France was the last of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to take a foot-hold in East India trade. Six decades after the foundation of the English and Dutch East India companies (in 1600 and 1602 respectively), and at a time when both companies were profiting on the shores of India, the French still did not have a viable trading company or a single permanent establishment in the East.
French India, formally the Établissements français dans l’Inde (“French establishments in India”), was a French colony comprising geographically separate enclaves on the Indian subcontinent. The possessions were originally acquired by the French East India Company beginning in the second half of the 17th century, and were de facto incorporated into the Union of India in 1950 and 1954. The French establishments included Pondichéry, Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast and Chandernagor in Bengal. French India also included several loges (“lodges”, subsidiary trading stations) in other towns, but after 1816 the loges had little commercial importance and the towns to which they were attached came under British administration.
By 1950, the total area measured 510 km2 (200 sq miles), of which 293 km2 (113 sq miles) belonged to the territory of Pondichéry. In 1936, the population of the colony totaled 298,851 inhabitants, of which 63% (187,870) lived in the territory of Pondichéry