The Revolution And The French Establishments In India (1790-1793) – Marguerite V. Labernadie


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When, on February 22, 1790, a French barge by the name of ‘Bienvenue’ came ashore Pondichéry with the news of the events in Paris around the meeting of the Estates General, the storming of the Bastille and the abolition of feudal rights; it sent out a wave of topsy-turving repercussions amongst both the French and the English colonial administrations in India. Excited with the newly found principles that were inherent in the cries of the Revolution in France, yet, not knowing their precise socio-political extents and implications, each of the five French settlements on the Indian subcontinent came to create their own individual ‘revolutions’ – periods of mostly confusing and sometimes violent socio-political upheaval.

Wellesley, on the other hand, fearing the influence of the principles of the French Revolution on the employees of the English East India Company, asked his superiors in London for the establishment of a college in Fort William in order to train men in the service of the Company  against such ‘erroneous principles’. How do these revolutions in each of the French settlements in India – in some ways, mirror events of the 1789 Revolution in the metropolis – unfold? Where, exactly, did the universalist values of the Revolution find its boundaries when applied in contemporaneous colonial India? And how were the diametrically opposite values of imperial and republican France sought to be accommodated in such a context?


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