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Global History of Guinée Cloth Transported from Pondicherry to Senegal via France in the Long Nineteenth Century

Posted: 23 Mar 2015 Last revised: 10 Jan 2016

Toyomu Masaki

Kanazawa University

Date Written: 2015


It is widely known that Indian cotton (guinée) was brought from Pondicherry to Senegal via France since the era of slave trade to the early twentieth century. Many scholars, such as Laurence Marfaing (1991), George Hardy (1921), and Mariam Sow (1992), have revealed that guinée was used as a medium of exchange for Arabic gum as well as a medium of credit in local trade. In addition, Colin Walter Newbury (1968) described the transition in French policy on Indian cotton trade, as well as its effects on several actors, after the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty (1860) till the end of the 19th century. However, few authors have written about the global trade in this blue toile—apart from Richard Roberts (1992, 1996), who described how it was fabricated in Pondicherry and used in West Africa (Senegal and French Soudan). However, he did not detail the intermediate processes between these two locations. This study tries to bridge this gap by drawing on numerous historical records obtained in Paris, Aix-en-Province, Bordeaux, Dakar, St-Louis, and Pondicherry. It sheds light on the transportation of the cloth, the French government’s control over the trade, and the quantity and price of guinée imported into France and exported to Senegal during a long period, namely, 1833–1925. Richard Roberts (1996) defined the relationship between Pondicherry and Senegal as “colony-to-colony linkages.” However, this study confirms that these linkages were created not directly but indirectly through the intervention of France. This research also uncovers an aspect of global history in the Long nineteenth century and a dimension of French colonialism.

Hardy, G. (1921). La mise en valeur du Sénégal de 1817 à 1854. Paris: E. Larose.
Marfaing, L. (1991). L'evolution du commerce au Sénégal 1820-1930. Paris: L'Harmattan.
Newbury, C. W. (1968). The Protectionist Revival in French Colonial Trade: The Case of Senegal. Economic History Review 21, 337-348.
Roberts, R. (1992). Guinée Cloth: Linked Transformations in Production within France's Empire in the Nineteenth Century. Cahiers d'études africaines 32, 597-627.
Roberts, R. (1996). West Africa and the Pondicherry Textile Industry. In Cloth and commerce : textiles in colonial India(Ed, Roy, T.). Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.
Sow, M. (1992). Le crédit aux commerçants Sénégalais. In Commerce et Commerçants en Afrique de l'Ouest(Eds, Barry, B. and Harding, L.). Paris: L'Harmattan.

Keywords: Indian Cotton, Senegal, French India, France, 19th Century, West Africa

JEL Classification: N73, N77

Suggested Citation

Masaki, Toyomu, Global History of Guinée Cloth Transported from Pondicherry to Senegal via France in the Long Nineteenth Century (2015). ASA 2015 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

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