A port city, present-day Chennai on India ’s southeast coast, Madras was founded by Francis Day, an English East India Company representative, in 1639. The East India Company had been granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth in December 1600 for a monopoly on all English trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. Company merchants sought to create trading outposts allowing direct access to highly valued Indian textile sources. Day’s land grant from the Nayak of Poonamallee, the local ruler of the Vijayanagar Empire, fulfilled that objective. By the eighteenth century, Madras became the most important city in South India. In the next two centuries Madras, along with Bombay and Calcutta, came to represent one of three legs of the powerful British Empire in India. The city served as the capital of the Madras Presidency, comprising most of South India.
   The port was captured by a French force in 1746, but the British regained control in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and subsequently fortified the base to withstand further attacks from the French and Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore. By the late eighteenth century the British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu and the modern-day states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to establish the Madras Presidency. Under British rule the city grew into a major urban center and naval base. With the advent of railways in India, Madras was connected to the other towns such as Bombay and Calcutta, facilitating communication and trade with the hinterland. In 1857, a university was founded in Madras; thereafter, its commercial and intellectual importance made the city a center of Indian nationalism. In 1909, an artificial harbor capable of servicing ocean-going ships was completed at Madras. It was the only Indian city to be attacked by the Central Powers during World War I, by the German light cruiser S.M.S. Emden.
   See also <>; <>.
    Krishnaswami, Nayudu W. S. Old Madras. Madras: Solden, 1965;
    Krishnaswamy, S. The Role of Madras Legislature in the Freedom Struggle, 1861–1947. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research, 1989;
    Mukherjee, Nilmani, The Ryotwari System in Madras, 1792–1827. Calcutta: Firma K. C. Mukhopadhay, 1962;
    Ramaswami, N. S. The Founding of Madras. Madras: Orient Longman,1977.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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