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French Catholics, Women, and the Home

The Founding Generation of the Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne féminine

W. Brian Newsome

In 1928 a group of young Parisian working women, guided by Father Georges Guérin, established a Catholic youth group called the Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne féminine. This study examines the ideas of the founding generation of the so-called Jocists on women and the home; the ways in which these conceptions were rooted in religious assumptions about women and domestic space; the evolution of these positions through the Ligue ouvrière chrétienne féminine and the Mouvement populaire des familles (adult organizations that evolved from the youth group); and the effect of these ideas on the shape of domestic space in France. From this investigation emerges a portrait of conflicted individuals and organizations advocating ideas that were sometimes conservative, sometimes liberal, often contradictory, but all rooted in Catholic social doctrine. This story enriches our understanding of the Catholic Left, of which these associations became an integral part, and the impact that these groups had on France.

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W. Brian Newsome

This article investigates the experiences of French women in communities of single-family homes by analyzing Villagexpo, a model subdivision built in the Paris suburb of Saint-Michel-sur-Orge in 1966. Drawing on archival resources and recent interviews with original inhabitants, the article argues that the “village“ model of Villagexpo attracted a nucleus of couples with deep roots in associational movements. Committed to the concept of village life, they facilitated social activity in the subdivision, helping female residents overcome a sense of isolation. The article modifies previous, and largely negative, depictions of the experiences of women in communities of single-family homes and places Villagexpo in the context of broader urban trends.

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Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe

Catholicism, Social Science, and Democratic Planning

W. Brian Newsome

Over the course of his career, urban sociologist Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe evolved from a sociological interpreter of human needs into an advocate of the democratization of city planning. The major factors shaping this trajectory were his contacts with liberal Catholic associations, his education under ethnologist Marcel Mauss, his teaching experience at the École des cadres d'Uriage, and his own studies of working-class communities. Chombart de Lauwe took French urban sociology in novel directions and effected an important and underappreciated liberalization of city planning. Analysis of Chombart de Lauwe also challenges recent trends in the historiography of the Catholic Left.

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Occupation, Race, and Empire

Maxence Van der Meersch's Invasion 14

W. Brian Newsome

In his 1935 novel Invasion 14, Maxence Van der Meersch painted a nuanced picture of the German invasion and occupation of northern France during World War I. Despite local controversy, Invasion 14 won national and international praise, losing the Prix Goncourt by a single vote. Though neglected in the wake of World War II, when the author's treatment of Franco-German relations between 1914 and 1918 ran headlong into evolving myths of widespread resistance between 1940 and 1944, Invasion 14 has garnered renewed attention as a window onto the occupation of World War I. Heretofore unappreciated, however, is Van der Meersch's use of colonial themes of race and empire. Based on research in the Archives Maxence Van der Meersch, this study explores the author's treatment of colonial motifs, demonstrating their centrality to the novel and the debate it generated.

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Rethinking World War I

Occupation, Liberation, and Reconstruction

George Robb and W. Brian Newsome