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Les Européens dans les ports en situation coloniale

Jean-François Klein
Bruno Marnot


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India Companies and Trading Posts in the 17th and 18th centuries

1Gérard Le Bouëdec, Marie Ménard, Kevin Le Doudic, Évelyne Guihur

2India Companies were based on an economy of privileges. They built a commercial empire of trading posts and ports of call on the Indian Ocean shores that were only tolerated after obtaining “firmans” from the local political authorities. The layout of the archipelago of trading posts, after the experimentations of the first India Company, spread from the Mascarene Islands to Canton, with the major settlement sites found on the coasts of the Indian peninsula. The lack of maritime infrastructure was striking and harbours were mostly for mooring. On the ground, there were the trading post, a place of life for the community and of storage for the goods, and the fort to provide security, both of them essential. Following the example of Pondicherry and Chandannagar, some trading harbours became large-scale cities. The community of company employees and troops was small but relied on local trade and military auxiliaries. This trading post empire could not last long, but the French State refused to follow Dupleix and convert it into a colonial empire. Lorient, headquarter of the company network in France was a harbour-arsenal-city of a trade company which insured its durability, still as an enterprise based on an economy of privileges, by becoming a harbour-arsenal for the Navy.

An Imperial Missing Link? Monneron, a Shipowners Brotherhood in the turn of the World

3Jean-François Klein

4The Monneron’s saga illustrates what family cultures and networks of power involved by them are able to do in terms of influence and connection making when sea is considered more as a bridge than as a wall. The Monneron’s story highlights the links between the pre and post-colonial conquest, at the junction of two periods, and also between two worlds, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This analysis of a family culture enables to know closely both imperial (at the submitted world scale) and colonial (at the local scale) proceedings, as it partly erases chronological turns involved by politic changes which do not always correspond to deep transformations. It enables, by the way, to understand the making of what we can define as a system.

Relays, Naval Bases and War Colonial Ports: A World Deployment in Early Modern Times?

5David Plouviez

6In modern times, various European colonial powers have made a point of launching their naval forces into the world. These efforts come to fruition through the setting up of naval bases with multiple functions in order to encourage the stationing of fleets in colonial waters while preparing them to best face their enemies away from metropolitan arsenals. This article analyses the various constraints that have made the naval presence of Europeans all over the world indispensable, by characterising the different levels of infrastructure and observing the links all these bases have, if any, and maintain with one another. By observing the evolution of these overseas ports, we can validate the idea of an Atlantic defence system promoted by the exchange of military knowledge and the transfer of reciprocal experiences while assessing the imperiality of such a plan.

Saint-Denis de La Réunion in the second half of the 19th century: a Trading and Transit Port of African Hired Workers

7Virginie Chaillou-Atrous

8In the second half of the 19th century, Saint-Denis de La Réunion qualified as a port because of its exchange activities rather than its architecture. It was the main commercial center of the colony, and focused essentially on the sugar trade, first resource of the island, but also on the transportation of the workforce needed for sugarcane cultivation. Several years after the abolition of slavery and following the liberation of slaves, Saint-Denis went one with a lucrative human trafficking, orchestrated by Europeans. Through indentured labour, a so-called “free” contract-based work system, more than 30.000 captive African hired workers, originating for the most part from East Africa, Mozambique or Zanzibar, transited through Saint-Denis. This activity, not unique to the town but distinguishing it from metropolitan ports, is the consequence of its plantation economy. This traffic, on the fringe of legality, has not been without impact on its identity and more generally on the social organization of the colonial society of La Réunion.

Colonial Ports in Pacific Islands as Distorting Mirrors of European Societies

9Claire Laux

10When the first Europeans landed on the islands of Oceania in the last decades of the Enlightenment, they discovered societies without any urban structure. For these men coming from more and more urban civilisations, this situation was very surprising. Since these first contacts were made, harbours and port-cities sprang up. But that urbanisation was paradoxically accompanied by a demographic collapse. Death coming from abroad settled in these emerging cities. With the arrival of new flows of labour force (from China, India, Indochina, etc.) to replace the people of Oceania, cosmopolitan cities were formed. In these cosmopolitan harbour-cities, European people had a very infamous reputation among travellers, Oceanian people, missionaries… This bad image can be explained both by the kind of people that were forming these communities (adventurers, traffickers, beachcombers…) and by the smallness and isolation of the Islands.

Colonial Ports as Areas of Penetration and Experience of European Medicine

11Pierre Guillaume

12This contribution is at convergence of my researches on evolution of public health and life in colonies. Naval medecine is the root of colonial medecine; it has inspired many books and articles quoted in data banks, gallica or medica, without any logical classification. European peoples, sailors and colonists, are concentrated in harbours where they can find treatments. For a long time colonial medecine give more importance to prevention than to struggle against illnesses like vomito negro or cholera it was unable to care. In harbour towns sanitary equipment was complex with dispensaries and hospitals strickly different for white and for colored people. Climatic resorts reserved to privileged people were the true solution for the sick before return in mother country.

© Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015

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