Colonial Rule Portuguese Dutch and French an overview

134 0

Anupama Nair


Long after the decline of the Roman Empire's maritime trade with India, nearly after a thousand years, the Portuguese were the next Europeans to arrive for the purpose of trade. Vasco da Gama requested permission to leave a person in charge of the merchandise he could not sell however, his request was refused, and the king Zamorin insisted that he should pay customs duty like any other trader, which strained their relations. The ruler of the Kingdom of Tanur, who was a vassal to the Zamorin of Calicut, helped  the Portuguese, against his overlord at Calicut As a result, the Kingdom of Tanur became one of the earliest Portuguese Colonies in India.  However, the Tanur forces under the king fought for the Zamorin of Calicut in the Battle of Cochin in 1504. However, the allegiance of the Muslims in Tanur was still with the Zamorin of Calicut. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalry between the Zamorin and the Raja of Kochi and hence allied with Kochi.

When Francisco de Almeida was appointed as Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, his headquarters was established at  Fort Emmanuel rather than in Calicut. During his reign, the Portuguese managed to dominate relations with Kochi and established a few fortresses on the Malabar Coast. The Portuguese suffered setbacks from attacks by Zamorin forces in South Malabar; especially from naval attacks under the leadership of Kunjali Marakkar, which compelled them to seek a treaty. Kunjali Marakkar was credited with organizing the first naval defense of the Indian coast. In 1571, the Portuguese were defeated by the Zamorin forces in the Battle at Chaliyam Fort.

Even though their presence in India initially started in 1498, their colonial rule lasted only from 1505 until 1961. The Portuguese Empire established the first European trading center at Quilon in 1502. It is believed that the colonial era in India started with the establishment of this Portuguese trading center at Quilon. In 1505, King Manuel I of Portugal appointed Dom Francisco de Almeida as the first Portuguese viceroy in India, followed in 1509 by Dom Afonso de Albuquerque.

Almeida becomes the first Portuguese viceroy to reach Bombay. He defeated a joint fleet of the Sultanate of Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, the Zamorin of Calicut and the Sultan of Gujarat, with the naval support he received from the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Ragusa. Francisco de Almeida's called Bombay as  ‘Bombia’ which meant good bay. However, the Portuguese paid their first visit to the islands on 21 January 1509, when they landed at Mahim after capturing a Gujarat barge in the Mahim creek. After a series of attacks by the Gujarat Sultanate, the islands were recaptured by Sultan Bahadur Shah. The Portuguese acquired the seven islands from the Sultan of Gujarat in 1534 in exchange for military support.

Bahadur Shah had grown anxious of the power of the Mughal emperor Humayun and he was forced to sign the Treaty of Bassein with the Portuguese on 23 December 1534. According to the treaty, the islands of Mumbai and Bassein were offered to the Portuguese. Bassein and the seven islands were surrendered later by a Treaty of Peace and Commerce between Bahadur Shah and the Viceroy of the Portuguese India, Nuno da Cunha, on 25th October 1535, ending the Islamic rule in Mumbai.

There was then a twist in the story. In 1580, Spain conquered Portugal and it opened the doors of the country to other European powers like the Dutch and the British. The Dutch arrived first, and later the British. The merchants of the East India Company arrived in Bombay in November 1583, and toured through Bassein, Thane, and Chaul. The Battle of Swally was fought between the British and the Portuguese for an ambitious scheme for the construction of a seawall in Surat in 1612 for the possession of Bombay.  Castella de Aguada or the Fort of the Waterpoint was built by the Portuguese at Bandra in 1640, as a watchtower dominating the Mahim Bay, the Arabian Sea and the southern island of Mahim. 

Then Portuguese King John IV gave Bombay as a dowry for the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Portugal on 8 May 1661. The British Crown sold Bombay to the East India Company in 1668 for a mere sum of ten pounds or Rs. 1,48,000 today. So, Portuguese had to turn their attention to Goa or Gomantak. In 1510, Albuquerque conquered the city of Goa, and used the policy of marrying Portuguese soldiers and sailors with local Indian girls, and the consequence of which was a great miscegenation in Goa and other parts of Asia, Portuguese were infamous for  the brutal Goa Inquisition. When India became Independent in 1947, Portuguese refused to leave Goa and were forced by India Army to leave Goa in 1961.

The Dutch East India Company established trading posts along different parts of the Indian coast. For some time, they controlled the Malabar, Cochin, Quilon, Cannanore, Kundapura,  Surat, Golconda,  and Ceylon. They conquered Ceylon from the Portuguese. The Dutch also established trading stations in the kingdom of Travancore and coastal Tamil Nadu as well as at Rajshahi and Murshidabad. However, their expansion into India was halted, after their defeat in the Battle of Colachel by the Kingdom of Travancore, during the Travancore-Dutch War. The Dutch never recovered from the defeat and no longer posed a large colonial threat to India. They had the Dutch East Indies or Indonesia.

Following the Portuguese and the Dutch, the French also established trading bases in India. Their first establishment was in Pondicherry on the Coromandel Coast in southeastern India in 1674. Many French settlements were made in Chandernagore in Bengal, in 1688, Yanam in Andhra Pradesh in 1723, Mahe in 1725, and Karaikal in 1739. The French were constantly in conflict with the Dutch and later on mainly with the British East India Company in India. At the zenith of French power in the mid-18th century, the French occupied large areas of southern India. In the years  between 1744 and 1761, the British and the French repeatedly attacked and conquered each other's forts and towns in southeastern India and in Bengal in the northeast. After some initial successes of the French, the British decisively defeated the French in Bengal in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and in the southeast in 1761 in the Battle of Wandiwash, after which the British East India Company was the supreme military and political power in southern India as well as in Bengal. In the following decades, it gradually increased the size of the territories under its control. The colonies of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe, and Chandernagore were returned to France in 1816 and were integrated with the Republic of India in 1954.

Next I will be writing about the Supremacy of the British in India as well as other parts of the world as they were called “empire where the sun never sets”. It pains me to see my great country degraded like this.




Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *