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La Rochelle had been a major city and port since the 12th century and had played a prominent role in the Hundred Years War that spanned the 14th and 15th centuries as well as the Wars of Religion of the 16th century. The city was a major Huguenot centre and enjoyed some political independence until a dispute with Cardinal Richelieu resulted in a lengthy siege and the subsequent loss of its privileges in 1628.
Quite why Bargrave visited the city is unclear and he does not provide us with any specific clues. The mussel shells in his collection were acquired as he walked along the sea side and met men collecting the shell-fish.