Its missions

The Service historique de la Défense (SHD) has been the repository for the archives of the ministries responsible for military affairs since the beginning and has one of the richest specialised libraries in France. It is also responsible for approving, listing and collecting elements of military symbolism (emblems and insignia) and contributing to works relating to the history of Defence.

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Administrative address
Historical Service of Defence
Château de Vincennes
Avenue de Paris
94306 VINCENNES Cedex

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 Discover the SHD presentation clip  

As a first-rate documentary resource, its collections (450 km of archives dating back to the 17th century, nearly one million works) represent a part of the Nation's memory that the archivists, librarians, historians, and scientific and technical staff of the SHD are committed to preserving, transmitting and sharing. They belong to all French people. 

Heir to a long tradition that makes it one of the oldest national archives, the Service historique de la Défense has a particular organisation and its collections are arranged according to a complex system.

The historian discovers there not only the different aspects of the great conflicts that have shaped Europe and the world since the 17th century, but also the main strategic and military stakes of the great international policy.

The genealogist will find sources that will enable him to trace the careers of thousands of men and women who have contributed to the defence of the country.

As its name suggests, the Historical Service is not only a repository of archives and a rich library. From the beginning, it has also been an organisation dedicated to historical research.

As an archive service, the SHD has developed an original archival policy, characterised by the attention paid to the inventory of contemporary archives. The Historical Service favours the detailed numerical directory typology and has provided all of its contemporary collections with finding aids covering the period of the "Trente Glorieuses". It is working on the development of extensive subject indexes. Finally, the inventories of the Historical Service are most often accompanied by institutional introductions which constitute true political and administrative histories of the high authorities and the different components of the French armies through the centuries.

Created on 1 January 2005 by grouping together the former army historical services, the Service historique de la Défense is attached to the Director of Memory, Culture and Archives (DMCA), one of the directorates of the General Secretariat for Administration (SGA) of the Ministry of Defence.
It is composed of three centres: the historical archive centre located in Vincennes, the armament and civilian personnel archive centre (located in Châtellerault), the military personnel archive centre (located in Pau) and the territorial network centre located on seven sites (Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient, Rochefort, Toulon, Caen, Le Blanc).

Directorate of the Historical Service of Defence

  • Mrs. Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac, General Curator of Heritage, Head of the Historical Service of Defence
  • General Michel Ledanseur, Brigadier General, Deputy Head of Service.


Discover the SHD through the exhibition dedicated to its ten years of existence.

Access the internal regulations of the Château de Vincennes


Some figures

Nearly 450 linear kilometres of archives, including nearly 18 million photographs and over 50,000 maps and plans.
900,000 books.
2,000 registered readers per year.
10 locations (Vincennes, Châtellerault, Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient, Rochefort, Toulon, Caen, Le Blanc and Pau)

Last modification on 26/04/2023