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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Guy Tachard, A Travel Account to the Indies (Relation de Voyage aux Indes) 1690–99: From Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale De France, Ms Fr. 19030, fols. 137r–96r

Summary

Introduction

[137] There is a big difference between a report (relation) and a history (histoire): a history is a work criss-crossed with facts and events which are linked and in some kind of relationship with each other to the point that a traveller can be quite indifferent to what has happened to him on the journey or what he has learned from trustworthy (sçures) persons. [In a report (relation)] he recounts what he knows about the peoples of these lands which he has seen without causing himself any difficulty if further developments transpire. One does not struggle to instruct the reader in everything he wishes to learn, one is only obliged to retell what he [the author] has found remarkable in the different countries passed though or that which he has gleaned from people worthy of trust. Such it was, it having been proposed to me in this work to provide the public with an account of the two journeys to the Indies which I have just completed along with some discoveries and some new observations which are useful and edifying. I will divide this work into three parts. In the first, I will recount in brief summary that which is worthy of remark during these two long voyages of around twenty-four thousand leagues with some remarks pertaining to the navigation, which might be useful to those travelling to the Indies.

In the second, part I will proceed more slowly. Since, in the memoranda which the Royal Academy prepared for me on the order of the king, I was requested to relate clearly who are the gods which these people adore. Nothing is more useful to the implantation of Christianity than knowledge of the religion and the government of those people one wishes to convert. This is what the missions of the Company of Jesus have had to address in establishing the Madurai mission, which they have cultivated for around one hundred years and this [knowledge] has also carried through into the instruction of manners amongst the oldest and most famous population in the Indies. The Madurai mission made in this spirit several exact and curious observations which were very useful to their successors and which have edified pious people who took a particular interest in the mission's success, for which God blessed their work.