AskDefine | Define lascar

Dictionary Definition

lascar

Noun

1 an East Indian sailor
2 a volcano in the Andes in Chile

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Alternative forms

Noun

  1. A sailor, army servant or artilleryman from India or SE Asia.

Extensive Definition

Lascar, though rarely used now, was once the name used to describe a sailor from India or other countries East of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the 16th century until the beginning of the twentieth century. The word comes from the Persian Lashkar, meaning military camp, and al-askar, the Omani word for a guard or soldier. The Portuguese adapted this term to lascarim, meaning an Asian militiaman or seaman. Lascars served on British ships under 'lascar' agreements. These agreements allowed shipowners more control than was the case in ordinary articles of agreement. The sailors could be transferred from one ship to another and retained in service for up to three years at one time. The name lascar was also used to refer to Indian servants, typically engaged by British military officers.
Indian seamen had been employed on European ships since the first European made the sea voyage to India. Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea (in 1498), hired an Indian pilot at Malindi (a coastal settlement in what is now Kenya) to steer the Portuguese ship across the Indian Ocean to the Malabar coast.
The number of Indian seamen employed on British ships was so great that the British tried to restrict this by the Navigation Acts in force from 1660 , which required that 75 percent of the crew of a British-registered ship importing goods from Asia had to be British. Initially, the need arose because of the high sickness and death rates of European sailors on India-bound ships, and their frequent desertions in India, which left ships short of crew for the return voyage. Another reason was war when conscription of British sailors by the Royal Navy was particularly heavy from Company ships in India.
In 1786, the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor was originally set up thanks to concern over Lascars left in London. However in a report made after one month of the Committees existence, it was found that only 35 of the 250 recipeints of aid were Lascars, being heavily outnumbered by Africans and former slaves from the Americas.
The British East India Company recruited seamen from Yemen, Gujarat, Assam and Bengal. They were known by the British as ‘Lascars’, and a number of these created small settlements in port towns and cities in Britain. By 1842 three thousand Lascars were visiting the UK. Lascars were also used by ships plying other routes. For example, the New South Wales government record of the ship Massilia en route from London to Sydney in 1891 lists more than half of its crew as being either Lascar or Indian.
The term Lascar is also used in Mauritius, Réunion and the Seychelles to describe Muslims, by both Muslims and Non-Muslims.
lascar in French: Lascar
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