1693: Europe’s war of all against France continues. Dutch take Pondicherry from France. Etc.

1693 CE is a good year to look at the position of Louis XIV’s France both in Europe and in the worldwide battle the West European countries were waging as they built their global empires.

Amish family on the road, Lancaster County, PA

Another smaller event of the year that I’ll note in passing was a schism that occurred in the world of German-speaking Anabaptists that resulted in the emergence of the Amish community, which is currently nearly wholly located in North America, to which they came as settlers during the 18th century CE.

This page on English-Wikipedia tells us: “Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut (humility) and Gelassenheit (calmness, composure, placidity), often translated as ‘submission’ or ‘letting-be’.” There is a lot that’s very admirable in Amish beliefs and practices, including their resolute opposition to militarism. Maybe not so much– for them or for the Quakers– their readiness to escape their own persecution (or fears thereof) in Europe by participating in a significant way in the settler-colonial displacement of Native peoples in North America.

Western Europe’s war of all against France continues

The ability of Louis XIV to build an maintain a large, unified, and self-confident polity in France had alarmed all the other polities along Europe’s Atlantic seaboard that already had extensive, globe-girdling empires; and so, since 1688, these other powers had all joined in an alliance to curb French power. (1688 was also the year that the Dutch Stadtholder William of Orangee, had taken over England.) In 1693, this conflict was still grinding on, but it’s a bit of a spoiler alert if I tell you it later gets labeled the “Nine Years War”.

From the perspective of looking at how these West European states developed the maritime-fighting capabilities that enabled them to build and maintain global empires, it’s important to note how much of the intra-European aspect of this war was– like numerous earlier conflicts among these West European powers– fought at sea.

In 1692, Louis had hatched a bold plan to invade England; but that hadn’t worked out. This page on WP tells us that,

By 1693 the French army had reached an official size of over 400,000 men (on paper), but Louis XIV was facing an economic crisis. France and northern Italy witnessed severe harvest failures resulting in widespread famine which, by the end of 1694, had accounted for the deaths of an estimated two million people. Nevertheless, as a prelude to offering generous peace terms before the [anti-France] Grand Alliance Louis XIV planned to go over to the offensive: Luxembourg would campaign in Flanders, Catinat in northern Italy, and in Germany, where Louis XIV had hoped for a war-winning advantage, Marshal de Lorge would attack Heidelberg…

Those campaigns had mixed results. Louis’s generals had more luck in Northern Italy and mixed results against Spain in Catalonia. (For Louis, this really was a multi-front war.) But at sea, his fleet had one notable victory in 1693. Here are some details from this page on WP:

Painting of the Battle of Lagos

The Battle of Lagos was a sea battle during the Nine Years’ War on 27 June 1693 (17 June 1693 O.S.), when a French fleet under Anne Hilarion de Tourville defeated an Anglo-Dutch fleet under George Rooke. Rooke’s squadron was protecting the Smyrna convoy, and it is by this name that the action is sometimes known.

This Lagos, by the way, is a port on Portugal’s coast.

The Anglo-Dutch convoy consisted of eight English warships and five Dutch warships and some auxiliary navy vessels that were escorting “upwards of 200” merchant ships– quite possibly many of them also armed– around Spain and Portugal and to/through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. But the French navy lay in wait from them near Lagos Bay and were able to attack the convoy with nearly complete surprise. The Anglo-Dutch convoy ended up losing, 90 merchant ships,
of which 40 were captured by the French, and two Dutch 64-gun warships that were captured.

WP records the aftermath of this battle thus:

The two main goals of the convoy: first, to deliver the traders to their destinations in the Mediterranean and second, to establish a naval presence there, were defeated. For the French there was a huge gain, with prizes valued at 30 million livres. The City of London judged it the worst financial disaster since the Great Fire, 27 years previously.

