The French: Arrival of the Europeans

The French: Arrival of the Europeans

The French were the last Europeans to come to India for trade. In Kerala, the French established the first fort at Thalassery in 1670. However, they could not compete with the English in Thalassery.

Later in 1702, they built a warehouse at Punnol (Kannur). But their business did not improve there either.

In 1722, the French Company obtained the right to erect a trade station in Mahi (Mayyazhi) from King Kadathanad (also known as Vadakara Vazhunnor). To secure their trading interests, they also erected a fort (St. George fort) at Mahi.

They established their foothold at Mahi in 1725. However, unlike the African continent, they were unable to achieve a breakthrough in India.

Let's have a bird's eye view of the French history of Kerala, their trade relations, the wars they fought, particularly the Carnatic wars, and so on.


Basic Facts

  • The Last European force to reach India – The French.
  • The French in Kerala is commonly known as – Paranthreesukar (പരന്ത്രീസുകാർ).
  • The French East India Company (Compagnie des Indes Orientales) was founded by – Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1664).
    • Ruler of France at the time – King Louis XIV.
    • Originally founded in 1642 and was reorganized by Colbert in 1664.
French East India Company
  • Headquarters of French in India – Pondicherry.
    • The former name of Pondicherry – Fort Louis.
  • The French purchased Pondicherry from – Sultan of Bijapur in 1673.
  • Pondicherry was founded in the year – 1674.
  • Founder of Pondicherry – Francois Martin.
    • Father of Pondicherry – Francois Martin.
    • First Governor of Pondicherry – Francois Martin.
  • First French Governor-General in India – François Martin.
  • The French established their first factory in India at – Surat (1668).
    • Under the guidance of  –  Francis Caron.
    • Major factories of the French in India – Surat, Masaulipatam (1669).
      • The permission to establish the French factory at Masulipatanam was granted by – Salabat Jang.
  • The Mughal Emperor who issued the royal mandate allowing the French to set up a factory at Surat – Aurangzeb (September 4, 1666).
  • The trading center of the French in Kerala was located at – Mahi (Mayazhi).
    • The river which was formerly known as 'The English Channel of India' – Mayyazhipuzha.
  • The year in which the French East India Company built a fort at Mahi – 1724.
  • The year in which the French captured Mahi in – 1725.
  • The French captain who aided the capture of Mahi from the King of Kadathanad – Bertrand-François Mahé, Comte de La Bourdonnais.
  • Major French bases in India – Mahi (1725), Karaikal (1739), Yanam (Andhra Pradesh, 1723), Chandranagar (West Bengal), Pondicherry.
  • The year in which the French left India – 1954.
  • Pondicherry was annexed to Indian Union on  – November 1, 1954.

The Anglo-French Feud


The War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763) at the turn of the 18th century pitted two powerful nations  – France and Britain  – on separate factions.

This animosity pervaded the respective trading companies in India as well, as they competed to cement their supremacy in India. The Dutch supported the English in this fight. These colonial forces took advantage of India's political upheaval caused by the collapse of the Mughal Empire.

The three Carnatic Wars reflected the rivalry between the French and the English. The table below contains further information on the Carnatic wars.

The Carnatic Wars

The Coromandel coast and its adjacent areas were given the name Carnatic by Europeans. 

The arrival of the French Governor-General Joseph François Dupleix in 1742 marked the beginning of the Carnatic Wars which extended over a period of 20 years (1744-1763). 

While the defeat at battle of Wandiwash in 1763 ended the French ambition of political dominion over India.

First Carnatic War (1746)

  • Date – 1746 to 1748.
  • Location – Carnatic region, South India.
  • Fought Between  – The French & the English.
    • The French – Joseph François Dupleix (Governor-General) &
    • The English – Major Stringer Lawrence (British) along with Anwaruddin Khan (Nawab of the Carnatic).
  • Main Event –  the Battle of St. Thome (in Madras).
  • The English territory that was captured by the French in the First Carnatic War – Madras.
  • The treaty that ended the First Carnatic War – Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).
    • Also known as the Treaty of Aachen.
  • The Indian territory returned to the British under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle – Madras.

