During the Napoleonic Wars thousands of prisoners were taken on all sides. In much of Europe these prisoners were traded, kept in camps, and even released as different coalitions formed and today's enemy became tomorrows ally. In Great Britain this was a little different. Great Britain never sided with the French so the prisoners they took were kept for years at a time. Prisoners were treated differently in those days and often they were blended into society. French officers were often housed with English families and paid to teach French language lessons. This was allowed simply on their word that they would not try to escape or return to the fighting.
Enlisted troops were held on prison barges on the Thames. If they gave their word that they would not escape they were allowed to go pier-side and sell their crafts to the English public. Even if they didn't make a promise not to escape, English traders could go aboard the barges and purchase crafts from the prisoners. These craft items were sold to obtain money for personal luxuries like tobacco, soap, food, and even liquor.
I have accumulated a few of these items to display with my Napoleonic stuff.
First, and most popular were games. These were made from whatever was available, usually mutton bone left over from the evening meal. Wood and other materials were used as well.
Here is a domino set carved of mutton bone and wood, and a teetotum, also of mutton bone:
Another popular item was a thing called an Etui, or a small case for needles, toiletries, etc. This was made of straw and dyed with natural dyes:
Some small utility items were also common, like this sardine fork made of cow bone:
Another very common item was doll house furniture, made of mutton bone, very intricate, and probably easy to sell to a well-to-do English family man:
All of these items are attributed to French prisoners.
The ultimate authority for this type of art, in my opinion, is:
Just a few items to show "the other side of war".
General militaria discussion.
4 posts • Page 1 of 1
Very cool, an excellent post! I was aware of these items and their History having been an avid watcher of both UK and US Antiques Roadshow. Fantastic carving!
Remember, Pillage first THEN Burn ...