Jean Laborde

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Jean Laborde

Jean Laborde (16 October 1805 in Auch - 27 December 1878 in Madagascar) was an adventurer and early industrialist in Madagascar. He became the chief engineer of the Merina monarchy, supervising the creation of a modern manufacturing center under Queen Ranavalona I. Later he became the first French consul to Madagascar, when the government of Napoleon III used him to establish French influence on the island.

Laborde was shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar at the age of 26 and soon after was granted large tracts of land and unlimited labor to provide armaments for the Merina army.

Laborde had some engineering background. With the help of five other Europeans, he set up a manufacturing and engineering center. They had no imported machinery beyond simple blacksmith's tools and no documents, but within a few years were producing iron (cast and wrought), steel (via the crucible method), muskets, gunpowder, light cannons, metal-working lathes, watermills, window and blown glass, machine-spun cotton, spinning machinery, and power looms.

Laborde built a complete industrial complex. Within 6 years, he had blast furnaces with waterwheel-powered draught producing cast iron, puddling mills producing wrought iron, a steeling plant producing spring steel, a glassworks, brickworks and cement-plant, a heavy foundry capable of producing 24-pound cannons, a musket factory, a gunpowder mill, a tower to make lead shot, and textile mills.

Laborde also opened up mines, roads, and bridges in various parts of the island. He built ox and horse wagons and a short horse-drawn stretch of railway.

Laborde got involved in the 1857 coup instigated by Joseph-François Lambert and was banned by the queen. After the queen was succeeded by Radama II, he was able to return. Napoleon III named him as the first French consul to the Merina court.

The French government pressed the Merina to compensate Laborde and his inheritors for the loss of his wealth when he had been banned, which became one of the justifications for the Franco-Hova War.

A species of chameleon endemic to Madagascar, Furcifer labordi, is named in his honor.[1]


  1. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Laborde", p. 149).

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