18th-Century French Sailors’ Letters Examined

French Sailors LettersKEW, UNITED KINGDOM—Cosmos Magazine reports that a box of 102 sealed letters written to the crew of the French ship Galatée has been read and analyzed by Renaud Morieux of the University of Cambridge. When the Galatée was captured in 1758 by the British during the Seven Years’ War, the letters were sent to the British Admiralty and put into storage, rather than delivered to the French prisoners. “There were three piles of letters held together by ribbon,” Morieux said of the contents of the storage box. “The letters were very small and were sealed so I asked the archivist if they could be opened and he did.” Morieux said that many of the letters expressed romantic messages, personal business, or accounts of troubles at home, even though the authors would have known that people other than the intended recipient were likely to know the contents. This was because some of the letters were written and then read aloud by family members and friends who could read and write. “Staying in touch was a community effort,” Morieux explained. “You can take part in a writing culture without knowing how to write nor read,” he concluded. To read about the process to virtually unfold seventeenth-century letters from The Hague, go to “Return to Sender.”

Source: archaeology.org

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