Dress, Identity, and Negotiation by British Prisoners of War in France, 1803-1812

  • Kelsey Power King’s College, London


British prisoners of war captured during the Napoleonic Wars were preoccupied with dress. This is unsurprising given clothing’s relationship to physical and mental health and to identity. However, the discussion of clothing by prisoners during this period goes beyond the passive engagement with these concepts to a conscious manipulation of how dress could be used, and how it could be ‘read’ by others. This paper argues that British prisoners of war used their knowledge of dress, and the skills learned during their incarceration, and from their professions, to turn clothing into escape technologies, and a means to assert agency.