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A Small Island in Low Season –

Alban Discount-Villéger

That is the second and ultimate part of the diary I stored throughout a analysis trip to Groix island in December 2018. The primary episode coated my journey to Paris and the practice journey to Lorient. The following pages start on the night of my arrival, after a tough, although bearable, ferry journey across the Courreaux Strait.

Approaching Groix. Writer’s photograph.

December 9, 2018 – Port-Tudy, L’Auberge du pêcheur, 8:00pm

J. X. [my contact in Groix] is completely pretty; a tad territorial on the subject of local historical past, however very helpful. We had a drink at the Mojo, the bar situated on the bottom flooring of the Hôtel de l’Escale, the place I’m staying. My room is on the third flooring, with a view on the harbour. Sooner or later, the clinking of cables towards masts lulled me into a reverie. I was getting ready to dozing off, once I thought I might make out “Jingle Bells.”

Wifi, TV, a moderately snug bed, an antiquated however useful bathe: every little thing appeared wonderful… however for the absence of toilet paper! So, I went right down to see the supervisor, who also happens to be the Mojo’s bartender. An epic quest for a roll of bathroom paper ensued. We searched excessive and low, till we lastly discovered one, in the final bedroom we checked.

Nursing a pint of Kilkenny at L’Auberge du pêcheur, an honest however virtually empty pub: two bartenders, one barfly, and yours really. As for the food, it’s not dangerous in any respect, principally seafood. One of many bartenders knowledgeable me in passing that, so far as food is worried, I don’t have much of a selection, as L’Auberge is the only real restaurant open after 7:00pm this time of yr.

Inside 5 minutes of our first meeting, J. X. reiterated what he had warned me about in certainly one of his emails, specifically that my intention to review the historical past of native “political dynamics” will in all probability elicit some suspicion from a number of the native households. Apparently, reminiscences of previous occasions and clan/household feuds are nonetheless alive and nicely in these elements.

Port-Tudy – Harbour.

December 10, 2018 – Le Bourg (the “capital”), Crêperie des Îles, 12:40pm

Spent the morning chatting with J. X. in his research. He lent me a couple of books.

I just ordered a buckwheat crepe, together with a bowl of cider. This is thrilling, as I haven’t had an actual Breton crepe in ages.

Yesterday I took a nocturnal stroll from Port-Tudy to Le Bourg. Not a soul in the streets. The celebs have been out, an actual treat for an urbanite like me.

L’Auberge du pêcheur, 8:20pm

As we speak J. X. (aka “the Colonel”) introduced me to the mayor. By then, I used to be beginning to feel fairly antsy, fearing I’d by no means have enough time to photograph all of the paperwork I used to be planning to take a look at. Nonetheless, I chose to … humour the Colonel, … who stored insisting on “the Groisillons’ peculiar concept of time and place” (in other words, quite a lot of “island time”). Thus, I solely started work at about 2:30pm.

The archive … consists of roughly two dozen leather-bound volumes, marriage data however. The primary challenge right here will include deciphering the barely legible handwriting in the sooner volumes. In some instances, the ink has virtually utterly pale.

Excerpt (05_09_1852) from Municipal Deliberations – 04_1833-07_1860.

December 12, 2018 – Port-Tudy, Le Mojo, 12:38pm

Monday night time, I had an fascinating conversation with Guillaume and Marco, the two bartenders at L’Auberge. … To chop an extended story brief, after defeating me in two video games of pool, Marco requested me about my business right here. As soon as I had answered (as succinctly as I might), their faces lightened up, they usually insisted that I meet Jo Le Port, one of the final two Breton speakers on the island. Since Guillaume was going to have him over at his place for dinner the subsequent day, he invited me to hitch them.

So yesterday I headed to Guillaume’s place, in Le Bourg. There were five of us present: Guillaume, Magali (Groix’s Head Librarian), Thomas (who works at Parcabout, a treehouse lodge/adventure park situated near Locmaria), Jo, and myself. After dinner, we had a “couple” of beers at L’Auberge, the place we talked about Groix, its historical past, its politics, and played pool until 1:30am.

While copying paperwork is what I got here right here for in the first place, I find the varied discussions I’ve had with the locals to be equally beneficial. In slightly below three days, I’ve discovered more about Groix and the way its inhabitants view their island than I have in the last three years. These conversations helped me think about a number of sides of my matter that I had not likely targeted on, particularly the centrality of putting up with taboos, and the superimposition of identities, the latter revolving around the Groix vs. continent (recognized “Grande Terre”) dichotomy, numerous varieties of parochialisms (villages, “towns”), and allegiance to a given clan/household.

As for the 2 archival collection I’ve been taking a look at, specifically the “Mayor’s decrees” and the “Deliberations of the Municipal Council,” they hold quite a bit of promise. By “promise,” I imply that an estimated 5-10% of what I’ve collected thus far (about 1,600 footage) will end up being of some use to my research. This doesn’t appear to be a lot, but in my books it’s monumental.

