French Memories, Travels and Travelers in Macau (1609-1900)” is the title of the most recent publication by the Bureau of Cultural Affairs (IC).
Currently the largest collection of historically written travel records and notes on Macau, the book is the result of a decade of research by historian Ivo Carneiro de Sousa. The publication draws on the records of central, regional and private libraries as well as historical archives in France.
Presented in four volumes, the summary compiles and analyzes 295 written accounts of Macau from 1609 to 1900. The book is only available in Portuguese.
Written material came from a wide variety of writers and editors, from prestigious navigators to missionaries, soldiers, diplomats, navy doctors, geographers, journalists and scientists, as well as presumed first-time tourists to the area.
Numerous documents shed light on different aspects of social and economic life in Macau during this period of nearly 300 years, including accounts of local people and places.
As the author states in the foreword, the collection begins with the humble memory of Henri de Feynes’ short journey through Macau on his way to Canton in 1609. , who at the time was on a travel scholarship from the University of Paris. The reports depict the most diverse aspects of society, from factories to funerals, monuments to people, demographics to the economy.
Macau’s importance at the time was due to the fact that the region was an important access point for French citizens to imperial China.
Several chapters use cultural history methodologies to examine the enormous intellectual, diplomatic and political efforts that have forged increasingly close ties between France and Macau. The story climaxes in 1859 with the active presence of ambassadors appointed as plenipotentiaries in China, who transformed the French embassy in the city into one of the main arenas of elite and cosmopolitan society at the time.
One of the many chapters de Sousa highlighted concerns the years between 1857 and 1862; French military involvement in the so-called Second Opium War led to the construction of a military hospital in Macau to treat more than 2,000 wounded French citizens.
The book also helps to understand the French perspective on the city and then provides information on selected texts and images to highlight Macau’s cultural heritage and history.
The author is a professor, researcher, historian and director of the East-West Institute for Advanced Studies. As Doctor of Portuguese Culture (1993) and Researcher of History (1999) from the University of Porto, he is a specialist in cultural and religious history with a focus on Macau, East Timor and Southeast Asia.
The book can be purchased for 920 patacas at the Printing Bureau, Archives of Macao, Macao Museum of Art, and Plaza Cultural Macau, among other bookstores. Also available in the IC Online Book Shop.