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Collection Overview

Travel Journals on French Trade and Slavery in the Indian Ocean
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box P-000116


Consists of two journals kept by an anonymous sailor detailing French voyages to the Indian Ocean, Southeast Africa, Indonesia, the Caribbean, and South America in the early 1820s. Entries document illegal trafficking by the French of enslaved persons from Indonesia and Southeast Africa to Île Bourbon (now Réunion), trade in livestock and foodstuffs in South America and the Caribbean, and life on board the ships.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

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.

Collection History


Purchased in 2018 (AM 2019-38).


No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing.

Processing Information

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.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Travel Journals on French Trade and Slavery in the Indian Ocean; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box P-000116