Researching La Concorde in Nantes

Author: Hannah Francis, QAR Research Fellow

As part of my Research Fellowship with the “Tale of Two Ships Project”, I traveled to Nantes, France from July 13, 2019 to July 23, 2019 with one of the co-supervisors of my fellowship, Sarah Watkins-Kenney, Special Projects Coordinator and Researcher for the NC Office of State Archaeology. This trip that I embarked upon had two goals: completing research related to La Concorde, the people it carried on board, and those who held interest in its 1717 voyage, and to discover how Nantes portrays its role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Over the ten days I spent in Nantes, I visited the Archives Departmental of the Loire-Atlantique, museums, and public monuments in order to fulfill both goals.

Although my trip only lasted from mid- to late-July, preparation for my visits to the archives began earlier. In June, Sarah and I contacted the Archives Departmental of the Loire-Atlantique to inform the archive of our impending visit, inquire about the procedures of this archive, and ask for guidance about our research topic. Before we left for our trip, the archives sent us a response that prepared us for registering as researchers while also providing suggestions for collections and sources that might be of interest.

Armed with our reply from the archives, Sarah and I first visited the archives on Tuesday, July 16. From their email, we knew that we would have to register with the archive in order to be given access to research. Upon completing registration forms, we were given research cards, granting us entry into the archive and allowing us to request items to be pulled and obtain research tables. In order to request items, we had to scan our cards and enter the accession number of the items we wanted to view. A member of the archival team would then pull requested items and place them in the cubby assigned to our table within 10 minutes of submitting a request. Once in the cubby, we retrieved it from one of the members of the archival team. After becoming acclimated to these archival procedures, I found this system to be very efficient.

During this trip to Nantes, I made several solo trips to the archives. On these subsequent trips, I wanted to determine what if any heretofore unknown information existed in the archives on La Concorde, its owner Rene Montaudouin, Blackbeard’s capture of the ship and if there might be further research potential. From my visits, I found out about and viewed other business dealings of Montaudouin, his role as a prominent citizen in Nantes, and his wife’s memoire. More research time is necessary to discover the full extent of what can be done in these areas.

While in Nantes, I also visited the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, the Feydeau district, the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, and the Maritime Museum in order to gain an understanding of Nantes’ relationship with its past participation in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Chateau is a castle that houses a museum chronicling the history of Nantes from the Middle Ages to modern times. The museum does not shy away from revealing Nantes’ role as one of the leading slave trading cities in France. On my last day in Nantes on July 23, I visited the Feydeau district where many of the slave traders built their magnificent homes. Visiting the Chateau des Ducs and Feydeau district, I gained a sense of just of how lucrative the slave trade was in Nantes.

The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery along the Loire River in the center of Nantes is a walking path with some 2,000 glass tiles giving the names and dates of voyages that slave trading vessels left Nantes as well as the names of places these vessels traveled to procure or sell slaves. Seeing all the glass tiles scattering the path was a bit overwhelming. After finding La Concorde’s 1717 voyage, we adjourned to a café for refreshments and then visited the Maritime Museum. The museum divulges the history of Nantes’ shipbuilding industry, which spans centuries. In contrast to the Memorial, the slave trade and slave trading was mentioned in this exhibit but not necessarily as a focal point of it. When taken together these exhibits and places in Nantes, somberly memorialize the city’s participation in the Transatlantic slave trade.

I consider this research trip to have been a successful one. On this trip, I determined that there is the possibility to do more research on La Concorde in Nantes, especially on its owner Montaudouin and his family. Additionally, I deepened my understanding of how important the slave trade was to Nantes. I hope that future researchers for the state of North Carolina continue to explore this subject.

Hannah in Nantes. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, with the Loire River in the background. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Glass black memorializing La Concorde's final voyage departing March 24, 1717. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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