« Will be considered as the sea shore, all that it covers and uncovers during new and full moons, and as far as the great flood of March may extend to the sea side… »
Ordinance of Colbert 1681
Within a few centuries, perception of the coastline has radically changed. Thus, until the late eighteenth century, even though the word "coast" does not exist, we then prefer the word "shore", meaning that it is above "the seaside”. The shore has a repulsive image, as reminds Yves Luginbülh, It is "a place of horror, the place of the flood, the opposite of calm and tranquillity, the edge of the abyss, the place of the apparitions of sea monsters, the location of the discharge of excrement from the sea, the place of kidnappings, pirates, the location of the unsanitary manifested through the stories of sailors in the sea sickness, disease outbreaks on ships. " The Colbert Ordinance also states what may be regarded as the first principle of the non constructible shore: Let's defend all people to build on the shores of the Sea, to plant any pile, nor do any work, which can prejudicial to shipping under penalty of demolition of the works, confiscation of materials and arbitrary fine. "
In this new century, we must note an unprecedented initiative: the Grenelle de la Mer, which initiate a debate and a wide consultation for a sea and coast policy. The Blue Book of the “Grenelle de la Mer” published in July 2009, includes 137 proposals and more than 500 commitments taking into account the land & sea interface, and the development in other Marine Protected Areas (AMP). Is this an awareness of our politics regarding our Maritime dimension? France, is surrounded by four seas, has the longest coastline in Europe, and is the third naval power in the world...
Painters of the Navy have their letters of nobility. Joseph Vernet, in his work “The Views of the ports of France”, illuminates the eighteenth century and not the least, the Enlightenment one. Knighted by Louis XV, from 1753 to 1765, he travelled the coastline and, as such, is named Marine Painter to His Majesty. Two hundred and fifty years after Vernet, and in the tradition of his followers, thanks to my status of Painter of the Navy, I embarked for a work-long course that will lead me to the speed of a walker, from the Flemish coast to the Italian Riviera. A real inventory of our maritime heritage, which does not consider the weather conditions, but emphasizes the illustration, in order to show unsuspected treasures and human error.
As for Volume 1, I have one major regret in this modest encyclopaedia, the absence of the Coastal Conservancy, who did not cooperate despite our numerous requests. There was nevertheless a lot to say and to show about the work and acquisitions of this public institution these last 35 years. This Institution manages on our shores 138 000 hectares and 1,200 kilometres of coastline.
I've never merely talk about the sea and remake the world on a world map, as ecological as it could be. I travelled around from tides to waves, to show it as it is and not as we dreamed it to be.
PS: Talking about maritimity, it is inviting to think about the cultural and social constructions that have been edified by human groups to organize their relations to the sea, to protect themselves, to socialize it, to mark it, to love it.
Françoise Péron, Professor at the University of Western Brittany, Author of "The Maritime dimension today. "