The Partis Français and the increasing military power of Shuja-ud-Daula (1764–1775)
The efforts of the Nawab of Awadh Shuja-ud-Daula to modernise his forces with the help of French adventurers was an important historical development in 18th-century India. Being a microcosm of India’s response to technological changes taking place in warfare systems in the world, it was indicative of India’s alertness and awareness about such developments. Carried out by the partis français (French corps), the militarisation program transformed the Awadh army into one of the most potent forces in India. With artillery and infantry forming the key of the military formations, the newly raised army was mentioned by the contemporaries as equal to the British forces in standards and discipline. The European adventurers, namely René Madec, Sombre, Gentil, Sonson, Pedrose, Canaple, and Delamarr, played a pivotal role in raising a firearms-laden armed forces. Faizabad was set up as the most important centre of quality weapons production. The militarisation program was carried out at an amazing pace which even unnerved the English Company. The Company resorted to all kinds of contrivances to restrict the entry of the French into Awadh. However, the Nawab defied all such dictatorial injunctions and kept employing the Frenchmen. With a reformed army at his disposal, the Nawab, a little before his sudden death in 1775, had become confident enough to confide in French adventurer Gentil about his plan of expelling the English Company from Awadh. If these adventurers were the French Company agents is an interesting debate. We find that these military men were not in official contact with the Company during their stay in Awadh unlike those French adventurers who were present in some south Indian states.