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Pondicherry Under the French: Illuminating the Urban Landscape 1674-1793

S. Jeyaseela Stephen

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Publication date:
20 November 2018

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Pondicherry under the French: Illuminating the Urban Landscape, 1674-1793 explores how the town of Pondicherry developed as the epicentre of the French presence in India, becoming a major centre of Company administration. It evaluates the relative significance of inland trade and overseas commerce in generating mercantile wealth by examining the volume and value of commercial transactions and the interactions between the French, Tamils, Telugus, Gujaratis and the Armenians. This resulted in the urbanization of the town, which in turn dramatically and radically changed its skyline. The collective composition of the external agencies, cross-cultural connections and knowledge networks led to new forms of art, architecture and culture with the French attempting to convert the urban reality of Pondicherry into a smart city. As the French presence evolved from a trading company into a colonial state, Pondicherry, called 'The Pearl of French India', became one of the most advanced cities in the world in terms of governance, politics and global linkages.


S. Jeyaseela Stephen is Directeur, Institut pour études Indo-Européennes and was Professor of Maritime History at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan from 2001 to 2013. His publications include Oceanscapes: Tamil Textiles in the Early Modern World (2014); A Meeting of the Minds: European and Tamil Encounters in Modern Sciences, 1507-1857 (2016); From Anrique Anriquez to Louis Savinien Dupuis: The Tamil Grammar and Dictionary Quest (2017); and Missioner Tamil Written and Printed in Pondicherry: Literature and Louis Savinien Dupuis, 1841-73 (2017).




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