The pandemic was a horror and the lock-downs around the world caused suffering to many; about this there can be no dispute. Yet, amongst those fortunate enough not to fall ill, some turned to creativity and productivity while confined. Les marins français, 1789 - 1830 : Étude du corps social et de ses uniformes is such a lock-down creation. It is a treasure of a book, with lovely illustrations of uniforms and weapons, and a remarkably clear explanation of the changes in French naval uniforms during a most fraught period in French history. The author, Eric Shérer, is a Vice-Admiral in the Navy and a life-long collector of all things naval. He came to writing history through his collecting and this is his third book.
Shérer 's structure is logical, giving two chapters to each time period, the first on naval ranks and responsibilities, and the second on the uniforms of those ranks during that period. We translate the chapter titles:
- Sailors at the End of the Ancien régime (with a very good explanation of naval conscription)
- Uniforms of Sailors at the End of the Ancien régime
- Sailors During the Revolution
- Uniforms of Sailors During the Revolution
- Sailors During the Consulate and First Empire
- Uniforms of Sailors During the Consulate and First Empire
- Life on Board Ships in the Fleet for the Marines and for the Crew
- Naval Staff at the Arsenals
- Sailors of the Coast Guard
- Uniforms of Sailors of the Coast Guard During the Consulate and First Empire
- Sailors During the Restoration
- Uniforms of Sailors During the Restoration
- Naval Uniform Buttons from 1786 to 1830
- Bibliography and Archival Sources
Even if you cannot read French, the charts and illustrations are incredibly useful. It is a thorough study and will greatly inform your research into your French naval ancestor.
Les Marins français 1789-1830 : Etude de corps social et de ses uniformes. Eric Schérer. 2022. 50€, ISBN: 978-2-7587-0241-2
France really excels at biographical dictionaries. They are well-researched, well-sourced, well-structured (straight-forward alphabetical listing by surname) and very useful. This one, Dictionnaire des Marins français, runs to five hundred forty pages and covers documented naval personalities of note from as early as 1341 to 1931. The biographical essays give the date and place of birth, career details, and date and place of death. If you are lucky enough to have an illustrious naval ancestor, the essay on him will delight you and possibly aid your research. For the rest of us, the real use of this book is in helping to follow the career of an ancestor who served in the French Navy, for here, you may find your ancestor's commanding officers and, through the essays about their careers and movements, work out where your ancestor was as well.
Dictionnaire des marins français. Etienne Taillemite. 2002. ISBN: 978-2847340082
Using these two books, with our highly recommended further reading, could break down your brick wall concerning your French Navy ancestor. In our next post, we tell how you can track the vessel on which he or she may have served.
©2022 Anne Morddel