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date: 15 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The French were major actors in the creation of an Atlantic world. From the sixteenth century onwards, the Atlantic sphere provided employment for thousands of French sailors, sustained a large merchant community, and supplied much capital. In the following two centuries, cities and ports involved in Atlantic trade emerged and prospered. French imperial policy was a source of permanent tensions — between colonists and authorities in Versailles; planters, free coloured, and slaves; France and other European colonial powers — leading eventually to the progressive loss of the French empire in the course of the eighteenth century. Although French colonial trade and movements of people increased considerably over this period — the French West Indies provided Europe with huge quantities of sugar and coffee produced by an increasing number of African slaves — the French Atlantic world was never confined within its imperial boundaries. After the loss of Haiti, the French empire in the Americas was reduced to Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guyana, where slavery was abolished in 1848.

Keywords: France, Atlantic, imperial policy, slaves, French empire, colonial trade, West Indies, Europe, slavery

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