Lost French love letters from the 1750s reveal what life was like during wartime

Unopened French love letters from the 1750s, offering insights into life during wartime, have been studied for the first time.

The discovery: Historian Renaud Morieux of the University of Cambridge found the letters, which were sent to French sailors by their family members during the Seven Years War, in Britain’s National Archives.
* The letters were forwarded from port to port by the French postal administration in hopes of reaching the sailors but were captured by the British Navy along with the Galatée warship they were intended for.
* Morieux described the moment of discovering and opening the packages of letters as akin to receiving a “Christmas gift.”

Content and significance: The letters, written on heavyweight, expensive paper and sealed with red wax, share the language of common people rather than aristocrats, offering rare primary sources from lower social classes of the time.
* “These letters tell us about how people from the lower classes dealt with the challenges of war and the absence of their kin and loved ones,” Morieux said.
* The letters documented the difficulty of long-distance communication in the 1750s and displayed a communal effort to overcome the challenges of wartime correspondence.

Historical insights: The content of these letters provides insights into family dynamics, hopes, and fears.
* For example, one letter displayed a universal familial tension gleaned from a mother’s complaint about her sailor son’s neglect to write her, but writing to his fiancee instead.
* The letters show how communities can remain resilient in times of crisis by relying on each other.

Eye on history: Morieux’s analysis of the letters was published in the French history journal Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales.
View original article on NPR
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