Susan E. Schopp





The French were early among Europeans to take part in direct trade with China through the port of Canton (Guangzhou), where their first merchant vessel arrived in November 1698. Over the decades, their movements were closely watched by their rivals. Their contributions to the trade were both significant and diverse, ranging from the cultural to the nautical.

Yet France is largely underrepresented in studies of the Canton Trade, especially in English. Sino-French Trade at Canton, 1698–1842 not only fills a gap in the scholarship; it also calls for a reappraisal of France's role, challenging a number of common assumptions about both the French experience and the Canton Trade in the process. Drawing on French, other European, and U.S. archival sources and on a range of first-hand personal accounts, it brings France's near century and a half in that trade to life.  

Among the topics addressed are the Sino-French model of trade, both of the French East India Company and of the private (or "open" or "free") eras; East India ships and chop boats; sea routes of both the Europe and the intra-Asian ("country") trade; the physical environment of the Pearl River Delta; the architecture, administration, and operations of the French hongs (or "factories," providing accommodations and warehouse and office space) in Canton; and the daily life of traders. Brief biographical sketches are provided for a number of traders, hydrographers, and others associated with the French experience in Canton. A list of all known French trading voyages to China between 1698 and 1842 is also provided.