FRENCH HISTORICAL WRITING ON EUROPEAN ACTIVITIES IN INDIA

                                                              S. P. SEN

                                  Lecturer in History, Calcutta University

It is necessary to explain at the outset that the object of the present paper is only to review in a general way the nature and extent of French historical writing on European, mainly French, activities in India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. No attempt is made to give an exhaustive biblio- graphy of French published works on the subject, only the more important ones have been noticed. The paper is divided into three parts, correspond- ing to the three periods of French activities in India--1664 to 1742, 1742 to 1763, and 1763 to 1792. In each part the principal works on the period are first reviewed, and then the particular aspects of the subject which have not drawn the attention of French historians have been indi- cated. That will show the gaps still left to be filled up by later historians. French historical writing on European activities in India started really from the last quarter of the nineteenth century, after the establishment of a new Eastern empire, and nearly a hundred years after the failure of the first bid for such an empire. Although the French had made serious efforts in the eighteenth century to achieve political power in India, their ultimate failure made them lose all interest in reconstructing the history of their Eastern ventures. Moreover, for nearly a hundred years after the outbreak of the Revolution, the French were much too occupied with their problems in Europe to think of turning back to a chapter which seemed to have closed for ever. It was only the success of their second colonial venture in the East in the last quarter of the nineteenth century which fired the imagination of Frenchmen and revived in their minds memories of the achievements of their countrymen in India a century earlier. After many years of oblivion, the efforts of the French East India Company, the sus- tained and constructive work of François Martin and Dumas, the political genius of Dupleix, the heroic struggles of Lally, and the brilliant exploits of Bussy and de Suffren, appeared in a new light as deserving grateful remembrance by their countrymen. From that time started earnest efforts on the part of French historians to delve into past records, which had till then remained forgotten and buried in the archives, in order to construct a detailed history of the French in India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


































































































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