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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History


Edited By Muriel Le Roux and Sébastien Richez

The cursus publicus, established by the Roman Empire to connect all its conquered territories, may be considered to be the ancestor of all modern post offices. Therefore, mail service networks are part of an organization, dating from Antiquity, which is common to the entire European community.
From the 18 th century onwards, the French mail service network may be divided into three successive phases. First, the consolidation of the transportation system that was being set up. Second, the development of the system’s ability to deal with increasing traffic (through broader human resources). Thirdly, the diversification of its operations and the development of its technical modernisation.
What was the situation in other European countries? Are there similarities and differences in how their networks were set up and organized? Finally, how did European Post Offices cooperate with each other in spite of their differences?
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Formal Procedures for Sending Official Correspondence to and from Canada During the Colonial Period (17th to 18th Century): Bernard Allaire



As instruments of communication that were essential to the efficiency of the colonial Canadian administration, official state correspondence in the 17th and 18th century was expedited according to special procedures. Matters of political, military, civil or religious importance required that such correspondence be handled separately from business or personal letters as it crossed the Atlantic. Official letters were given preferential treatment, not only because of their confidential nature but also because their strategic context required that they be sent through the most secure channels whenever possible. There was a somewhat effective system of “traceability” that allowed a letter to be traced and protected during the course of its delivery within the limitations of the period. Historians have been able to study the increase and successive transformations of delivery procedures for this type of mail thanks to two well known collections held in the French National Archives (ANF): the Colonial Archives and, to a lesser extent, the Naval Archives. These archives contain tens of thousands of letters, of which approximately 30,000 items concern Canada. In this article, I would like briefly to examine the special character of this official correspondence; the selection of routes, drop-off points, loading methods, the couriers’ profile, and security procedures.

The dispatch of official correspondence was adjusted to seasonal navigation between France and Canada. There was no correspondence at all between December and March because of the dangerous ice on the St. Lawrence River that prevented sailing. This geographic impediment...

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