In the past, I said a few words about Grothendieck topologies and fpqc descent. Well, strictly speaking, I didn’t get very far into the descent bit. I described a topology on the category of schemes (the fpqc topology) and showed that it was a *subcanonical topology*, that is, any representable presheaf was a sheaf in this topology.

This amounted to saying that if was a fpqc morphism of schemes, then to hom out of was the same thing as homming out of such that the two pull-backs to were the same. If I had gotten further, I would have shown that to give a quasi-coherent sheaf on (among other things) is the same as giving “descent data” of a quasi-coherent sheaf on together with an isomorphism between the two pull-backs to satisfying the cocycle condition. Maybe I’ll do that later. But there is a more basic “toy” example that I now want to describe of a site (that is, category with a Grothendieck topology) and the associated category of sheaves on it.

**1. -sets **

Our category is going to be the category of left -sets for a fixed group ; morphisms will be equivariant morphisms of -sets. We are now going to define a Grothendieck topology on this category. For this, we need to axiomatize the notion of “cover.” We can do this very simply: a collection of maps is called a cover if the images cover . Now, fiber products of -sets are calculated in the category of sets, or in other words the forgetful functor

commutes with limits (as it has an adjoint, the functor ). Thus, taking pull-backs preserve the notion of covering, and it is easy to see the other axioms are satisfied too: if we have a cover of each of the (which cover ), then collecting them gives a cover of . Similarly, an isomorphism is a cover. This is obvious from the definitions.

**2. Representable presheaves **

So we indeed do have a perfectly good site. Now, we want a characterization of all the sheaves of sets on it. To start with, let us show that any representable functor forms a sheaf; that is, the topology is subcanonical. (In fact, this topology is *the* canonical topology, in that it is the finest possible that makes representable functors into sheaves.) (more…)