Dutch capture France’s position at Pondicherry

Pondicherry, earlier Puducherry or Puduku, is a coastal location in southeastern India that had been a hub of Indian Ocean trade since ancient times. In 1674, France’s perennially under-financed East India Company had established its regional HQ at Pondicherry. English-WP tells us this about it:

Location of Pondicherry

The French governor François Martin made remarkable improvements to the city and its commercial ties, facing at the same time strong opposition from the Dutch and the English. He entered into extended negotiations with the sultans of Golconda through the intercession of several roving French merchants and doctors who were in favour with the Sultan. Trading in jewelry and precious stones which had become highly fashionable in European courts was one among many activities. Five trading posts were established along the south Indian coast between 1668 and 1674. The city was separated by a canal into the French Quarter and the Indian Quarter.

So then, in August 1693, in the context of the ongoing conflict between France and the Dutch UP’s, this happened:

Pondicherry was captured by the Dutch. Governor of Dutch Coromandel Laurens Pit the Younger sailed with a fleet of 17 ships and 1600 men from Negapatam and bombarded Pondicherry for two weeks, after which Francois Martin surrendered it

This seems like a good place to reflect on the general weakness of France’s colonial (raiding/trading) ventures in the Indian ocean in the 17th century. This WP page on French India provides some background:

France was the last of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to enter the East India trade. Six decades after the foundation of the English and Dutch East India companies (in 1600 and 1602 respectively), and at a time when both companies were multiplying factories (trading posts) on the shores of India, the French still did not have a viable trading company or a single permanent establishment in the East.

Historians have sought to explain France’s late entrance in the East India trade. They cite geopolitical circumstances such as the inland position of the French capital, France’s numerous internal customs barriers and parochial perspectives of merchants on France’s Atlantic coast, who had little appetite for the large-scale investment required to develop a viable trading enterprise with the distant East Indies.

The first French commercial venture to India is believed to have taken place in the first half of the 16th century, in the reign of King Francis I, when two ships were fitted out by some merchants of Rouen to trade in eastern seas; they sailed from Le Havre and were never heard of again. In 1604 a company was granted letters patent by King Henry IV, but the project failed. Fresh letters patent were issued in 1615, and two ships went to India, only one returning.

La Compagnie française des Indes orientales (French East India Company) was formed under the auspices of Cardinal Richelieu (1642) and reconstructed under Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1664), sending an expedition to Madagascar. In 1667 the French India Company sent out another expedition, under the command of François Caron (who was accompanied by a Persian named Marcara), which reached Surat in 1668 and established the first French factory in India.

In 1669, Marcara succeeded in establishing another French factory at Masulipatam. In 1672, Fort Saint Thomas was taken but the French were driven out by the Dutch. Chandernagore (present-day Chandannagar) was established in 1692, with the permission of Nawab Shaista Khan, the Mughal governor of Bengal. In 1673, the French acquired the area of Pondicherry from the qiladar of Valikondapuram under the Sultan of Bijapur, and thus the foundation of Pondichéry was laid. By 1720, the French had lost their factories at Surat, Masulipatam and Bantam to the British East India Company.

On 4 February 1673, Bellanger de l’Espinay, a French officer, took up residence in the Danish Lodge in Pondichéry, thereby commencing the French administration of Pondichéry. In 1674 François Martin, the first Governor, initiated ambitious projects to transform Pondichéry from a small fishing village into a flourishing port-town. The French, though, found themselves in continual conflict with the Dutch and the English. The case of France was upheld for many years at the court of the Sultan of Golconda, Qutb Shah, by a French Huguenot physician named Antoine d’Estremau. In 1693 the Dutch captured Pondichéry and augmented the fortifications. The French regained the town in 1699 through the Treaty of Ryswick, signed on 20 September 1697.

France’s positions in the Indian Ocean arena may have been weak in the 17th century. But in North America and the Caribbean, their presence was noticeably stronger than it was in the Indian Ocean.

(The banner image at the top is a view of the Pondicherry waterfront in the late 18th century.)