THE English in 1591 and the Dutch in 1595 began to poach on Portuguese preserves in the East Indies; somewhat later each country formed an East India Company to reduce risks and overhead expenses. The two governments did not officially recognise hostilities, but their merchant adventurers quarrelled, intrigued, and came to blows. The Dutch soon drove out the English traders and built up a greater commercial empire than Portugal's had been. They held Java and practically all the Spice islands, stirred up the Japanese to drive out Jesuit missionaries, and discovered New Zealand and Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), besides trading with the West Indies and sharing in the lucrative slave trade.
The English sought compensation by seizing Surat from the Portuguese (1614) and trading with the petty rajahs of the Malabar coast. It was a hundred and fifty years, however, before England was even to give promise of ever dominating the whole of India. During the seventeenth century she acquired half a dozen small stations round the Indian coasts, where a few merchants lived uncomfortably in fortified " factories " and traded in calico cloth, spices, silks, muslins, jewels, and saltpetre. The principal French station was ondicherry, near Madras. There was, originally, no design of conquest.
India was still ruled in name by the Mogul Emperors, the most recent of the conquerors who had come down on India from the North. After the death of Awrangzeb in 1707 the Empire was broken up. Viceroys and governors made themselves independent princes, and mercenary and plundering hordes ravaged large areas. This was the state of India when in 1720 Dupleix was sent by the French Government to Pondicherry as an official, and began to measure the . situation.
The century between 1713 and 1815 decided whether England or France should control India, Australia, North America, and South Africa ; the contest was most acute 'between 1742 and 1763. France had a population three times as large as England's (perhaps twenty-four million as against eight million) a unity of command and a great military tradition. Yet England won. Sea power was the chief factor. The French navy lost the most important battles and campaigns for the simple reason that the English fleet, confident of victory, took the initiative and the windward position in battle.
The comparative healthiness of British taxation and finance was a considerable asset in war. The French government tried to play a great part both in Europe and overseas, while England concentrated her efforts on the colonies. England was overpopulated for its resources and for that reason the Englishman was ready to leave his native land. The size of the population of the American colonies made it easy to raise armies on the spot. Though parliamentary government, both in England and the American colonies, meant irresolution and procrastination, it did in a measure allow men to rise, and in Pitt, Wolfe, and CUve, England found three men of destiny. The French enlightened despotism lacked between 1715 and 1763 the one essential working part-a driving force at its head. Its king, Louis XV., a morbid pleasure-seeker, was under the thumb of mistresses whose influence on his administration and foreign policy was wholly bad.