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Un modèle d'expansion économique à Nantes de 1763 à 1792 : Louis Drouin, négociant et armateur

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  • Laure Pineau-Defois
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    Abstract

    [fre] La France et le port de Nantes en particulier, connaissent un essor commercial remarquable tout au long du XVIIIe siècle. Les guerres ne viennent perturber que ponctuellement cette prospérité basée sur un système d'échanges entre la façade atlantique, l'Afrique et l'Amérique. L'après-guerre de Sept Ans marque un renouveau dans le paysage du négoce nantais : des hommes néophytes pour la plupart, se lancent dans l'aventure maritime et deviennent les plus puissants de la place commerciale à la veille de la Révolution. Louis Drouin représente une figure emblématique de ces nouvelles élites portuaires de la fin de l'Ancien Régime. Quelles sont les caractéristiques de cette élite? Comment l'armement de navires et le négoce peuvent-ils permettre un enrichissement aussi prompt et efficace? Quels moyens se donnent ces hommes pour réussir? Louis Drouin progresse dans son entreprise de manière infaillible et stratégique. Il s'associe à deux autres négociants dans un premier temps, pour débuter dans l'armement afin de se constituer un capital personnel. Puis, il combine à une droiture massive et régulière avec Saint-Domingue un armement négrier peu audacieux mais efficace. De plus, sa connaissance étendue de Saint-Domingue et ses relations établies lors de ses quatorze années de vie à Saint Marc, lui assurent une compétence ineffable dans le commerce des Iles. Sa spéculation, autant pour le financement des expéditions maritimes que lors des phases de belligérance, nous permet de déceler les tactiques d'un homme rompu aux rouages du capitalisme commercial. L'exemple de Louis Drouin nous offre la possibilité d'approcher au mieux les mentalités négociantes de cette fin d'Ancien Régime et de comprendre le rôle de la Révolution dans la désagrégation des fortunes coloniales et maritimes. [eng] France, and especially the port of Nantes have had a remarkable commercial rise during the eighteenth century. Wars disturbed only punctually this prosperity, based on a trade system between Atlantic frontage, Africa and America. The after-war period of Sept Ans symbolizes a renewal: men, neophytes for most of them, embarked into maritime adventure and became the most powerful individuals in the commercial place of Nantes, right before the French Revolution. Louis Drouin is an emblematic figure of this new ports' elite of the old regime. How one should characterize this elite ? How could trading and equipping ships enrich these men effectively and promptly ? By which means did they succeed in their business concerns ? Louis Drouin followed a strategic progression. First of all, he got associated to two other merchants to begin in the ship commission, in order to save money and raise a private capital. He then combined to an intensive « droiture » ship commission to Saint-Domingue, a slave commission that was less audacious but really effective. Moreover, his knowledge of Saint-Domingue and his extended relations in the town of Saint Marc, established while living there for fourteen years, gave him undeniable ability for trading with the American islands. Louis Drouin's case allows deep investigations about merchants' minds of the end of the old regime and to understand the role of the French Revolution in the disintegration of the maritime and colonial wealth.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Histoire, économie et société.

    Volume (Year): 23 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 367-395

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    Handle: RePEc:prs:hiseco:hes_0752-5702_2004_num_23_3_2430

    Note: DOI:10.3406/hes.2004.2430
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    Web page: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/revue/hes

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