The environs of present Pondicherry had turned out to be one of the major centres of international trade on the Coromondel Coast right in the early centuries of Christian era. After a long interval, Pondicherry and its neighbouring areas received momentum in the maritime trading activities with the arrival of the French by the later half of the seventeenth century. Some scholars wrote the political history of the region in connection with the struggle between the English and ‘the French in capturing power in the Indian soil and maritime activities of the English East India Company with India in general and with Bengal in particular. But very few attempts have been made so far to study the maritime trade of Pondicherry using indigenous as well as foreign sources.
The role played by the Indian merchants in the European trade with India had not received the due attention of the historians. The place held by the some of the important Indian merchants like Ananda Ranga Pillai, Sunguvar Seshachala Chetty, Imam Sahib, Sungu Rama Chetty and a lot of their contemporaries in the French trade centred at Pondicherry is discussed in this book. Against the layman’s belief that the Europeans pumped a lot of money into India for trade during the pre-industrial period, the author brings out a number of instances where the French generated large amount of money from the locality for their trade. Setting up of chavadis and sumaithangis by the side of thoroughfares for facilitating movement of commodities from one place to another is brought to light in this work. The study lays emphasis on the role played by the merchants and the French administration in attracting the merchants to Pondicherry by providing facilities for trade and ancillaries of trade. The author explains the activities of Sowcars directed towards the exploitation of the poor farmers and textile producers through advancing money. Similarly the system of hundi in the exchange sector is also highlighted. The role played by the Nainars in the collection of various taxes from the residents of French territory is another highlight of the work.