Le Mojo, 7:45pm

That is undoubtedly probably the most uncommon archive I’ve ever visited. The documents are there, saved, and accessible upon request. In that sense, Groix’s town hall does maintain an archival assortment within its premises. Nevertheless, no detailed catalogue exists, and it took me two years to lastly entry the 2017 inventory. A quick take a look at the nine-page doc made it plain that the (meagre) collection had been grossly uncared for, sitting in an attic for a number of years, perhaps even many years. The actual fact that no one gave a clear answer to my question for two years testifies to a sure lack of curiosity in the island’s previous. I suppose the municipal staff had greater fish to fry at the time (which is sensible, given the island’s historical past).

In April 2018, a municipal worker ultimately put me in contact with the Colonel, who acquired again to me in a matter of days, sending alongside the 2017 report. It took me one other yr to seek out the money and time for this journey. This minutely planned expedition has been rewarding up to now. Although the archive is way from spectacular quantity-wise, what I’ve found to date will undoubtedly show decisive in the course of the writing process.

December 13, 2018 – Le Mojo, 1:37pm

Only one quantity of municipal deliberations left to take a look at! Then I’ll in all probability ask to see a couple of marriage data.

Ever since I received right here, I’ve been struck by the significance of patronage networks and alliances amongst Groix’s clans properly into the late twentieth century. I initially expected that reconstructing in detail the reticular actuality that prevailed there in the 19th and early 20th centuries can be a little bit of a problem. Nevertheless, I lately realized that an in-depth evaluation of native socioeconomic and political networks is definitely potential, based mostly on marriage report patterns, mixed with the registry of individual ship shares and property deeds (obtainable in a rare difficulty of Les Cahiers groisillons I received my palms on while in the French Nationwide Library, in Paris). I’ll should take a trip to Lorient, someday in the coming yr, to go to the Nunicipal and Navy archives, where I’d find more info on Groix’s fishing boats and their crews.

L’Auberge du pêcheur, 7:45pm

I’m accomplished! … One of the execs of mismanaged and/or tiny archives is that there’s very little purple tape. No registration, no bored bureaucrat wanting over one’s shoulder, no warehouse employee taking their sweet time fetching a field from the repository. For example, accessing the French National Archives’ studying room is as time- and energy-consuming as a few of the most wearisome border crossings I’ve ever skilled. In the present case, the secretaries left me alone in the marriage hall and free to go and get what I needed in the “storage area” (literally, the bottom shelf of a cabinet) each time I needed to. The primary con is, in fact, the poor state of the documents. Some are barely decipherable, and I even had to dispose (as delicately as potential) of tiny slate chips that had discovered their method into the bindings and between a few of the pages.

December 14, 2019 – Le Mojo, 12:40pm

The Colonel gave me a journey to Port-Tudy … We spent the morning chatting about numerous topics. Yesterday and at this time, he talked for at the least two hours about his profession in the military and in counterintelligence. The conversation was ignited by my noticing a bent, jagged shrapnel fragment on a shelf. He then proceeded to inform me how, whereas serving as a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia, he got here very near being hit by that very fragment, and how it was burning scorching when he picked it up. He also advised me of the time he was held prisoner by the Serbs.

In addition to the quite a few anecdotes that occurred throughout his time close to Sarajevo, the Colonel informed me more concerning the surveillance and repression of drug traffickers and far-left teams … in the 1970s and 1980s. He was less verbose about his stint in Corsica over the past wave of separatist violence and clan wars, in the 1990s. A really fascinating man.

To my surprise, the Colonel let me photograph a number of uncommon documents he found or purchased in the course of his own research.

General, this journey proved extremely fruitful. It took a toll on me, as I labored arduous every single day and sometimes stayed up late at L’Auberge, the place I knew I might garner info from the locals. This latter facet of research is usually ignored, as the outcomes are sometimes immeasurable and unpublishable, until one has beforehand gone via a rigorous ethics process and crammed out the required types … At the finish of the day, such spontaneous, unquotable conversations can show inspiring, in that they assist the historian enterprise out of his/her consolation zone, and dabble, as a dilettante, in anthropology or sociology. In the current case, speaking with ten or so Groisillons offered me with recent views on the island.

Yesterday I walked via the cemetery, on my approach to the west coast of the island. … I’m glad I discovered the time to go for a stroll and go to several villages and Locmaria’s 17th-century chapel.

December 13, 2018 – Lorient Station, 5:40pm

Napped through the crossing. Had an allongé (an Americano of types) in a bistro close to the harbour, to perk me up earlier than heading to the station. The practice must be right here soon. Though I bodily left Groix, I consider I’m not quite “back” on the continent but.

The top.

Leaving Groix.

Alban Discount-Villéger is a sessional school member at York College, where he specializes in trendy European history. His present research undertaking includes a comparative research of Arran, Borkum, and Groix, three small islands off the coasts of Scotland, France, and Germany, respectively.