Six decades after the establishment of foreign trading companies such as the ‘British East India’ and the ‘Dutch East India’, France too entered India with a business proposal and later founded the ‘French East India Company’ in 1664.
In 1673, the foundation of Pondicherry was laid by the French when they took over the area of Pondicherry, which was under the Sultan of Bijapur until then. The French administration started a number of ambitious projects in 1674, which aimed at transforming Pondicherry from a small village to a flourishing port town.
However, the French were in constant conflict with the English and the Dutch as all three European maritime powers knew the potential of a place like Pondicherry. The Dutch managed to capture Pondicherry in 1693 and expanded its fortifications. However, in 1697, a series of agreements called the ‘Treaty of Ryswick’ were signed between the French and the Dutch, which made sure the French regained Pondicherry in 1699.
Despite having a treaty with the British, the French continued to seek ways to expand their presence in India. Hence, they increased their business activities in Bengal, which allowed them to get closer to the Nawab of Bengal. Since the French were not confident of defeating the British by themselves, they encouraged the then Nawab of Bengal Siraj ud-Daulah to fight the British in order to capture ‘Fort William’ in Calcutta. This instigation by the French led to the famous ‘Battle of Plassey’ in the year 1757. Unfortunately, Siraj ud-Daulah and his French allies were defeated comprehensively by the British, which marked the end of Nawab’s rule in Bengal and the advent of British rule in the region. France reacted by sending a general named Lally-Tollendal to drive the British out of India and to regain their lost possessions. After his arrival in 1758, Lally achieved success almost immediately as he managed to destroy ‘Fort St. David’ in Cuddalore district, which was under British control. However, Lally’s strategic mistakes cost the French dearly as they lost their hold over South India as well. The British sieged Pondicherry in 1760, which led to the arrest and the subsequent execution of Lally. But Pondicherry was returned to the French as per a peace treaty, which was signed in the year 1763.