The Esternay Project

Based upon resources provided by Catherine Hennequin-Libert (Resource Associate) and research conducted by Carl Weiner, The Esternay Project is directed by Professors Carl Weiner and Scott Carpenter (Carleton College) Professor Daniel Ringrose (Minot State University) and Associate Professor Lynn Sharp (Whitman College), with the assistance of Carleton Digital Archivist Nat Wilson. The site is available for use by students, teachers and researchers.

The core of the collection is the familial, business, political and patronage correspondence of three generations of Poirrier notaries and landowners who lived in the town of Esternay (Marne) about 100 km from Paris. Jean François Poirrier, Louis François Poirrier and Louis Alfred Poirrier consecutively held office at the municipal, cantonal, departmental and national level from the time of the French Revolution down to the death in 1898 of Alfred Poirrier. Apart from the letters of these men and the Poirrier women (Louise Eulalie Poirrier, Sophie Guillemain Poirrier and Denise Poirrier) and their friends and kin, the archive contains a selection from a much larger mass of notarial documents including the correspondence of various clients of the notarial office of Alfred, his father and his grand-father . It includes items from the documentary remains of Alfred’s political and administrative career (at his death, he was vice-president of the conseil départemental of the Marne and a sitting senator) which provide insights into the everyday workings of power and politics in the first three decades of the III Republic. We believe the site can serve as a window into the lives of French men and women as they lived through what was certainly one of the most tumultuous periods in their nation’s history.

The project includes thousands of documents, clustered in various categories (see the Search the Archive page for details about the different series). In addition to over 1200 letters (of which approximately 900 are already transcribed, and many of these translated) of family correspondence, the archive includes thousands of business letters and other business or family documents.

The goals behind the project are multiple:

  • to make available to students and researchers a unique archive of personal and professional letters spanning nearly the entire nineteenth century.
  • to provide insights into private and professional life in provincial France, as well as oblique looks at so-called “big event” history, as viewed by minor players and spectators — for example, in series of letters dealing with the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, or war, invasion and flight in 1814 as the first Bonaparte’s empire crumbles or in 1870-71 as these catastrophes recur, this time with the siege of Paris, when the empire of Napoleon III suffers the same fate.
  • to attempt to create a unique cooperative of students and researchers. Many of the letters were transcribed and translated by undergraduates at Carleton College. It is our hope that other students and researchers will not just use the archive, but that they will want to participate in improving and expanding it. Hundreds of documents still need to be either transcribed or translated, and many translations require editing and annotation. (If you would like to request editorial access to the archive, please contact us.)