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The Society of Prisoners

Anglo-French Wars and Incarceration in the Eighteenth Century

Renaud Morieux

Publication Date - October 2022

ISBN: 9780192868039

448 pages
9.2 x 6.1 inches

In Stock


In the eighteenth century, as wars between Britain, France, and their allies raged across the world, hundreds of thousands of people were captured, detained, or exchanged. They were shipped across oceans, marched across continents, or held in an indeterminate limbo. The Society of Prisoners challenges us to rethink the paradoxes of the prisoner of war, defined at once as an enemy and as a fellow human being whose life must be spared.

Renaud Morieux redefines how we understand the notion of what a prisoner of war was before international legal and social conventions were introduced - in the eighteenth century, the distinction between a prisoner of war, a hostage, a criminal, and a slave was not always clear-cut. Morieux then uses war captivity as a lens through which to observe the eighteenth-century state, how it transformed itself, and why it endured. In so doing, he invites the reader to trace the history of the prisoners via a journey between Britain, France, the West Indies, and St Helena.


  • The first study to examine war captivity in the eighteenth century as a total phenomenon, from the perspectives of social, legal, economic, and cultural history
  • Offers a radically new way of writing the history of international law through the lens of prisoners of war
  • Addresses a range of subjects, including the ethics of war, philanthropy, forced migrations, the sociology of the prison, and the architecture of detention places
  • Draws on a large and diverse archive of English and French sources, many previously unexamined

About the Author(s)

Renaud Morieux, Professor of British and European History, University of Cambridge, Pembroke College

Renaud Morieux has been a lecturer in British history at Cambridge since 2011, before which he lectured in modern history at Lille for five years. He is Professor of British and European History at Pembroke College, Cambridge. His career, spanning the Channel, exemplifies his attempts to cross the intellectual and academic borders between France and Britain.

Table of Contents

    1. Defining the prisoner of war in international law: a comparative approach
    2. Hate or love thy enemy? Humanitarian patriotism
    3. The multiple geographies of war captivity
    4. The anatomy of the war prison
    5. The reinvention of Society?
    6. War captivity and social interactions
    Epilogue: Napoleon the prisoner of peace