PYRARD DE LAVAL, François. Laval c. 1578 — Paris c. 1623. French Traveller in Maldives and India. In May 1601 he sailed on Corbin, one of the two ships equiped by the burghers of St.Malo, Laval and Vitre in order to compete with the Dutch E.I.C. Passing St.Helena and the Cape (December 1601) the ship was wrecked in the Maldives in 1.7.1602, where the survivors were allowed to live freely. Among them was PdeL who studied local language and manners. In 1607 a Bengali ship from Chittagong came to capture the canon of Corbin. The Sultan was killed in the battle and the French were taken as prisoners to Chittagong, but soon released by the local raja. They sailed to Calicut, where they were welcomed as enemies of Portugal, but were then lured by Jesuits to Cochin, arrested and sent to Goa. After visiting Ceylon and Malacca PdeL left Goa in 1610 and returned via Cape and Brazilia to France in February 1611. With the exception of the Maldives, where his accurate observations are very valuable, he mainly travelled on well-trodden paths, which is said to diminish the value of his account. On the other hand he was a keen observer and learned Divehi and could thus converse with the islanders.

Publications: Voyage de François Pyrard de Laval contenant sa navigation aux Indes orientales, Maldives, Moluques, et au Brésil: et les divers accidens qui lui sont arrivéz en ce voyage pendant son séjour de dix ans dans ces pays. Avec une description exacte des mœurs, loix, façons de faire, police et gouvernement; du trafic et commerce qui s’y fait; des animaux, arbres, fruits et autres singularitez qui s’y rencontrent, divisé en trois parties. 1611-15 and several editions; English transl. by A. Gray. The Voyage of François Pyrard, of Laval, to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil. Hakluyt Soc. 76, 77, 80. L. 1887.

Sources: Oaten 1909, 123ff.; L. Valensi, D.O.L.F. 790f.; Wikipedia (much longer in French version, with further references).


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