From May 12 to September 5, 2022, the National Archives will meet at the Hôtel de Soubise to discover an emblematic document of France’s collections and history: the Decree abolishing slavery of 27 April 1848. This exhibition is part of the The Essentials : launched in fall 2021 with the presentation of the Declaration of Human and Citizen’s Rights of 1789, the cycle shows and understands the founding documents of the Nation’s history. It places the visitor in a close relationship with the originals of documents that everyone has heard about, because they are strong markers of our History and they also question our present.

For this second date, the Decree of Abolition of Slavery of 1848 is compared with archives placing in context the reality of colonial slavery, a major fact of the history of France, recognized as a crime against humanity, since 2001. These documents testify to the slow process and the struggles to see the realization of the demands for freedom, born of the aspirations of the populations enslaved in the French colonies, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

The National Archives is partnering with the Slavery Memorial Foundation, whose insights and approach have been extremely valuable in positioning the subject in contemporary debates. The exhibition will be enriched, the 1er and June 2, 2022, a symposium open to all. Entitled 1848, and after? Getting out of slavery, this colloquium recontextualizes the abolition of 1848 in the long term and in a global process in its legal, social and economic consequences in order to reflect on the memorial stakes of it.

Attached to the Ministry of Culture, the National Archives have kept state archives since the seventh century. Composed of millions of documents, their value lies as much in their contribution to historical knowledge and individual and collective memory as in their heritage interest. Some of these documents materialize the founding events of our history. They are essential milestones in the construction of our contemporary society. They are factors of cohesion and question our present. Sign of openness of the National Archives on the society, the programming of the cycle The Essentials is determined by the public’s choice. This participatory approach is a first for the National Archives, and positions the institution as a committed actor in favour of citizenship and public debate. The exhibition of these texts and the global approach illustrate the will of the National Archives to reaffirm its DNA born of the French Revolution.

In fall 2022, theOrdinance of 1944 which gives women the right to vote, and then in spring 2023, the Badinter Law of 1981 which abolishes the death penalty, will in turn be exposed to the public and accessible free of charge.