French Possessions in India


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. French Possessions in India is Number 77 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. In 1664 France under King Louis XIV established La Compagnie des Indes Orientales (The East India Company) for the purpose of founding French settlements and trading posts in India and competing for a share of the commerce of the subcontinent. French colonial efforts in India were never very successful, however, and by 1817, when the final territorial arrangements were made regarding the Établissements français de l’Inde (French  possessions in India), they consisted of just five small and widely scattered territories: Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanaon, Mahé, and Chandernagor. This study covers the physical and political geography of these territories, their political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The study estimates the total population of the territories as 266,828 in 1915. It states that in the past French India had experienced certain periods of prosperity, mainly as a result of trade, but it offers a pessimistic outlook for the future in view of the “insuperable difficulties arising from the geographical situation of these scattered territories.” In 1947 and 1954 France turned its Indian possessions over to the independent Republic of India.

Last updated: February 4, 2016