Scholarly attention to the history and legacies of France's overseas empire is a welcome development of the last two decades, but the field of modern French colonial history has become overly focused on the “tensions” and “contradictions” of universalist republican imperialism. This introduction argues that we must recognize the ideological diversity of the French state and the complexity of the relationships between colonial and metropolitan histories in the modern period. The articles in this special issue show the critical role of the non-republican regimes of the nineteenth century in the construction of the modern French empire, and the ways that colonial entanglements shaped processes of post-Revolutionary reconstruction in France under the Restoration (1815–1830), July Monarchy (1830–1848), Second Republic (1848–1851), and Second Empire (1852–1870).
The Politics of Empire in Post-Revolutionary France
Naomi J. Andrews and Jennifer E. Sessions
Slave Flight, Slave Torture, and the State
Nineteenth-Century French Guiana
This article explores the relationship between law and violence against slaves in nineteenth-century French Guiana. Drawing on unpublished sources from the colonial archives, Spieler examines the linked problems of slave abuse and slave flight to understand the evolving character of the French imperial state in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. In the early nineteenth century, after the abolition of the slave trade, imperial administrators in Guiana contested the proprietary privileges of masters and lay claim to the right to punish slaves. During the 1820s and 1830s, slave testimony—especially the testimony of abused slaves (inside and outside the courtroom)—became unexpectedly central to this dispute between masters and administrators about the source of legitimate violence and the meaning of imperial sovereignty.
Robert Doughty, Alice Kaplan, and Camille Robcis
Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War by Paul Jankowski Robert Doughty
Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis by Alice Kaplan Donald Reid
The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France by Camille Robcis Judith G. Coffin
A Capitalism That Kills
Workplace Suicides at France Télécom
France Télécom has been at the center of intense public scrutiny since 2008, following a sharp rise in workplace suicides at the company. This macabre reputation now stood in sharp contrast with the company's image during the 1980s and 1990s as a showpiece for successful liberalization and as a former state-owned enterprise that was blazing a trail toward a new globalized economy. Drawing on Emile Durkheim's seminal work, Suicide (1897), the article examines the social conditions that precipitated workplace suicides at France Télécom. It situates the suicides within the context of the rise of a new model of finance capitalism that profoundly transformed the status and perceived value of the individual worker in the production process. Far from representing a tragic accident or an aberration in an otherwise smooth-functioning economic order, the France Télécom suicides were the outcome of a management strategy that set out to fulfill the imperatives of finance capitalism by eliminating what was seen as an unacceptable obstacle to its economic goals: the company's own employees.
The Carnot Commission and the Teacher Insurgency of Second Republic France
Most studies of the social and political upheavals of the Second Republic treat violence as the main way people resisted the military coup and repression of 1851 and view political dissent through the lens of class. But the suppression of unorthodox political voices in the academy brings another form of resistance to light. Close personal networks and the organizational culture of the French academy distinguished the universitaires' animosity toward Louis Napoleon. To map the patterns of teachers' dissent, I use the proceedings of the Carnot Commission, an organ created by the emergency government of 1870 to gather information about the universitaires who had suffered political persecution around the time of the 1851 coup and offer them restitution. The Commission's work reveals a pattern of personal connections and distaste for authoritarianism that reflected the republican consensus as it emerged in the 1870s.
The Transition from Ultranationalism to Pan-Europeanism by the Interwar French Fascist Right
This article considers the emergence of pan-European discourse and the creation of transnational networks by the intellectual extreme Right during the interwar and occupation years. Through a close reading of the essays, speeches, and texts of French fascist intellectuals Abel Bonnard, Alphonse de Châteaubriant, and Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, the author contends that it was during the interwar and wartime decades that the French extreme Right transitioned from its traditional ultranationalism to a new concept of French national identity as European identity. More importantly, these three leading fascist intellectuals worked to distinguish their concept of European federation and transnational cultural exchange as anterior to and independent of submission to Nazi Germany. It was, therefore, in the discourse and the transnational socio-professional networks of the interwar period that we can find the foundation for the new language of Europeanism that became ubiquitous among the postwar Eurofascists and the Nouvelle Droite today.
Dimanche à Orly
The Jet-Age Airport and the Spectacle of Technology between Sky and Earth
Vanessa R. Schwartz
This article examines the second most visited site in Paris during the 1960s, behind only the Eiffel Tower, which stood outside the city's walls in Orly. The airport there, re-built in 1961 to welcome the new era of high-speed air travel in the form of jet service, featured a prominent “terrasse” where visitors paid admission to watch the jets come and go. This article examines the jet-age renovation of the airport and the wild popularity of visits there in order to consider the role of visual spectacle in advancing the culture of technological optimism of 1960s France.
The Mendès France Milk Regime
Alcoholism as a Problem of Agricultural Subsidies, 1954–1955
In 1954, Pierre Mendès France committed the state to curbing alcoholism as part of an effort to reorient important agricultural sectors and improve French economic performance, using milk as a symbol of his government's new direction. While Mendès France's milk drinking was often portrayed as the whim of a maverick politician, this article shows instead that it was the expression of a broadly based movement to modernize the economy. Challenging the view of an insular state that exclusively served the powerful alcohol lobbies, this article contends that the success of alcohol reform hinged on Mendès France's ability to overcome parliament and pit other economic sectors and a public health movement against those lobbies. Although it would require the more centralized authority of the Fifth Republic to implement lasting reforms to the alcohol sector, the Mendès France government helped raise public awareness about the purported link between alcoholism and agricultural subsidies that kept uncompetitive producers on the land at the taxpayer's expense.
“Plunging the Soul into Contemplation”
On MoMA's Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes
Nicole C. Rudolph
This article reviews the New York Museum of Modern Art's recent Le Corbusier retrospective and its accompanying catalogue. The author critically evaluates the curators' reassessment of Le Corbusier's legacy via the lens of landscape. A key insight gleaned from the show pertains to technologies of mobility: inspired by the views from the automobile, the steamer, and the airplane, Le Corbusier deployed modern materials and techniques of mass construction in order to maximize an inhabitant's contemplation of the natural world. What we learn from Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, the author argues, is that the architect valorized and designed to prioritize “3 Cs”: circulation, composition, and contemplation. The notion of contemplation may be more useful to understanding Le Corbusier's architecture than the concept of landscape.