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Center for Early Modern History Presents

CEMH Lecture: India in Raynal's Histoire des Deux Indes

1/25/19, 12:15 PM

About this event

The Center for Early Modern History and the Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World present:

Elizabeth Cross
Assistant Professor of History
Georgetown University

"India and the Compagnie des Indes in Raynal's Histoire des Deux Indes"

The conclusion of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) marked a moment of significant political and institutional upheaval in the French Empire. In the French Indian Ocean, the Compagnie des Indes faced bankruptcy, which resulted in the disestablishment of its monopoly in 1769. While often seen primarily as one of the principal, early liberal causes célèbres of Enlightenment political economy, the abolition of the Compagnie des Indes also prompted significant intellectual and practical questions about how to repair or preserve French influence on the Indian subcontinent, now dominated by the British East India Company and a host of competing Indian powers. This paper will explore these problems using the abbé Raynal’s Histoire des Deux Indes, alongside other intellectual sources, such as the writings of key Physiocratic thinkers, and naval and diplomatic archival sources. The contributions of both Raynal and Diderot to the H2I intervened in major policy debates, from the shape and aims of future military intervention in India, to the ongoing question of whether to restore the Company’s monopoly or commit to a vision of free trade in the East Indies. Thinking about the political economy of the H2I shows how Enlightenment debates were driven by practical aims, rather than abstract, ideological commitments to (or against) laissez-faire economics. At the same time, the frequently contradictory messages of Raynal and Diderot in the H2I illuminate broader tensions in French imperial thinking about India in the last decades of the eighteenth century.

Event Location
  • Heller 1210
  • 267 19th Ave S.
  • Minneapolis MN
  • USA - United States