French East India Company (French name is “Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes Orientales”) was a commercial enterprise formed in 1664, established by Jean-Baptiste Colbert for the purpose of trading in the Eastern Hemisphere. The company resulted from the fusion of three earlier French companies. It was a public company headquartered in Paris, France.
The Beginning to Go Beyond the Boundaries
In the year 1660, there were three companies namely “Compagnie de Chine, the Compagnie d’Orient and Compagnie de Madagascar”. All these companies were the most successful trading companies in France, headed by the three most successful Directors who had more than twenty years of experience behind them. French East India Company resulted from the fusion of three earlier companies in the year 1660. The first Director General of the Company was François de la Faye. Two Directors belonging to the two most successful trading organizations at that time: François Caron, who had spent 30 years working for the Dutch East India Company, including more than 20 years in Japan, and Marcara Avanchintz, a trader from Isfahan, Persia joined François.
Changing With Time French East India Company
French East India Company called Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales which in French means “French Company of the East Indies”. Under this name, the French East India Company formed in 1664 and ruled from the year 1664 to 1719. Later in the year 1719, it came back with the name Compagnie des Indes, which in French means “Company of the Indies”; under this name it existed for just two years, which is from 1719 to 1720. Then came the Compagnie Française des Indes meaning “French Company of the Indies”, well what’s in the name they say!
Establishing the French East India Company – The Birth & More
The Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales was established by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the finance minister to King Louis XIV. His company had very little interest for the traders and merchants of France so their investment in the company was zilch. Despite the efforts of Colbert to advertise for luring the traders to join this company none relented.
He persuaded François Charpentier of the French Academy to write glowing advertisements about why the merchants should buy goods like gold, pepper, cinnamon, and cotton from traders and merchants who went exploring to faraway places to buy these exquisite products and how they can earn much more than they were currently. King Louis XIV wrote to 119 towns. He pressurized the merchants to join the company.
But many merchants refused. Making the King think of alternatives to find support. By the year 1668, the king decided to invest the money himself. It not only provided support to the company also gave the king the control of it. The Compagnie des Indes Orientales was granted a 50-year monopoly on French trade in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, a region stretching from the Cape of Good Hope to the Straits of Magellan. The French Monarch also granted the Company a permission to conquer the island of Madagascar, as well as any other territories around it. The Company failed to control the island of Madagascar, but they were able to establish ports on the nearby islands of Bourbon.
The French established their first factory at Surat and in 1669 AD established another French factory at Masaulipatam. After some false starts, the French company acquired Pondicherry, 137 km south of Madras, from a local ruler in 1674. It obtained Chandernagore, near Calcutta, from the Mughal governor in 1690-92.
Competition Faced By the Company
The French East India Company faced constant competition from the already-established Dutch East Indies Company. Often they were harassed by the Dutch company. The Dutch would confiscate the expensive goods bought by the French. The French East India Company made very little money and by this time many ships had faced the warring winds & wrath of the sea needing repair.
First Change – The Name and the People Behind It
In 1719 the Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales was taken over by this new company under the name “Compagnie des Indes”. Blame it on the decisions of John Law, it’s administrator that led to financial crisis, this Company didn’t last for too long. So in 1720, it faced a closure. The company was then reorganized under the name Compagnie Française des Indes.
Change Again – This Time for the Better
The reorganized corporation resumed its operating independence in 1723 under the name of Compagnie Perpétuelle des Indes. They obtained the colonies of Mauritius in 1721 and Mahé in Malabar, India in 1724. By 1740 this new French company successfully raised its trade with India to the value of half that of the British East India Company. That was quite a high value.
The then leader of the company, Joseph-François Dupleix, was appointed the governor-general of French India in 1742. In 1746 Duplex overtook the control of trade in Madras. He tied up with local Indian rulers there but there were other rival Indian groups who supported the Britishers. A private war between the two companies broke out in 1751. Dupliex was recalled to Paris in 1754.
Transition– From Company’s Rule to the Rule of the Crown
The French East India Company produced very little profit as compared to their West Indies counterparts, so they lacked government support. Its monopoly over French trade with India was ended in 1769, and thereafter the company disappeared during the French Revolution in 1789. After the new Duma was formed to advise King Louis XIV, the monopoly of the French East India Company was abolished. This new French Assembly enthusiastically threw open the trade to all Frenchmen. The company was not accustomed to facing any competition nor had it seen any official rejection. It fell into continuous downfall and was finally liquidated in 1794.
They were there to stay…..
But several Indian trading ports, including Pondichéry and Chandernagore, remained directly under the control of the Crown until 1954 before handing it back to First Indian Government after Independence.