Centre des archives diplomatiques de Nantes
The central repository of papers produced by French diplomatic and consular missions overseas. Note that the archives of former French colonies (from the years during which they were colonies) are not held at this archive.
17, rue du Casterneau
BP 43605, 44036 Nantes cedex 1
(33) 2 51 77 24 59
(33) 2 51 77 24 60
Schedule & hours
Monday to Friday, 9-6. Annual closure during the last two weeks of September.
French, some English
The archive is accessed through a gate from de Casterneau. After leaving a passport at the guardhouse on the left, proceed into the courtyard; the reading room is on your right. The entrance hall contains lockers, a room with vending machines and a telephone, and an unused exhibition room. The reading room itself is attractive and comfortable. Choose a place at one of half a dozen tables on the left (the room accommodates about three dozen researchers at a time). Each station has a light and power outlet. As the room is fairly dimly lit, workplaces near the windows are desirable, particularly for photographing documents. Archivists in charge of the reading room work from a circular desk in its centre. Behind this desk (on your right as you enter the room) are the shelves containing catalogues and handlists and a table on which to consult them. Beside this area is a smaller room, which contains microfilm and microfilm readers. Various reference books and periodicals are held on open shelves on the walls of the reading room. A computer terminal gives access to the internet.
The archive building, its street, and the quarter itself, are quiet and nondescript but easy to find. For a map and directions, see the CADN website. From the train station, take bus n°12, direction La Colinière, and get off at the "Dalby" stop. From place du Commerce in the middle of town, take bus n°11, direction Jules Verne, and get off at the "Casterneau" stop.
Description of holdings
CADN's major holdings include the Foreign Ministry records of
- all French diplomatic and consular missions overseas
- French delegations to international organizations and commissions
- the French protectorates in Tunisia (1881-1956) and Morocco (1912-56)
- the French mandate in Syria (1920-46)
The archive also contains material concerning the central administration of the foreign ministry, photographs and visual material, and microfilms of Foreign Ministry material that is held in other French archives. For a more detailed survey of holdings, consult these PDF summary files on the CADN website.
History of the archive
The Nantes archive opened in 1987. Previously (presumably), its material was held at central Foreign Ministry archives.
Catalogues & finding aids
CADN's catalogues are print only, and therefore must be consulted on site. Most but by no means all of the material at CADN has been catalogued. Every year, new finding aids are released, often produced with the assistance of student archivists carrying out internships in Nantes. It is worth asking archivists about the state of cataloging for each particular series--sometimes a draft catalogue (not yet on public display) can be consulted.
Languages of materials
Most material is in French.
Restrictions & difficulties
Archivists apply time restrictions diligently, which range from 100 to 70 to fewer years depending on the nature of the material. Researchers can apply for an exception (derogation) from the Foreign Ministry; this process typically takes some weeks.
Future of the archive
CADN continues to release catalogues of its collections.
The guards at the gatehouse take down your information and conduct you to the reading room, where you fill in an information form and receive an orientation to the collection and finding aids. You can email or call in advance to request documents be delivered in anticipation of your visit. Although it generally takes a day to deliver documents, on a first visit the staff often assists researchers by retrieving their first requests immediately.
Permitted and prohibited items
- Permitted: laptop computers, cameras
- Prohibited: scanners are prohibited in theory, though their use has been observed
Order documents using the form pictured on the right. You can request up to 7 documents per day. Documents requested by 1 pm will be delivered the next morning.
Ordering classified material
Material of produced during the last 60 years (or so) can be accessed if researchers receive special permission in the form of a dérogation from the Ministry. Archive staff can explain how to request a dérogation.
Documents are delivered to a small room behind the archivists' desk. Items ordered before 1 pm arrive the following morning, and those ordered after 1 pm usually arrive later the following day. You can order 7 items each day, and consult them one at at time. If you have finished with an item, simply return it to the archivist on duty. If you want to keep it for future use, fill in the green form pictured to the right.
Photocopying, photography, microfilming
Archive staff will photocopy upon request, but it is most convenient (and preferred) if researchers bring a camera and photograph their own documents.
(what are the main forms that the archive uses? if possible, provide links to copies or post copies directly)
Anne-Sophie Cras, one of the main archivists, is tremendously resourceful. She often makes connections between proposed research programs and those of other scholars with similar interests. She is also willing to share catalogues in preparation. Many of the staff are members of the French diplomatic service, without formal archival training. As part of their service rotation, they spend two years at the archives in Nantes, before returning to another posting abroad.
(scholars who are familiar with this archive)
(published works based on research at this archive)
Nantes is a good place to eat, but the area around the archives is a bit of a culinary wasteland. Vending machines in the "lounge" sell drinks, coffee, and the like. There is a grocery store to the west, where de Castelnau meets rue des Chalâtres. Further north on des Chalâtres, at a roundabout, there is a bar that serves lunch. East of the archives, on Route de Sainte-Luce, there is a bakery that sells sandwiches. The park on Ernest Dalby, just south of the archives, is a nice spot to eat lunch.
Tokens are provided to lock the small lockers at the entrance to the archive.
The archive's washrooms feature sleek, space-age design.
Public transportation in Nantes is excellent. Two buses pass within two minutes of the archives--details here. The walk from the tramway is a bit longer--fifteen minutes. Bicycles are an excellent way to get around, and can be rented inexpensively at any municipal parking garage (there is one next door to the train station).
Free internet access is available via a computer terminal in the reading room.
A small number of publications, produced by the friends of the archives and the archivists, are available for purchase in the reading room.
Please see the European Union's description of the archive. The entry is available in both French and English.