The Battle of the Mountains

Repatriating Folly in France in the Aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
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At the beginning of the Second Restoration, Paris was swept by a mania for roller coasters, which were dubbed montagnes russes after a Russian tradition of sledding on ice hills. Situating this phenomenon in the context of the military occupation of France following the defeat of Napoleon, this article analyzes one of the many plays featuring these “mountains,” Le Combat des montagnes (“The Battle of the Mountains”), and especially two of its main characters, La Folie (Folly) and Calicot (Calico Salesman). The “battle” over the roller coasters, it argues, was really a contest over how to redefine national identity around consumer culture rather than military glory. Through the lens of the montagnes russes, the article offers a new perspective on the early Restoration as an aftermath of war.

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