History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2012: Q.1 (b)
Q.1 (b) Compared to their English counterpart, the French East India Company enjoyed little discretionary power and had to always look up to Paris for all major decisions. This partly explains the failure of the French in India.” Evaluate Critically.
Difference in nature of French East India Company and English East India Company
(1) French Company was like a department of the State as the major share of the French East India Company was held by French monarch. Naturally, the Company did not enjoy autonomy.
The English East India Company was independent commercial corporation with sound finance and less interference from the British Government. It was a joint-stock company in whose fortune or misfortune a large section of the English nation was directly interested unlike French Company where major share was held by the monarch.
(2) The English Company had complete approval and confidence of their Home government. The British Government interfered in the affairs of the Company only when it was necessary to secure the interest of its shareholders.
The French East India company had to repeatedly look up to the Home government for all kinds of support including financial and military assistance.
(3) While the English East India Company was an asset to the British Government, for the Government even received loans from it, the French East India Company was a liability to the home government.
How it partly explains failure of French in India?
(1) Neglect by French Government
The French Company was guided more by the whims of the French ruler than by the exigency of the situation of India. During Louis XIV’s life time, his finance minister Colbert had created a great enthusiasm in trade, commerce and industry and the French Company profited by the general enthusiasm. But from the latter part of Louis XIV’s rule this enthusiasm was on the wane, enthusiasm was replaced by general neglect.
(2) Decisions were based on politics and not commerce
Since the French government decided everything, decisions were taken in view of politics and not commerce. This led to dwindling commercial profit forcing it to borrow or selling trading rights or begging the French government for grant.
(3) Mistakes by French officers and financial problems
Officers of the French Company focused more on territorial expansion instead of commerce. When their home government was not in position to subsidise them, they should have concentrated on consolidated their finances before entering into expensive political ventures. This they did not do. The Governor of Pondicherry, who controlled the main French treasury was unable to finance operation. The French troops suffered from the lack of provisions and there was no money to pay the soldiers and workmen.
The French Government at home or the Company, was not in a position to come out with the necessary financial help even at a time when Dupleix had succeeded in acquiring territories in India. Dupleix spent his own fortunes to meet financial needs of the French Government in India, but this was too small in comparison to the task he had undertaken. Poverty dogged the French in India even when they were at the zenith of their power in India.
But these factors were only partially responsible for the failure of French as several other factors were also responsible for it, such as: Naval superiority of English, capture of Bengal by English, strategic blunders by French officers, lack of appreciation by French government for the excellent service by its officers etc.