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Tuesday 27 February 2024

Catching Up On My Reading- no 20

 Those of you who read my ramblings more or less regularly will know of my interest in the military history of the Indian sub-continent. So it will come as no surprise to you that  news of Rene Chartrand's latest work sparked considerable interest and caused me to lay out some cash.

I was not to be disappointed.


This one really was worth the wait.

 It is a fairly meaty tome at around 320 page and barely one of them is wasted.

 The activities of the various permutations of the French East India company are covered in some detail for the first time in English and most importantly all in one place. This obviously covers the Indian sub-continent but less obviously Africa, China Thailand Madagascar and Louisiana.

In 21 chapters and 3 appendices M. Chartrand takes us through the wars  and armies of the Compagnie-des Indes. Not only the obvious conflicts against the British in the 18th century but less obvious conflicts against Spain in what is now the US state of Florida and their battles with the First Nations in other parts of what would become the USA. The scholarship in impressive and the emphasis is of course of French sources which is as it should be.

For me however the meat of this fascinating book were those chapters concerned with India. Here the success of the book is to bring all of the disparate information under one set of covers. Speaking for myself I had around half- or a bit more of the information on uniforms in assorted other sources- some in M. Chartrand's other works  but this volume both brings all of that into one convenient place and corrects some misconceptions. For example more than one source refers to French Company troops dressed in the usual Grey white coats- in fact this was the exception rather than the rule- when fighting the British the French Company troops in India would more often be dressed in Blue uniforms.

As well as campaign narratives chapters on weapons and organisation - both of the European and local troops are covered in some detail. I will have no trouble organising my French forces for Indian wargames with this book to hand. 

Physically the book is well up to the usual Helion standard. Indeed rather more sumptuously illustrated than some. There are 12 colour plates by Patrice Courcelle as well as 18 other pages of colour illustrations.  some contemporary and some not. All are to the point. Add to this a large number of black and white illustrations- of which only a minority were familiar to me and this is another winner from Helion and from M. Chartrand. 

There were only a couple of jarring notes. Both linguistic and very minor first the various French trading posts which English sources would refer to as 'Factories' are referred to as 'lodges' . Slightly more jarring is the reference to Indian matchlock musketeers- who would be 'peons' or 'barkanzys' or 'buxerries'  depending upon where they were from and in whose service they were- as 'fusiliers'  which is a bit confusing until you get the context. But that is merely nit-picking and does not in the least detract from and excellent book.

 Very Highly Recommended.


  1. I was tempted by this, even though put off by 300+ page paperback, but really want to know how much it contains on OOBs and uniforms, preferably with colour plates, before I buy.

    1. Plenty on uniforms as I say 12 colour plates plus 18 other colour pages. Less on specific orders of battle though there is a chapter on organisations and another on weapons and equipment. Many of the French forces were quite small compared to their Indian allies- so in an Imperial army of about 20,000 there were in 1760 150 or so French with perhaps 100 sepoys and 10 light guns- this after about a year's campaigning.

  2. Interesting. I'm enjoying your Sikh Wars book by the way.

    1. Its nice to see a lot of info on the French all in one place.. Glad you like the Khalsa book.