Armies and Wars of the French East India Companies 1664-1770
European, Asian and African Soldiers in India, Africa, the Far East and LouisianaSeries:
Imprint: Helion and Company
320 Pages, 7.1 x 9.8 in, c 200 b/w illustrations, c 42 color illustrations, 5-10 maps, 5pp color plates,
- December 2023
Besides a multitude of usually modestly fortified trade lodges and factories, these companies were the actual government representing the Kingdom of France over substantial parts of Africa, India and the Indian Ocean islands as well as Louisiana in America from 1716 to 1731. The profits were expected to cover government operations. The companies had the power ‘to make war’ where they operated and thus private-sector military conflicts often occurred. They therefore maintained their own private armies and navies that were totally independent from those of the King of France.
These private troops were usually very modest until the formation of the Compagnie des Indes in 1719. Thereafter, as the French company expanded and became involved in the politics of the crumbling Mughal Empire in India, especially during the rule of the imperial visionary Dupleix, the fairly modest number of European soldiers was greatly expanded by enlisting many thousands of Indian soldiers who were given European training, weapons and sometimes uniforms. It was at the 1746 Battle of Aydar that Compagnie des Indes French soldiers and sepoys utterly defeated a far larger Indian princely army so that dominance of a European nation in India was assured. After a hard fight, though, that nation would be Great Britain thanks to good and effective support of its government compared to the French disinterest in overseas matters by the late 1750s. Pondicherry fell in 1761 as Senegal in Africa had three years earlier. The Compagnie des Indes, however, went on for another decade until it closed its books in 1770.
The monopoly companies had quite a variety of troops posted in many places. The port of Lorient in France was, from the later seventeenth century, the European troops’ depot and training center. Some served as marines on the company ships, others in a multitude of forts and loges on three continents. Their recruitment, and command are described. In India, their tactical role multiplied and led to having units of gunners, horse grenadiers, dragoons, hussars, grenadiers, all with very distinct uniforms. There were sepoy, topas and caffre units as well as auxiliary allied princely armies in India, and trained auxiliary soldiers in Africa. The few royal army soldiers sent to India in the late 1750s are also considered. All Indian, African and metropolitan army troops are covered and described in this fully illustrated study.