Dupleix was born in Landrecies, France. His father, Francois Dupleix, a wealthy farmer-general, wished to bring him up as a merchant, and, in order to distract him from his taste for science, sent him on a voyage to India in 1715 on one of the French East India Company's vessels. He made several voyages to America and India, and in 1720 was named a member of the superior council at Pondicherry. He displayed great business aptitude, and, in addition to his official duties, made large ventures on his own account, and acquired a fortune. In 1730 he was made superintendent of French affairs in Chandernagore, the town prospering under his energetic administration and growing into great importance.
His reputation procured him in 1742 the appointment of governor general of all French establishments in India. His ambition now was to acquire for France vast territories in India; and for this purpose he entered into relations with the native princes, and adopted a style of oriental splendour in his dress and surroundings. The British took the alarm. But the danger to their settlements and power was partly averted by the bitter mutual jealousy which existed between Dupleix and La Bourdonnais, French governor of the Isle of Bourbon (today's La Réunion).
When Madras capitulated to the French in 1764, Dupleix opposed the restoration of the town to the British, thus violating the treaty signed by La Bourdonnais. He then sent an expedition against Fort St David (1747), which was defeated on its march by the nawab of Arcot, the ally of the British. Dupleix succeeded in gaining over the nawab, and again attempted the capture of Fort St David, but unsuccessfully. A midnight attack on Cuddalore was repulsed with great loss.
In 1748 Pondicherry was besieged by the British; but in the course of the operations news arrived of the peace concluded between the French and the British at Aix-la-Chapelle. Dupleix next entered into negotiations which had for their object the subjugation of southern India, and he sent a large body of troops to the aid of two claimants of the sovereignty of the C~niatic and the Deccan. The British were engaged on the side of their rivals.
After temporary successes [...] possess the genius for command in the field that was shown by Clive. The conflicts between the French and the British in India continued till 1754, when the French government, anxious to make peace, sent out to India a special commissioner with orders to supersede Dupleix and, if necessary, to arrest him. These orders were carried out with needless harshness, what survived of Dupleix's work was ruined at a blow, and be himself was compelled to embark for France on October 12, 1754. He had spent his private fortune in the prosecution of his public policy; the company refused to acknowledge the obligation; and the government would do nothing for a man whom they persisted in regarding as an ambitious and greedy adventurer. The greatest of French colonial governors died in obscurity and want on November 10, 1763.
In 1741 he had married Jeanne Albert, widow of one of the councillors of the company, a woman of strong character and intellect, known to the Hindus as Joanna Begum, who proved of great use to her husband in his negotiations with the native princes. She died in 1756, and two years later he married again.
See also: French colonial empire