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Travel Journals on French Trade and Slavery in the Indian Ocean


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Consists of two bound manuscript journals documenting French voyages to the Indian Ocean, Southeast Africa, Indonesia, the Caribbean, and South America between September 1820 and June 1826. The journals, titled "À mon meilleur ami" and "Voyage à la Guadeloupe," describe early 19th century French trading activities, including the illegal acquisition and trade of enslaved persons, whom French traders trafficked from Indonesia and the coast of Southeast Africa to Île Bourbon (now Réunion) following the French ban in 1818. The journals follow the activities of an anonymous French sailor from Caen.

In the earlier journal, the author describes three different trading voyages. During the first voyage in 1820 from Le Havre, France, to Wright Island, United Kingdom, aboard the Minerve, the ship embarks with tobacco and cotton cargoes from the American ship Concorde. There is also a visit from the King of England on September 26th. On the second voyage aboard the Minerve from Le Havre to Guadeloupe (1820-1821), the sailors disembark 23 swine and several of the crew become ill, including the author who returns to France aboard the Moselle. Finally, during the third voyage from Le Havre to Baía de São Marcos, Brazil, aboard the Saint Louis (1821-1822), the author describes life on the ship, including several disputes, the offloading of merchandise (including steel and oil), a visit from customs, the loading of horn and cotton, and observations about the local areas.

The latter journal documents French sailors' trade in enslaved persons between December 1822 and December 1824 on the brig Euridice under the command of Captain Le Coq. The author describes in detail a voyage to Indonesia, with stops in Bali, Dili (Timor Island), and several smaller islands in or around the Indian Ocean to obtain enslaved persons, eventually embarking with 80 captive young girls and children from Bali and departing from Dili "having on board 154 slaves, of which 120 were very young girls."

The ship also travels numerous times between Île Bourbon and the southeastern coast of Africa, including several islands in the Indian Ocean. They make one stop in Anjouan (Comoro Islands), where they are received by the Sultan Abdallah bin Alawi and later travel to Mohéli to acquire 30 enslaved persons from him. They also stop in Oïbe (Ibo, Mozambique), the entries about which detail conversations with the governor and competition with another French ship called Le Soleil. They also search for people to enslave in Makaloé, Miquindamy (Mikindani, Tanzania), Tanguy (Tanga, Tanzania), and Misimboua (Mocimboa da Praia, Mozambique). The author describes the difficult journey back to Île Bourbon during which there were not enough provisions for the 500 people on board, leading to the death of the captain, the "subrécargue" (supercargo), the doctor, and numerous captive persons. The ship's crew ultimately delivered over 300 enslaved persons to Île Bourbon, the rest of whom presumably died on the journey.

The journal entries also describe the trade of livestock and foodstuffs, including several trips to Tamatave (Toamasina, Madagascar) to embark cattle and bring them to Île Bourbon, as well as a voyage to Ensenada, Argentina, where French goods are sold (salt, butter, and wine) in exchange for mules and feed. During the stay in Argentina, the author describes a horseback journey to Buenos Aires with Captain Le Coq to meet with the consignee, the Hegain, Mayer & Cie House. There is also a brief description of a voyage aboard Aimable Eulalie from Le Havre to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, including details of the voyage aboard the ship and the transportation of sugar to Le Havre.

Arranged chronologically.

Purchased in 2018 (AM 2019-38).

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in November 2018. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in November 2018, adapting description provided by the dealer.

No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

"À mon meilleur ami", 1820-1822. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes descriptions of the following travels: Le Havre to Wright Island, United Kingdom, aboard Minerve, September-October 1820; Le Havre to Désirade Island, Guadeloupe, aboard Minerve, November 21, 1820-March 26, 1821, back on the Moselle; Le Havre to Baía de São Marcos, Brazil, aboard Saint Louis, September 8, 1821- March 5, 1822. (51 leaves).

Physical Description

1 folder

"Voyage à la Guadeloupe", 1822-1826. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes descriptions of the following travels: Le Havre to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, aboard Aimable Eulalie (owned by Feray), April 28-September 5, 1822 (as lieutenant); Euridice under Captain Le Coq as lieutenant: Crach, France, to Ensenada, Argentina, December 29, 1822-April 14, 1823; Saint Denis, Île Bourbon arrives June 16, 1823; Saint Louis , Île de France (Mauritius Island) arrives June 24, 1823; Saint Denis, Île Bourbon; Toamasina, Madagascar, arrives July 13, 1823; Saint-Paul, Île Bourbon, arrives August 1, 1823; Toamasina to Anjouan (Comoros Islands), September 22, 1823; Anjouan to Mohéli, leaves October 22, 1823; Between October 22 and December 23 1823: East Coast of Africa and Islands, including Makaloé, Miquindamy (Mikindani, Tanzania), Tanguy (Tanga, Tanzania) and Misimboua (Mocimboa da Praia, Mozambique); Misimboua to Oïbe Island (Ibo, Mozambique) December 15, 1823-March 7, 1824; Oïbe to Île Bourbon (with stop in Madagascar), March 7-April 26, 1824; Île Bourbon to Bali (Indonesia), May 16–October 7, 1824; Stops on several islands and arrives in Timor, Indonesia, October 31; Dili (Timor) – Île Bourbon, November 19–December 24, 1824; Summary of trades in Madagascar (rice), Seychelles (coconuts for Île Bourbon plantation), stay in Mauritius, 1825-June 14, 1826. (38 leaves, with 3 inset leaves).

Physical Description

1 folder

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