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265-Year-Old Secrets Unveiled: The Unread Letters of Galatée's 18th-Century Crew

Tuesday, November 7, 2023 • Tamil Comments
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Bundles of over 100 letters, meant for the crew of the French warship Galatée and unopened by the British after it was seized in 1758 during the Seven Years' War, stayed stored for 265 years now, revealing human dimensions in personal stories and society perspectives from the 18th century.

Lead researcher Renaud Morieux, who is a professor of European history at Pembroke College Cambridge, shared how these letters are rare finds that offer veiled window panes into diverse human experiences, recalling how people suffer separations brought about by uncontrollable things like wars and pandemics.

Correspondences on intimacy contained letters of feminine gender to their spouses, illustrating affection and optative reunions. The records depicted emotional attachments as well as social functions, showing women as an important element in house supervision while men were out at sea.

Of special record was the letter of Marie Dubosc to her husband, Louis Chambrelan, first lieutenant of the ship. The missive didn't reach him anyway, and she died in 1759 without participating in his release after capture.

Morieux dug into the letters, bringing to light stories about sailor Nicolas Quesnel, spiced with exchanges between his mother and his fiancée. Those exchanges made obvious the family complexes and social norms of that period.

The letters drew the curtain into internal family tensions and emotional forms, sometimes written by clerks or third-party scribes, and presided over as much personal matters as talking about desires as sensuality. He found this unique, underscoring its rarity in historical documentation, especially for those of lower social class, that this was an exceptional window into the emotional lives of these individuals.

And as these historical treasures get further unravelled, he hopes to be able to bring forth even more insights on the lives of the crew of the Galatée and their families, thus widening our understanding of 18th-century norms and all that entails.

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