Research Grants 2004


  • Stéphane CALVET: Officers from the Charente during the First Empire
    Supervisor: Prof. Natalie Petiteau
    Université de Poitiers

    As key players during the First Empire and in the period immediately post Napoleon, the officers of the Grande Armée were frequently made into heroes by the literature of the 19th century and by a good part of the imperial historiography. However, descriptions rarely go further than describing their heroic deeds and behaviour during the great battles of the empire. In reality, little is known about these men; they have become victims of a series of clichés peddled by the Napoleonic legend. Although it must be said that these men were nearly always at the root of the clichés, in that they published their memoirs. This thesis aims to give a better vision of these soldiers, at a social, cultural and political level.

  • Marie SEBIRE-TRELAT: The imperial palaces and the scenography of power under Napoleon I
    Supervisor: Prof Jacques-Olivier Boudon
    Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne

    In article 14, titre III, the Sénatus-consulte of 28 Floréal, An XII (18 May, 1804), a founding text for the Empire, there were instructions for the “organisation of the imperial palace in conformity with the dignity of throne and the grandeur of the nation”. The decree of 28 Messidor gives details of this organisation and in this respect created the ‘Maison de l’Empereur’ or Emperor’s household, in imitation of the previous court of France and other European courts. Indeed it gives a context in which court life took place and from which the court itself arose.

    The so-called “imperial palaces” provided the backdrop for the exercise of imperial power and the running of the court and were housed in the royal “châteaux” mentioned in the civil list legislation voted by the Assemblée nationale on 26 May, 1791. To these were added the new palaces furnished in strategic parts of the empire, namely, Strasburg, Bordeaux, Rome, Brussels, and in the kingdom of Italy in Milan and Venice. Indisputably, the imperial palaces were for Napoleon a means of legitimising his power, and of setting it in the context of the buildings bathed in the history of France, so as to show that the empire was not an empty vessel which would collapse on itself once the conqueror was dead.


  • Arnaud BERTINET: Artistic policy of the Second Empire : the institution of museums under Napoleon III
    Supervisor: Prof Dominique Poulot
    Université de Paris I-Sorbonne

    Despite the fact that the Second Empire is still victim of its « black legend », owing as much to Napoleon III’s brutal seizing of power as to his authoritarian policies in his early years, history nevertheless attributes to him numerous merits. In the 19th century, French thought was marked by theories of progress and Saint-Simonian ideas and the positivist concepts of Auguste Comte, and there was a fundamental rapport between art and power. Historians have greatly underestimated this link. It is also important to pose the question as to whether Napoleon III’s real desire to reform French society was also applied to the world of the institutions and national heritage.

    After detailed bibliographical work and several archive surveys, it would seem to be that there is a great deal of evidence. In my opinion, it is crucial to study the administration of the Fine Arts Academy (the famous Beaux-Arts), from the political reception of the artistic policy in the provinces and the development of national archaeology and to look at it through the prism of the institution of the national museums.

  • Marc LEMAIRE: The Crimean War. Chronicle and analysis of a medical disaster (1854-1856)
    Supervisor: Professeur Jean-Charles Jauffret
    Université d’Aix

    For the French army, the Crimean War was, as everyone knows, a medical disaster. One in three French soldiers died, in three out of four cases it was disease and not enemy fire which did the deed. Out of about 100,000 deaths, 75,000 of the soldiers in the expeditionary corps died of either typhus, cholera, gangrene or scurvy. All this despite the fact that like all modern armies of the period, France had a medical service designed to deal with illness, and especially epidemics. So how can such a catastrophe be explained?

    After the war, several reports were written questioning why the army medical service was so badly organised. Were the losses related to the weak disposition of the recruits called up in haste, the insufficient numbers of doctors in the field hospitals, and/or the precision and power of modern weapons? Or were there other factors?

    This thesis will attempt to reconsider the question, taking into account the fundamental discoveries made by Pasteur. I shall also compare the army service with that in the French navy and the armies of other nationalities to give an idea of context and extent.


  • Richard MOLES: From one Empire to the other: the Gendarmerie maritime in France from 1804 to 1870
    Supervisor: Professeur Jules Maurin
    Université de Montpellier III

    After the battle of Trafalgar and the later fall of Napoleon I, it took the French navy nearly a century to recover its status as a world class navy. This period coincides with the transformation of the Gendarmerie maritime, which in 1804 belonged to the Gendarmerie, but which in 1870 was under the aegis of the French national navy.

    Quite why did the Gendarmerie nationale separate itself from the Gendarmerie maritime, finally leaving the navy completely in 1830? In the period 1804 to 1870, what was the Gendarme maritime’s experience of the way in which the navy renewed its arsenals and its personnel? Is it possible to speak of the specificities of this military unit? How was it made up? These questions must all be answered against the backdrop of the different regimes, namely, the First Empire, the Restoration, the two Revolutions in 1830 and 1848, and finally the Second Empire.

    It is my intention to study the biographical sketches of some of the gendarmes, both officers and lower orders. My source materials will be the minutes of sessions of the maritime tribunals and military registers showing the use of police force by the maritime prefects, the organisation of those being sentenced to transportation and other duties.

    This new research field, i.e., the history of the Gendarmerie maritime, will shed much-needed light on this organisation which still today guards the French coastline.