Advancing Navigation in Eighteenth-Century France: Teaching and Instrument-Making in the Port of Rochefort

By A.J. Turner, published November 2005


In the 17th Century the French developed the port of Rochefort as a naval base, and courses of instruction by a professor of hydrography were initiated for potential ships’ officers. This was followed in 1682 by the setting up in parallel of the Ecole des Guardes de la Marine. This Ecole provided a comprehensive syllabus of academic and seamanship subjects for up to 100 pupils. A shortage of instructional equipment became apparent in 1692, and this was met in a non-centralised manner by the manufacture of instruments by local craftsmen such as locksmiths and pulley –makers. Detailed information on instruction and instrument-making is given in four appendices to the article.  The article deals with advancement in the education and training of French mariners initiated by Jean-Baptiste Colbert during the mid-seventeenth century. Colbert introduced regulations for training in 1681; Ecoles des Gardes de la Marine, were established at Rochefort and elsewhere; and the post of Professor of Hydrography was created. The training syllabus included surveying, drawing of charts and navigation. Light frigates, of 18-20 guns, were provided for training at Toulon, Brest and Rochefort. For most of the eighteenth century instruments could only be obtained from Paris, but local tradespeople carried out repairs and eventually commenced manufacture themselves.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Early Modern)
Subjects include: Administration | Science & Exploration

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