Jérôme Bouchaud, founding editor of Lettres de Malaisie and the journal Jentayu.
Conversations and Explorations: Jérôme Bouchaud
Beyond a handful of specialists, knowledge of historical French connections with Penang and the wider Malay archipelago is thin. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise. France’s colonial ambitions focused on Indochina – the modern states of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – and so the sedimented layers of language and culture are obviously not as evident as they are with the legacies of the British in Malaysia or the Dutch in Indonesia.
Yet the French presence in Penang goes back over two centuries. The French irruption into the Indian Ocean in the second half of the eighteenth century compelled the British East India Company to choose Penang as a strategic and commercial bulwark against a dangerous European rival.
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