An Early Manuscript Map of Pondicherry Prior To Its Reconstruction After The Seven Years War
Finely executed manuscript map of Pudicherry, India, prepared shortly after the French re-took the town after the end of the Seven Years War.
Oriented with west at the top, the map includes a key locating approximately 40 points of importance in the City, which had been destroyed by the English in 1761 and required significant reconstruction.
The map reflects what looks to be early planning for the reconstruction of the City, pre-dating, for example, the addition of the canal which was constructed on the south side of the town, dividing the town between the Blanche Ville and Noire Ville in the decades following its construction.
The author, Beaulieu, may have been related to Antoine Georges Nicolas de Beaulieu, an officer of the French Indies Company, who wrote an important manuscript detailed the production process of Pondicherry chintzes in 1734, which remains in the Paris Natural History Museum.
The French East India Company first established Puducherry as a factory or trading center on February 4, 1673, when Bellanger de la Espinary, a French officer, took up residence in the Danish Lodge, which was then a tiny fishing village. In 1674, François Martin, the first Governor, began transforming the town into a major port town and, in time, it became the premier French settlement in India.
The development of the town and its port made it an object of interest to many European overseas empires. The Dutch captured Puducherry in 1693 but returned it to France by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1699. In the eighteenth century, the French expanded their holdings on the Indian coastline, acquiring Mahe in the 1720s, Yanam in 1731, and Karaikal in 1738.
During the Anglo-French wars (1742–1763), Puducherry changed hands frequently. On January 16, 1761, the British captured Puducherry from the French and destroyed much of it. The rubble and land was returned to France in the Treaty of Paris (1763).
The British again took control of the area again in 1793 at the Siege of Pondicherry during the Wars of the French Revolution. They again returned the port and town to France in 1814. When the British gained control of the whole of India in the late 1850s, they allowed the French to retain their settlements in the country.
Pondicherry, Mahe, Yanam, Karaikal, and Chandernagar remained a part of French India until 1954. The French influence on the town is still visible today, as are the divisions into Ville Blanche and Ville Noir shown on this plan. It is a illuminating document that highlights the prejudices of colonialism. It also invites further study as to the interaction of colonial segregation and the caste system, and the place of mixed-race peoples in this seemingly black and white geography.