The 1836 Anglo-French Postal Convention

Dr Geoffrey Lewis FRPSL (2015)


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Many letters to France from overseas were carried by British ships to Britain. They had to be addressed to someone in Britain, usually a forwarding agent, so that the British Post Office could collect the postage fees for providing the shipping service.
Th e 1836 Convention allowed Britain and France to collect postage for each other. Although they each had different currencies and weight units, the major complexity was because the British system was based on the number of sheets of paper whereas France’s system was weight-based. If a letter from overseas was addressed directly to France, the British Post Office would write the accountancy amount due in the upper right corner. Each letter had to be rated individually. Similar accountancy procedures were used on many other types of mail passing between Britain and France, then the two most important countries in the world.
This book has illustrations of 250 covers, and these originated from no less than 56 different countries and colonies. Each cover is described in full detail, with particular emphasis on the rates and the manuscript markings.
For each type of mail, the development of rates and markings is analysed with reference to the illustrated covers. Postal procedures are compared with those operating before and after the Convention. Occasionally there were discrepancies between the observed postal procedures and the postal regulations.
The 1836 Convention was in force until 1843. This was a crucial period in the development of postal communications. The major British postal reforms took effect in 1839 and 1840, but to some extent some aspects were present in the Convention. Technological developments gave rise to steamships which could travel across an ocean. Unlike sailing ships which were at the mercy of winds, steamers could travel at scheduled times. Many regular steam services commenced: across the Atlantic to North and Central America; in the Mediterranean; between Bombay and either the Red Sea or Persian Gulf. The overland route to India was opened up via Alexandria and Marseilles.