In May 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte’s edict to arrest British residents and travellers led to a fascinating, yet neglected, experience of detention.
The order ended a brief truce between France and Britain and surprised around 400 British civilians, who were later joined by captured naval and army officers as the conflict unfolded.
Unlike most rank-and-file soldiers, these captives were detained on ‘parole’. They had to take an oath of honour not to escape or bear arms – la parole d’honneur – and sign a card containing information about their physical traits, should they indeed contemplate an escape. Most were held in the walled city of Verdun, but also in Paris and French colonial outposts including Mauritius.
Drawing on French and British archives and narratives of captivity, Dr Elodie Duché will investigate how prior journeys shaped their experiences, particularly the contacts they made with local French populations. She will also consider their ability to correspond with their families at home and to channel funds to support other British captives held in stricter conditions.
Dr Elodie Duché is Senior Lecturer in History at York St John University. Her research focuses on transnational encounters and travel writing in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
She has published on various aspects of war captivity during the period, including a study of charity networks for British prisoners of war in Napoleonic France, and works on life-writing, slavery and women’s experiences in detention during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic conflicts.