Service historique de la Défense, Château de Vincennes

  • Defence Historical Service (Vincennes)
  • SHD Vincennes
  • SHD
  • Archives of the French Army Ministry of Defense: Historical Office of the Army


Château de Vincennes, Avenue de Paris
Vincennes Cedex


+33 (0)1 41 93 43 90


The Defence Historical Service (Service historique de la défense or SHD) is the record centre for the French Ministry of Defence.

Established in 2005, the Service historique de la Défense is attached to the Directorate of Memory, Heritage and Archives (SGA / DMPA). It was established after the merger of the four historical services of the Army, Navy and Air Force and the Gendarmerie, as well as the archival centre of weapons and personnel of Chatellerault. The SHD is spread over several sites in Vincennes, Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient, Rochefort, Toulon and Caen, with depots Le Blanc and Fontainebleau.

Archival and Other Holdings

Thanks to the Service Historique de la Défense , researchers can access the Minstry of Defence’s vast collection of records dating back as far as the 17th century. The core of these records is made up of documents from the Ministry of Defence and consequently, of the armed forces. To this have been incorporated collections from the General Delegation for Ordnance, the Secretariat-General for National Defence - a department falling under the remit of the prime minister - and collections from the ministry of war veterans that became part of the state department and were recently placed under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. The Defence Historical Service has gathered its exceptional record collections in its two centres in Vincennes and Châtellerault. These collections provide the main source of French military history since the 17th Century. Correspondence from ministers, their offices and headquarters, unit war diaries, or even private records from top political and military figures; all this enables historians to retrace campaigns from Louis XIV and the epic actions of the great Napoleon army to the most recent conflicts of our time. In addition to the different aspects of these great conflicts that have shaped Europe, these records shed light on the strategic and military issues of international politics, with a wealth of information on Africa and Asia through the records of the French armies overseas. Although they are essential for research into military history, these records are also of great interest for their documentation of the cultural, diplomatic, scientific, economic and social history of France and other nations. From the first marine atlases to aerial photographs, the Records of the Ministry of Defence holds documents containing a wealth of information, works of engineers and military cartographers who, since the 16th Century, have exercised their talents on land, sea and in the air. They show how these skilled professionals contributed not only to geographic knowledge of the national territory, but also to the evolution of map-making techniques. Finally, the technical record collections describe studies and tests concerning the production of weapons show the influence of the defence services on scientific and technical development. The history of national defence also concerns the lives of individuals who fought in the ranks of the French army over many centuries. Although conscription records are sent by the ministry to the regional records relating to each person in question, the centre in Vincennes holds individual files on officers of the three armed forces and the national Gendarmerie, dating from the 18th Century. The centre in Châtellerault houses civilian files dating from the end of the 19th Century. The collective records from various units add to or provide these sources from individuals and personnel who contributed to the manufacture of weapons. Apart from the ministry personnel or the armies, the two world wars of the 20th Century involved the whole nation. Hence, the register of those who died for France in the First World War, files on resistance networks or registers from concentration camps, all record the names of hundreds of thousands of people and shed a little light on the history of every citizen whose name is entered.

The Chateau de Vincennes holds the archives of the Ministry of Defence (and its precedents), inter-army organisations ("organismes interarmées"), the Army, the Air Force, la gendarmerie nationale, the Navy General Staff and of navy organisations based in Ile-de-France. Vincennes has a specialised library in the field of defence.

Opening Times

The SHD reading room in Vincennes (Salle de lecture Louis XIV) is open:

Monday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday from 9.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Most of the documents kept at the SHD of Vincennes need to be ordered in advance.

Request forms can be found here:

The completed form must be returned to the SHD by e-mail (to the address on the form). It is not possible to order documents over the phone.

Important: In order to process your booking requests, a minimum of 5 working days must be respected between the reservation of the document and the day of its consultation in the reading room.

Some archival documents can be consulted without prior reservation, except on Saturdays. For a list of the archival collections concerned and the practical arrangements for consultation, please refer to the following document:

Microfilms are also available without reservation.

Conditions of Access

To order and consult archives in the reading room in Vincennes, it is necessary to have a reader card and number. Researchers can download the application form here:

The reader registration office is open:

Monday from 1 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.
Tuesday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4.50 p.m.
Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3.50 p.m.

Research Services

Research instruments are accessible on the webpage (697 inventories of various collections)


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