The blog post, second of three, was written by Xavier Courouble, research assistant for Sailors and Daughters: Early Photography and the Indian Ocean, an online exhibition part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art’s Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa. Read the first post in the series here.
From 1836 to 1848, successively in command of the corvette “La Prévoyante,” “La Dordogne,” and finally the frigate “Le Ducouëdic,” Charles Guillain (1808-1875) navigated the Indian Ocean from the Cape of Good Hope to the western coast of the Indian sub-continent. During his several missions he accumulated extensive knowledge on Zanzibar, Madagascar, the Comoros, as well as the Swahili and Somali coast of Africa. Accounts of these expeditions were all published and gave this St. Simonien a solid reputation of ethnologist and geographer. Yet a certain degree of confusion remains of the political and commercial purposes of his ambitious campaigns of exploration, influenced by personal convictions, regional aspirations, and France’s global interest in the region.