Mapmaking and commercial prophesy

Chaplain Passage

Mapmaking and commercial prophesy

Champlain styles himself as a prophetic intermediary between French commercial interests and the New World. In representing native peoples as trading partners, while representing the territories as open to settlement, French mapmaking provided a rationale for imperial claims of dominion and for practices of conversion. Over a period of 30 years, Chaplain strategically used native peoples as a means to secure a monopoly in the fur trade and to learn from them the location of “the free passage by which to reach a country called China”.
Chaplain’s promotional atlases were intended to win sponsorship for future voyages to the New World, to promote imagined trade routes and native trade allies that could nurture a future French Empire. The surface of the map, adorned with images of sought-after beavers and otters, suggests the possibility of bountiful trade beyond maritime travel, up the rivers on what is now the St Lawrence or Rivière de Canada.” It is here that Chaplain tantalizingly depicts a possible opening to a larger body of water: The Passage to the China Sea?

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