Martinique and Guadeloupe were colonized by France in the mid-17th century, though there were periods of time when these islands, also known as the French Antilles, were governed by other foreign powers. The early presses in the Caribbean, especially in the French Antilles, were known for reprinting colonial news, a way to keep colonists connected to their motherlands. Correlations can be drawn from events related to slavery and trade/commerce to freedom of the press. Slavery was abolished in the French colonies in 1848, the same year that a decree denounced censorship of the press, allowing newspapers the freedom to print content without authorization from the government and protecting them from being suspended or revoked. As a result, newspapers were not allowed to promote the re-establishment of slavery, however, on the same token were not allowed to insult government officials or to incite resistance to the French government.
Between 1852 and 1929, the press in French colonies was primarily made up of official notices and provided a glimpse into the life of the time on the islands through reporting of general and local news. We propose to digitize two of these newspapers from the French Antilles: 1) Le Propagateur, published in Saint-Pierre, the cultural capital of Martinique and 2) the Journal Officiel de la Guadeloupe, published in Basse-Terre, the administrative capital of Guadeloupe. Le Propagateur, was founded in 1854 and published weekly until 1894. The Journal began publication in 1815 as the Gazette Officiel, a newspaper established by the Governor to print laws and ordinances. The paper changed names to the Journal Officiel in January of 1882 and became the Journal Officiel de la Guadeloupe in July of that same year.
The University of Florida (UF) Libraries filmed these newspapers in 1951, prior to the establishment of the Preservation Department in 1987. The UF microfilm holdings have not been digitized previously. The Propagateur has not been digitized/made available elsewhere, however there are some issues for the Journal available online. There are currently 413 issues of the Journal from issues published in 1882, 1896, 1902-03, 1905 and 1936 available online to the public via Gallica, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) digital library. The content UF has on microfilm that would be digitized for this project would complement the digitized archives in BNF’s digital library. Additionally, there are digital issues available online through CRL’s Digital Delivery System for 1891, however these are another title, the Bulletin Officiel de la Guadeloupe, a periodical published by the French government in Guadeloupe which began printing in 1804 under the title Journal officiel de la Guadeloupe et Dépendances.
The University of Florida holds first-generation microfilm on acetate film for these titles. The master microfilm is stored with an off-site vendor in cold storage. There are a total of 26 microfilm reels (35 mm black and white, silver halide film) for these titles. We estimate that each reel contains 600 two-up frames, although the exact number of frames, pages, and issues per reel varies. There are six reels for Le Propagateur that contain approximately 7,200 pages for the years 1855 and 1893. During this time, the Propagateur published weekly. We have 20 reels for the Journal, which contain approximately 24,000 pages published between 1852 and 1929. The Journal was known to publish bi-weekly (twice a week) during this time, with each issue typically consisting of four, six, or eight pages. Appendix 1 includes UF’s master microfilm inventory.