Joseph-François Dupleix (Landrecies 1697 - Paris 1763)

* French Governor in India *

This may sound very surprising for most Landrecians, but Joseph-François Dupleix only resided in Landrecies for a very short time. His parents actually came from central France, and their stay in our town was purely professional and temporary. Dupleix was born on Aerschot Street on January 1st 1697, and he spent only the very first year of his life in Landrecies, before leaving with his parents for Brittany. Nevertheless, Landrecies does care about being the birthplace of this key figure in French history.

In 1950, this plaque was put on the house where Dupleix was born.

After having spent his childhood in Brittany, Dupleix enrolled in the French Company of India : this organization had been founded in 1719, and its role was to look after the trade between France and its colonies, especially French trading posts in India like Chandernagor. Dupleix quickly went up through the ranks of the Company, and he became the governor of Chandernagor in 1731. He achieved his greatest success when he was finally chosen as the new General Governor of the Company in 1742.

But 1742 was also the peak of King George's war : broadly speaking, this war mainly opposed France and England, and that's why French and English trading posts in India began to fight each other. French colonial troops in India were entrusted to Dupleix, and under his command they achieved remarkable victories. In 1746 Dupleix seized Madras, an English trading post. In 1748, he successfully prevented English forces from besieging Pondichéry, an important French post.

Dupleix - This ceramic work was created by Bernard Pinzana in 1955 in the Landrecies ceramic factory

Unfortunately the situation in Europe was not so good for the French government, which had to sign a peace treaty with England. According to this agreement, France didn't lose anything in Europe but had to give up all of Dupleix's conquests. Thus, all the efforts of the governor eventually proved vain !

However Dupleix wasn't dispirited, and he tried to make France powerful in India again through another way. His new policy was to intervene diplomatically in the local Indian kingdoms and to put them under French protection, without hesitating to use his own money if France didn't give him any. In other words he created a whole set of French protectorates in the area and ensured French domination over a large part of India.

But once again, the dedication of Dupleix turned out to be useless. During a new war against France the commander of English colonial troops, Baron Robert Clive, defeated the French protectorates several times.

In Paris, the Board of directors of the Company grew increasingly dissatisfied with Dupleix's policy, which was deemed too bold and dangerous. As a consequence he was called back to France in 1754. This was a terrible disfavour for this man who had devoted his entire life to French interests in India. Dupleix spent the end of his life away from society, secluded himself in his apartments in Paris and never traveled again.

Statue of Dupleix in Pondichéry, India. Landrecies and Pondichéry are the only towns in the world where you can find a statue of this man.

The Seven Years War ended very badly for France, with the humiliating Treaty of Paris in 1763. France lost most of its colonial empire throughout the world and only kept five trading posts in India. Dupleix couldn't stand such a situation, and he died a few months later, on November 13th. All the money he had invested in India was never paid back to his family.


Next : Henri Clarke (1765 - 1818)