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Claude Langlois's Vision of France

Regional Identity, Royal Imaginary, and Holy Women

Donald Sutherland

Claude Langlois’s work points the way out of a long-standing whiggish view, not only of French, but also European historiography. If Western Civ textbooks or respectable general histories reflect the consensus of the profession, it is still easy to find themes of progress toward equality, secularism, and modernity. Such themes are defensible, of course, but they are one-sided. They omit a lot, like the experiences of those left out of the march of progress, of religious institutions, and of unintended victims of revolution and civil war. A more sophisticated rendering would be more satisfactory since it would emphasize resistance, the apparently marginal, and the richness of historical experience. It would replace assumptions about inevitable outcomes with a greater awareness of contingency. Claude Langlois’s work on women, religion, and the French Revolution illustrates how such a complicated history might look.

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War, Occupation, and Empire in France and Germany

Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

“What is a nation?” Ernest Renan’s famous rhetorical question to an audience at the Sorbonne on 11 March 1882 has remained vital for a wide variety of scholars in fields as diverse as history, literary criticism, sociology, philosophy, and political science. Renan initially posed the question barely ten years after the close of the Franco-Prussian War, which had sparked the establishment of the French Third Republic, the unification of Germany under the leadership of Wilhelm I, and the transfer of the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine from French to German control in the months between July 1870 and May 1871. Renan made no overt mention of these events while he was speaking, but he rejected any possible answer to his question that might attempt to base the creation of nations and national identities on shared “race, language, [economic] interests, religious affinity, geography, [or] military necessities.” This explicit refusal constituted an implicit rejection of the entire range of German justifications for the acquisition of the two recently French border provinces.

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The Politics of French and German Cinema, 1930-1945

Brett Bowles

The politics of French and German cinema between the onset of the Great Depression and the end of World War II is far from a new topic of study. However, scholars have typically focused on one country or the other, rather than comparing the two, and prioritized high-profile directors (for example, Jean Renoir, Jean-Paul Le Chanois, Leni Riefenstahl, and Veit Harlan) whose work benefited from direct party sponsorship and served a clearly propagandistic function. Reflecting the evolution of cultural history and film studies over the past decade, this collection of essays seeks to enrich the traditional approach in three ways. The first is by expanding the definition of politics beyond official party or state discourse to include power-related issues such as representation of gender and gender roles; access to material resources including funding and technology; relationships between film creators and industry or government officials; and competition between commercial and ideological priorities in film production, censorship, and distribution.

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Robert Roswell Palmer

A Transatlantic Journey of American Liberalism

John Layton Harvey

To study how American scholars have written about the history of France over the course of the last hundred years is, in certain ways, to appraise the evolving contours of American liberalism. For American historians who specialize in the past of France, its empire, or its wider continental context, the twentieth century saw a steady growth of institutional optimism. Although conservative suspicion against popular sovereignty and universal Enlightenment reason once markedly influenced the profession, since the late 1950s the American study of France has been increasingly associated with an advancement of progressive-minded ideals. Yet, reflections over the past thirty years on the development of French history in American universities have been curiously silent on the nature or evolution of liberalism within their field. Its contours and challenges over the course of the twentieth century, as a distinct intellectual focus within the wider American Academy, remain in some ways terra incognita.

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Introduction

By lucky circumstance, this second issue in our continuing series on historians reflecting on their craft gave us the opportunity to feature the work of one of the most innovative and creative scholars writing French history today: Yves Pourcher.

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Policing the French Empire

Colonial Law Enforcement and the Search for Racial-Territorial Hegemony

Samuel Kalman

variety of models in use within the diverse array of locales. However, only rarely have collections focused exclusively on the French empire, and then principally sub-Saharan territories along with Madagascar. 5 Yet the entire “très grande France

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Introduction

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.

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Introduction

Civilization

Pim den Boer

A series of panels focusing on the concept of civilization were organized in each one of the annual meetings held by the History of Political and Social Concepts Group (HPSCG) in New York (2005), Uppsala (2006) and Istanbul (2007). The guiding idea of such an effort was to stimulate research on what became one of the most successful eighteenth-century neologisms in modern socio-political vocabulary. There has been extensive historical and conceptual research on civilization in German, French and English, but little has been produced on its introduction, translation and usage in other European and non-European languages.

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Beyond Left and Right

New Perspectives on the Politics of the Third Republic

Linda E. Mitchell

The articles in this issue all reflect on the various ways in which political trends during the period of the Third Republic have been categorized by both historians of the period and the political actors themselves. Ranging in topic from political trends in the French military in the years after the Dreyfus Affair to the participation of women in the politics of the extreme Right, these pieces focus especially on the need to transcend categories of Left and Right in order to discuss more accurately the ways in which the political party system developed, in particular during the years between the world wars.

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Colonial Violence

Samuel Kalman

Few scholars today question the binary relationship between imperialism and violence, and French historians are no exception. In recent years, a multitude of studies have appeared concerning the violence inherent in the conquest of the nineteenth-century Gallic empire, the maintenance and defense of the colonial system, and the decolonization process—massacres and torture during the Algerian War, for example. Such works often reflect Etienne Balibar’s definition of “structural violence”: an essential component of a repressive system, maintaining unequal social relations while defending “the interests, power positions, and forms of social domination.”1 This hegemony took various guises at different times throughout the history of French imperialism, operating in tandem with assaults on the indigènes (the term adopted by the authorities for natives). It could involve surveillance and intelligence gathering, security forces, and judicial-penal institutions employed to harass and control the colonized. Yet it also resulted from the forced pacification of native peoples (Alice Conklin refers to this policy as an “act of state-sanctioned violence”) and the imposition of the indigénat—the loose collection of rules that granted extraordinary police and disciplinary powers to the colonial administration, along with the imposition of forced labor and taxation.2 The ultimate defense of this system, and indeed its brutal apogee, emerged during the wars of decolonization, in which tens of thousands of the colonized were killed in Algeria and Indochina, while countless others were subjected to torture and incarceration.