French Indian Settlements


Map of the French Indian SettlementsFlag of French Indian Settlements























The French Indian Settlements (or French India) 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 op 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. By 1720, the French lost their factories at Surat, Masulipatnam and Bantam to the British.


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.


In 1765 Pondicherry was again returned to the French after a peace treaty with England in Europe. Jean Law de Lauriston, the then French governor rebuilt the town. For the next fifty years Pondicherry was under the French and British administration according to the peace and war treaties. 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.


The independence of India in August 1947 gave impetus to the union of the French Indian Settlements with the new republic of India. The lodges in Machilipatnam, Kozhikode and Surat were ceded to India in October 1947. An agreement between France and India in 1948 made way for elections in the remaining possessions to choose their political future. After a referendum, the city of Chandernagore was ceded to India on 2 May 1950 and merged with the state of West Bengal on 2 October 1955.


On 1 November 1954 the remaining possessions were transferred to India and became the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The formal (de jure) union of the French Indian Settlements with India did not take place until 1963 when the French parliament ratified the treaty with India.



Capital:                      Pondichéry

Government:              French colony

Area:                         509 km²

Population:                 362.000 (1948)

Currency:                   French Indian rupee (8 Fanon)






French Indian Settlements in Wikipedia.




Stamp catalogue


UPU 75th anniversary

date:                  4 July 1949

designer:            Raoul Serres

printer:               Imprimerie des Timbres-Poste, Paris

perforated:         13

remark:              air mail


1     6 Fa             Arab man, Oceanic woman, Asian woman, African man, South American man, globe, airplane, text "75e



                          (cat. Michel 303/SG 284/Yvert PA 21)


French Indian Settlements - stamp as described above









Up - Home



last revised: 6 October 2008