Second Carnatic War

  • Date –  1748 to 1754.
  • Location – Carnatic region, South India.
  • Fought Between  –  The French & the English.
  • Reason – Succession dispute in Hyderabad and Karnataka.
    • Nizam-ul-Mulk, the Mughal governor of the Deccan and Nawab of Hyderabad died in 1748 which raised succession disputes between:
      • Chanda Sahib, the son-in-law of a previous Nawab of the Carnatic, Dost Ali and Anwar-ud-Din &
      • Nasir Jang, the son of the Nizam, and Muzaffar Jang, the grandson of the Nawab.
  • The British forces in the Second Carnatic War were led by –  Robert Clive.
  • The treaty that ended the Second Carnatic War – Treaty of Pondicherry (1754).
  • Result  – 
    1. The British strengthened their grip in southern India.
    2. Muhammad Ali Khan Walajah became the Nawab of the Carnatic.
    3. Joseph François Dupleix, the French governor general was recalled by France and Charles Godeheu replaced him.

Third Carnatic War 

  • Date –  1758 to 1764.
  • Reason –  The Seven Years' War in Europe between Britain and France.
  • The Travancore King who died in the year 1758 – Marthanda Varma.
  • The French governor who got defeated in the Third Carnatic War –  Thomas Arthur, Comte de Lally.
  • The English governor who defeated the French – General Eyre Coote.
  • The treaty that ended the Second Carnatic War – Treaty of Paris (1763).
    • Chandan Nagar, Mahi, and Pondicherry were restored to France.
  • Result – The English established their supremacy over the Indian subcontinent.

Battle of Wandiwash

  • Date –  1760.
  • Location – Vandavasi, Tamil Nadu.
  • Also known as 'the Plassey of the south.'
  • The decisive battle that led to the downfall of the French in India.
  • Fought Between  –  General Eyre Coote of the English &  Thomas Arthur, Comte de Lally.
  • British won the Battle of Wandiwash on –  January 22, 1760

Mahi Liberation Movement / Mayyazhi Vimochan Samaram


Despite the fact that Mahi was restored to the French by the Paris Treaty of 1763. The English again recaptured Mahi in 1779 and 1793. 

Under the Treaty of Paris signed between the two nations in 1814, the British were ready to relinquish Mayazhi, and French sovereignty was restored there in 1816, a condition that lasted until 1954.

Gandhiji's visit to Mahi in 1934 created a great stir. The entire country and city were engulfed in anti-colonial demonstrations. 

The Mahajana Sabha, founded in Pondicherry in 1937, coordinated with the French Indian Congress, which pushed for the freedom of French India's whole territory.

Although the British departed India in 1947, the French did remain, sparking discontent in French-controlled territories such as Mahi. Following negotiations between the Governments of India and France, it was agreed to hold a vote on France's independence.

However, the referendum failed to evict the French from Mahi, which resulted in incidents such as Mayyazhi Vimochan Samaram leader I.K. Kumaran Master flying the tricolor flag in place of the French flag in the administrator's office.

A telegraph was also sent to the Government of India and the INC President, requesting the termination of French control and the swift restoration of Mayyazhi's rule.

The administration of Mayyazhi was then taken over by I.K. Kumaran Master, who constituted a defense council.

The French, on the other hand, thwarted the move and punished the perpetrators. A series of more violent incidents occurred after that.

Finally fed up, the French administration decided to negotiate and, on July 16, 1954, withdrew gradually after ruling for 233 years, ceding control to the Mahajana Sabha.

I.K. Kumaran thus became the first administrator of the autonomous Mahi, assisted by a fifteen-member governing committee.
  • The year in which the Mahi Liberation Movement happened – 1948.
  • Leader of the Mahi Liberation Movement – I. K. Kumaran Master.
  • The French suppressed the Mahi Liberation Movement on – October 28, 1948.
  • The year in which the French left Mahi  –  July 16, 1954.
  • The first Administrator of Mahe after Indian independence  – I. K. Kumaran Master.
  • Mayyazhi/Mahe Gandhi – I. K. Kumaran Master.


📝SideNotes:

  • English Channel – an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates England and France.
  • First Indian to swim across the English Channel – Mihir Sen (1958).
  • First Indian/ Asian woman to swim across the English Channel – Arati Gupta' Saha (1959).
  • First Woman sportsperson to win the Padma Shri – Arati Gupta' Saha (1960).
  • The strait that separates England and France – Dover Strait.
  • The smallest district in India – Mahi.
  • A district that is not in Kerala despite the fact that it is a Malayalam-speaking region inside Kerala – Mahi.
  • Mahi is a part of – Puducherry.
  • Ang Lee's  'Life of Pi,' was filmed in  – Puducherry.
  • Eyebrow of the Arabian Sea – Mahi.
  • മയ്യഴിയുടെ കഥാകാരൻ – M. Mukundan.
  • The Malayalam novel 'Mayyazhippuzhayude Theerangalil' was written by –  M. Mukundan.
  • Name the district of Kerala which surrounds Mahi on 3 sides – Kannur.
Thanks for reading!!!

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