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Very Ingenious Man- Claude Martin in Early Colonial India

Of all the adventurers, mercenaries and fortune-hunters who comprised the baggage of the East India Company in eighteenth-century India, the most fascinating was perhaps Claude Martin. Born a Frenchman, he made his way to the Subcontinent, in the days when France and Britain were fighting it
out to the finish. Martin fought briefly alongside his countrymen, but switched his allegiance to the British in good time to see the French defeated by Clive. This astute early move to the winning side was characteristic; Martins later career constantly reveals incredible acrobatic ability to
land on his feet–and always on the right side of the fence. Martin possessed one of the shrewdest minds of his day, and a range of interests which enabled him to indulge in several key activities within early colonial India. He was an architect who designed and built some of the finest houses and
buildings in Lucknow; as a surveyor he helped make some of the earliest maps of northeast India; he experimented with hot-air balloons and bladder surgery; he was a soldier, planter, and entrepreneur; he advised the British as well as the nawabs of Awadh on financial and political matters, in the
process of making himself one of the wealthiest men in north India; he was a botanist and patron of the arts whose house in Lucknow became a center for learned discussion. He was a lover and a philanthropist whose bequests are still alive in the form of several schools named after him, located in
Lucknow, Calcutta, and Lyon. Martin was, in short, as composite a mix of Enlightenment thinker, endearing scoundrel, and imaginative man as it was possible to be.

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