvements to the situation. Madras was now recognised as British by European treaty, which was also ratified by rival Indian chiefs.
The French acquired national artists in the form of competent soldiers, and their impact was bolstered by the French navy detachments left behind upon La Bourdonnais' departure.
Most significantly, Dupleix recognised and capitalised on the opportunity offered by the Deccan region's uncertain politics to capitalise on France's new reputation.
For some years, a conflict had raged over the governorship of the Carnatic, which was a dependency of Nizam al-Mulk of Hyderabad.
The Nizam established a new Carnatic nabob in 1743, but the war persisted between followers of the two rival houses, who enlisted the assistance of the Marathas, Mughals, and Europeans in order to secure a settlement in their favour.
After Nizam al-death Mulk's in 1748, a succession conflict arose between his second son and his grandson, Muzaffar Jang.
Dupleix resolved to support both Muzaffar and Chanda Sahib's claims to the Carnatic nawabship, inspired by his simple removal of the Carnatic nawab from the Madras premises. If successful, this might be used to undermine British commerce in southern India and seize indefinite control of the Deccan's affairs. Initially, fortune was on his side.
The French and the Nawabs
The Carnatic nawab was assassinated at the Battle of Ambur (1749), which showed the superiority of European armaments and military skills. The new nizam's frightening attack, Nasir Jang, came to a stop in December 1750 with the nizam's death. When Muzaffar Jang was assassinated three months later, the French succeeded in elevating Salabat Jang to the throne of Hyderabad as the late Nizam's third son. Dupleix now possessed a kingmaker in the person of the astute Charles, Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau, at the core of Muslim power in the Deccan.
The British replied to these remarkable successes by assisting the late nawab's son, Muhammad Ali, in establishing a Carnatic nawabship in the Trichinopoly rock stronghold. They had already played with Tanjore's internal affairs and were therefore not unfamiliar with Indian politics. The French-backed Chanda Sahib's nawabship campaign.
As a result, the subsequent conflict was mostly a private one between the two corporations.
Failure of the French
In August 1751, with just 210 men, Robert Clive, a frustrated British factor who had left the counting-house for the field, captured the fort of Arcot, the Carnatic's political capital. This audacious manoeuvre pulled nearly half of Chanda Sahib's army to its rescue.
Muhammad Ali obtained the support of allies from Tanjore and the Marathas as a result of Clive's triumphant 50-day defence. The French were defeated and compelled to submit in June 1752. Dupleix never recovered from this setback; he was supplanted as director in August 1754 by Charles Robert Godeheu, who secured an arrangement with the British.
The French had only a momentary reprieve from the British; in 1756, the Seven Years' War in Europe resumed, pitting Britain and France against one another once more. Both sides dispatched additional armaments to the East.
The first British contingent was relocated to Bengal in 1758 to give French general Thomas-Arthur Lally an advantage upon his arrival. Lally was courageous but inept; after conquering Fort St. David, he delayed his march to Tanjore, where he provoked Indian wrath by murdering temple Brahmans.
Then, in 1758–1759, his raid on Madras was unsuccessful, but Clive's Bengali soldiers defeated the French garrison in the Northern Sarkars.
When Sir Eyre Coote arrived with soldiers in January 1760, the British decisively defeated Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash. Bussy-Castelnau was captured from Hyderabad, and Lally escaped to Pondicherry, where he surrendered in January 1761 following an eight-month siege complicated by personal hostility. The French threat to the British hegemony in India has waned.
While some of the responsibility for this setback may be laid at Lally's feet, there were additional factors at play.
A notable feature was Britain's mastery of the sea.
Lally was unable to secure allies because of a lack of funds and a shortage of supplies from France.
The British could supply Madras from both Britain and Bengal.
Because the French corporation was controlled by the French government, it was subject to the influence of French internal politics.