Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques is dedicated to publishing work across all fields of intellectual-cultural history and the history of religion and mentalities. The five articles brought together in this issue are by historians who specialize in the modern era; their contributions featured here extend in chronological range from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first century. These writings all demonstrate the journal’s longstanding interest in the historical processes by which new ideas are generated, transmitted and received in societies.
Elizabeth C. Macknight
Legal Orientalism and French Jesuit Knowledge Production in India
Letters written by early modern missionaries played an important role in the development of global intellectual networks and inquiry into religion, language, cartography, and science. But the historical ethnography of law has not recognized the role that Jesuits played in creating the field of comparative law. This article examines the writings on law in India by the French Jesuit Jean-Venant Bouchet, who was an important source for Enlightenment philosophes and later Orientalists. It considers Bouchet’s systemic accounts of Indian law alongside his more ethnographic description of his legal encounters in South India, and argues that the practice of conversion and experiences in local legal fora determined and shaped Bouchet’s interpretation of Indian law. In other words, legal scholarship was produced in spiritual, religious, and political contexts, and cannot be abstracted from them.
The Sarajevo Assassination in History, Memory, and Myth
How has the Sarajevo assassination been conjured and construed, narrated and represented, in a wide variety of media including fiction, film, newspapers, children’s literature, encyclopedias, textbooks, and academic writing itself? In what ways have these sources shaped our understanding of the so-called “first shots of the First World War”? By treating the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (28 June 1914) as a "site of memory" à la historian Pierre Nora, this article argues that both popular representations and historical narratives (including academic writing) of the political murder have contributed equally to the creation of what I identify here as the “Sarajevo myth.”
Kyri W. Claflin
In the early twentieth century, French academic veterinarians launched a meat trade reform movement. Their primary objective was the construction of a network of regional industrial abattoirs equipped with refrigeration. These modern, efficient abattoirs-usines would produce and distribute chilled dead meat, rather than livestock, to centers of consumption, particularly Paris. This system was hygienic and economical and intended to replace the insanitary artisanal meat trade centered on the La Villette cattle market and abattoir in Paris. The first abattoirs-usines opened during World War I, but within 10 years the experiment had begun to encounter serious difficulties. For decades afterward, the experiment survived in the collective memory as a complete fiasco, even though some abattoirs-usines in fact persisted by altering their business models. This article examines the roadblocks of the interwar era and the effects of both the problems and their perception on the post-1945 meat trade.
Repatriating Folly in France in the Aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars
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.
The Montagnes Russes as Medical and Urban Artifacts
Postrevolutionary Paris witnessed a brief flowering of commercial gardens, precursors to the modern-day amusement park, which cultivated nature, exercise, and health in an urbanizing context. Bridging the eighteenth-century jardin-spectacle and the Second Empire network of public parks, pleasure grounds such as the Grand Tivoli and the Beaujon garden offered a range of activities including gymnastic games, bicycling, and, most strikingly of all, exhilarating rides on early roller coasters known as montagnes russes. Situated on the periphery of a rapidly densifying city and abstracting natural forms for urban consumption, these rides integrated discourses of hygiene and recreation. Analyzing these short-lived curiosities from the vantage points of medical, cultural, and urban history, this article argues that the montagnes russes helped disseminate modern conceptions of health and gender in popular culture.
What Is Old Is New Again
Through a variety of disciplinary lenses, this innovative forum, coedited with Victoria Thompson, investigates a particular cultural space and time, namely the emergence of proto–roller coasters known as montagnes russes or “Russian mountains” in Paris in 1817. Peggy Davis, Sun-Young Park, and Christine Haynes depict the early years of the Restoration (1814/1815–1830) as a liminal moment in the emergence of modernity. Although this forum began as a panel at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies, the authors have extended and improved their pieces significantly. Taken together, they show that as foreigners flocked to Paris and the French adjusted to diminished circumstances in the aftermath of Napoleon’s second defeat, identities were in flux. This forum explores how and why the montagnes russes became such a cultural phenomenon and suggests their role in forging a new French identity in the wake of war and revolution.
W. Brian Newsome
At the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies, Willa Silverman and Kyri Claflin delivered presentations for a session entitled “Eating and Edifying: Perspectives on the Culinary History of the Third Republic.” Chaired by Janet Horne and with commentary by Paul Freedman, the panel offered innovative perspectives on French food history. Refined in response to Freedman’s suggestions, the contributions of Silverman and Claflin form the nucleus of the present forum. Michael Garval has joined Silverman and Claflin with an article of his own, and all three have benefited from the recommendations of two double-blind peer reviewers. The finished product—now two years in the making—is one that Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is pleased to present to its readers.
Representing Culinary Apprenticeship in Early Third Republic France
Michael D. Garval
Revealing paradoxes abounded in early Third Republic French representations of the marmiton, or culinary apprentice. Investigative reportage and reformist discourse exposed apprentices’ miserable existence while still depicting these young fellows as playful and carefree. Conversely, popular marmiton mythology, particularly in children’s literature, idealized culinary apprenticeship, amid glimpses of harsh living and working conditions, while also highlighting admittedly rare opportunities for ambitious apprentices to achieve substantial public success. Max Jacob’s children’s book Histoire du Roi Kaboul Ier et du Marmiton Gauwain provides an emblematic example with its parodic fairy-tale rendering of celebrity chef Auguste Escoffier’s extraordinary triumphs. Ultimately, while enchanting, the rosy popular vision of the magical marmiton obfuscated exploitative child labor practices underpinning the whole culinary enterprise in this supposed golden age of French gastronomy.
Print Culture and Visual Satire in Restoration Paris
Restoration-era discourse on the montagnes russes—early roller coasters—reveals how leisure activity could become a lightning rod for perspectives on public space, tensions among social groups, and expressions of patriotism. Eager to profit from the montagnes russes craze, boulevard theaters hosted a number of plays on the subject. Through the buffoonish character M. Calicot, one such comedy—entitled The Battle of the Mountains— caricatured young clothing-trade salesclerks who frequented roller-coaster parks. The play provoked the ire of some of these men, who “waged war” on the Variety Theater, where the play was performed. The conflict in turn sparked satires in print, visual, and other media. These cultural productions both reflected the short-lived mania for roller coasters and shaped attitudes in their own right, all while employing laughter to deal with postwar trauma.