Commerce, Conversion And Scandal In French India:. A Colonial Affair By Danna Agmon
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|Author||Cornell University Press|
|Ships By||2-3 days|
On 6 June 1716, the Sovereign Council of Pondichéry, France’s colony on India’s southeast cost, convicted a Tamil man named Nayiniyappa of the crimes of tyranny and sedition. Nayiniyappa was a commercial broker for (and the highest-ranked Indian within) the Compagnie des Indes, and had been found guilty of abusing his power within the colony and of organizing a widespread protest against colonial and company policies the previous year. He was taken to the town’s main bazaar and given 50 lashes of the whip. The vast wealth he had accumulated over decades of doing business with the French—land, houses, jewels, elephants, cash, and goods—was stripped, and his three sons were banished from Pondichéry. Sentenced to serve three years in prison, Nayiniyappa died in his cell under somewhat mysterious circumstances a few months later. Danna Agmon uses these events as a lens through which to examine the nature of imperial sovereignty in French colonial India and the extent to which French officials, merchants, and missionaries both depended on and resented local intermediaries to trade and govern. Through the prosecution of the case against Nayiniyappa, the appeals lodged by both the convicted man and his sons and daughter-in-law, and the eventual restoration of the family’s fortunes—in 1720, Nayiniyappa’s eldest son traveled to France, converted to Christianity (with Philip d’Orléans, the Regent of France, serving as his godfather), was made a chevalier, and returned to Pondichéry to assume his father’s position as chief commercial broker to the Compagnie des Indes—Agmon is able to shed new light on the dynamics of the social, economic, religious, and political interactions that defined the European colonial experience in India and elsewhere.
Danna Agmon (PhD, UMichigan) is Assistant Professor of History at Virginia Tech. She has contributed to edited volumes published by Honoré-Champion (France) and ATC Books (India).