By Adélaïde Laloux,
under the supervision of Bérangère Fourquaux, Vincent Lemire and Yann Potin
As part of the Open Jerusalem research project (funded by the European Research Council, ERC), a systematic and standardized description of the archives of the French Consulate of Jerusalem has been launched for the period 1843-1940. This mission was funded by the Open Jerusalem project and received the support of the French Consulate in Jerusalem and of the Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes (CADN). The purpose of this first mission (January 2016) was to treat the part concerning the 1843–1914 period of the series 294 PO/B (71 archive boxes = 6.7 linear meters).
Since its repatriation to France in 1978, the series 294 PO/B has indeed been much solicited by researchers. The original manuscript inventory of 1956 was not very detailed, many files were no longer located in their initial place, and some boxes were particularly disorganized. For all of these reasons, the reclassification of all 71 boxes and the consolidation and deepening of the existing inventory was undertaken as part of this mission. This was done in order to facilitate the consultation and the appreciation of these particularly rich and exciting archives for the history of Jerusalem. Indeed, the records contain numerous documents on the political situation in the Holy City, the relationship between the local authorities and Ottoman government, municipal taxes, business affairs, the maintenance of public order, conflicts and solidarity between religious communities, public works and urban development, health issues, etc.
The very rare and high quality of these archives must be highlighted. They were reorganized on site by Consul Boppe in 1904, and inventoried (still on site) by Paulette Gustin in the 1950s. In a 1958 inspection report, the French Consulate was complimented for the quality of its records: “Jerusalem can serve as an example to other consulates,” it stated. To prepare the successive returns to the CADN, several missions were conducted to the consulate: the archivists Ms Pouillon and Ms Pozzo di Borgo undertook an archive mission in Jerusalem in October and November 1977, just before the return of the archives to France in 1978.
Moreover, it should be stressed that very few European consulates in Jerusalem were able to keep such excellent records, quantitatively and qualitatively. When the Ottoman Empire entered the war against the Triple Entente in November 1914, the French, British and Russian consulates were hurriedly closed. During World War I, the consulate of neutral Spain was in charge of looking after the interests (and archives) of the Allied powers. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Russian Consulate archives were lost. The British Consulate archives were generally incorporated by the new occupying authorities and agents after 1917, which now makes them difficult to locate: they have been dispersed in the Mandate archives. Regarding the archives of the Prussian and German consulates, they were sealed by the British authorities in 1939 and then partially recovered by the new Israeli State Archives (ISA) after 1949. Among other ongoing investigations, the Open Jerusalem Program strives to locate and describe all consular archives in Jerusalem, including the archives of the Italian and Spanish consulates, which will require a mission to Rome and Madrid.
Brief history of the Series CADN/294 PO/B
The fond Archives du Consulat de France à Jerusalem, preserved in the CADN consists of two subfonds encompassing nine description series. The first subfond (1843–1947), which is at the center of our research, includes: – Series A, which includes the archives concerning the Holy Places, from 1843 to 1914 – Series B, which includes the thematic files of the French Consulate from 1843 to 1941 – Both series A & B were repatriated to France in 1978. Before France established its consulate in Jerusalem, its interests were managed successively by the its consulates France in Aleppo, Damascus and Cairo. In 1842 the foreign ministry decided to create a consulate in Jerusalem, whose first titleholder was Comte Gabriel Lantivy. The consulate had, like other consulates, three main roles: to administer and protect the French community and French nationals abroad, to administer services for French nationals abroad (civil status, notary, issuing of identity documents, registration of French nationals) and, finally, to promote the French cultural identity. The consulate was placed directly under the authority of the France Embassy in Constantinople. Therefore, the French consular archives cover all the activities of the consulate and its relations with local authorities, religious communities, consulates of other countries, the embassy and foreign ministry since 1843.
Achievements of the mission
The mission lasted one month, from 4 to 29 January 2016. Initially, the mission allowed for a better understanding of the history of the fond and of the process of successive repatriations, as well as a better documentation of the series, through the consultation of the records of the Archives Department of the French Consulate in Jerusalem (odds 13ACN / 239).
Secondly, the systematic treatment of boxes 1–71 (representing 6.7 linear meters) helped to consolidate the ranking and to refine (and to correct, if necessary) the initial manuscript description of the records, made in 1956. The documentary typology was systematically clarified. In addition, the documents were returned to the specific order described by the 1956 manuscript, despite the significant disorder of some boxes. For better conservation in the future, all documents were repackaged in neutral paper sleeves and neutral cardboard boxes.
Alongside this work of repackaging, the 1956 manuscript inventory was retyped in a word processor, greatly simplifying the searching of the files and allowing queries by date or keyword.
Furthermore, a systematic survey of the relevant thematic elements for the Open Jerusalem project was drawn up with the help of a table of predetermined topics.
Finally, with a view to a possible future digitization, a list of oversized documents or documents in bad condition was compiled. The complete digitization diagnostic is still in progress.