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French and Danish Penetration in India


 French Indian Settlements included Pondicherry (now Puducherry), Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahe on the Malabar Coast and Chandernagore in West Bengal. Other than this, there were lodges in Machilipatnam, Kozhikode and Surat.

It was during the reign on Francis I (François I) that the first French expeditions took place in India. The French East India Company was formed under the stewardship of Cardinal Richelieu in 1642. It was remodelled under Jean Baptiste Colbert in 1664 and an expedition was sent to Madagascar in the same year.

In 1668, the first French factory was established in Surat when an expedition was sent under the command of François Caron.

In the following year another French factory was set up at Masulipatnam. Chandernagore (now Chandannagar) was established in 1673 after permission from Nawab Shaista Khan, the Mughal governor of Bengal. In 1674, the French captured Valikondapuram from the Sultan of Bijapur and thus established their hold over Pondicherry.

The French were in constant conflict with the Dutch and British in India. In 1693, the Dutch seized the town of Pondicherry and fortified it considerably. However, the French regained Pondicherry in 1699 through the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697).

Starting from the early 18th century to the mid 18th century, the commercial motive of the French rulers dominated over political gains. Now their objectives were purely commercial. The French Company’s trade increased ten times and was nearly half the size of the British Company, which was a big threat for the British.

The French acquired Yanam, in the northeast of Pondicherry in 1723, Male in 1725 and Karaikal, in the south of Pondicherry in 1739. From 1742 onwards, political motives again dominated over commercial gains and the factories were fortified for the purpose of defence.

By this time the well-known French Governor of Pondicherry Joseph François Dupleix had arrived in India with the ambition of a French empire in India. The French interests clashed with the British ambitions and repeated clashes began.

Under the leadership of the Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau, Dupleix’s army successfully controlled the area between Hyderabad and Cape Comorin. But with the arrival of Robert Clive, a daring British officer, the French were chased out and Dupleix was recalled to France. This failure did not act as a deterrent and the French did not lose hope.

They subsequently sent Thomas Arthur de Lally-Tollendal to regain the French losses. Initial success blindfolded the French and Lally-Tollendal went on to make strategic mistakes. They lost the Hyderabad region in the Battle of Wandiwash and Pondicherry was seized in 1760. With this the French lost their hold over South India.

After the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars in 1816, all the five establishments Pondicherry, Chandernagore, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam and the lodges at Machilipatnam, Kozhikode and Surat were returned to France.

Over the next one hundred and thirty eight years successive governors improved infrastructure, industry, law and education. The French colonies in India remained separate from British India, without any interference.


 In 1616 the Ostindisk Kompagni (Danish East India Company) was established, and in 1620 a trade factory in Trankebar (Tranquebar, modern Tharamgambadi) acquired.

From 1689 to 1722 the company maintained a trade factory at Oddeway Torre on the Malabar Coast, from 1698-1714 another one at Dannemarksnagore (Gondalpara) in Bengal.

The initiative for an attempt to revive the enterprise was taken up in 1727; in 1732 the Ostindisk Kompagniwas succeeded by the Asiatisk Kompagni (Danish Asiatic Company).

In 1755 a trading post at Frederiksnagore (Serampore, in Bengal) was acquired; Denmark also claimed possession of the Nicobar Islands, which it renamed Frederiksøerne (King Frederik Islands).

In 1777 the company assets were taken over by Denmark. During the Napoleonic Wars, Danish India was occupied by the British. The Danish possessions were returned to Denmark after the Vienna Congress.

While in the territory administrated by the (British) East India Company missionaries were forbidden to engage in proselytization, the Danish administration actively promoted such activity. The small Danish territories on the subcontinent became centers of education and bookprinting (the first missionary, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, had arrived in Trankebar in 1705); Serampore College, established by William Carey, became a model for the universities founded in British India after the suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny and Rebellion.

In 1845, Denmark sold its possessions on the Indian mainland to the E.I.C. In 1848 Denmark renounced its claims on the Nicobar Islands, which became a center of piracy until the British took over in 1869, after friendly negotiations with the Danish government, and annexed into British India.

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