France Since 1871 - Audio
By John Merriman
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(HIST 276) This course covers the emergence of modern France. Topics include the social, economic, and political transformation of France; the impact of France's revolutionary heritage, of industrialization, and of the dislocation wrought by two world wars; and the political response of the Left and the Right to changing French society. This class was recorded in Fall 2007.
||01 - Introduction||Professor Merriman lists the books on the syllabus, and offers a brief précis of each of them. Three of the principal themes of the course will be national identity, linguistic identity, and the consequences of the two world wars. Although the...||10/14/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||02 - The Paris Commune and Its Legacy||The Paris Commune of 1871 remained a potent force in Europe for several generations afterwards. The reprisals following the fall of the Commune anticipated the great massacres of the twentieth century. While the brief reign of the communards witnessed...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||03 - Centralized State and Republic||Despite various attempts at reform, France remains the most centralized state in Europe. The organization of the country around the Parisian center was originally a consequence of the French Revolution, which gave birth to the departmental regions. ...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||04 - A Nation? Peasants, Language, and French Identity||The problematic question of when people in France began to consider themselves part of a French nation, with a specifically French national identity, has often been explained in terms of the modernizing progress of the French language at the expense ...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||05 - Workshop and Factory||Religion in France after the Revolution can be understood in terms of two forms of de-Christianization. The first of these is political, and takes place in the de jure separation of church and state. The second is a decline in religious practice...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||06 - The Waning of Religious Authority||The Industrial Revolution in France is often said to have been entirely overshadowed by British industrial development. This analysis is inaccurate because it ignores the significance of domestic and other non-factory occupations. Indeed, it was...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||07 - Mass Politics and the Political Challenge from the Left||The history of socialism in France can be understood in terms of the competition between revolutionary socialists and reform socialists. The former advocated abandoning electoral politics, while the latter attempted to improve conditions for...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||08 - Dynamite Club: The Anarchists||Anarchists, unlike syndicalists and other leftists, seek to destroy the state rather than to capture state power for themselves. Emile Henry and other late nineteenth-century radicals inaugurated the modern practice of terrorism in their individualism...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||09 - General Boulanger and Captain Dreyfus||Two of the major crises of nineteenth-century France, the Boulanger Affair and the Dreyfus Affair, can be understood in terms of the rising forces of anti-Semitism and Far Right politics. The German conquest of Alsace and Lorraine, in particular...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||10 - Cafes and the Culture of Drink||Because drinking is such an integral part of French culture, alcohol abuse has been historically ignored. Although there have been celebrated attempts to address this problem, such as Zola's L'Assomoir, it is only in the past five or ten years that...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||11 - Paris and the Belle Epoque||Modern Paris was indelibly shaped by the rebuilding project ordered by Napoleon III and carried out by Baron Haussmann in the 1850s and '60s. The large-scale demolition of whole neighborhoods in central Paris, coupled with a boom in...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||12 - French Imperialism (Charles Keith)||France's colonial properties were thought of in the latter half of the nineteenth century as consolation for the bitter loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. As civilian administrators came to replace military personnel in the colonies, and as...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||13 - The Origins of World War I||The traditional, diplomatic history of World War I is helpful in understanding how a series of hitherto improbable alliances come to be formed in the early years of the twentieth century. In the case of France and Russia, this involves a ...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||14 - Trench Warfare||The sacred union that united France's political parties during World War I contributed to a resilient morale on the home front. Germany's invasion of France, and the conflict over Alsace-Lorraine in particular, contributed to French concern ...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||15 - The Home Front||1917 is a critical moment in World War I, as the Bolsheviks seize power in Russia and Woodrow Wilson leads the U.S. into war on the side of the Allied powers. Although morale held steady on the home front in France, there were multiple mutinies and ...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||16 - The Great War, Grief, and Memory (Bruno Cabanes)||The human cost of World War I cannot be understood only in terms of demographics. To better understand the consequences of the war upon both soldiers and civilians it is necessary to consider mourning in its private, as well as its public dimensions.||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||17 - The Popular Front||A plethora of Far Right and fascist organizations emerged in the wake of World War I. Economic depression, nationalism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia all played a part in this upsurge. On the left, the tension between communist revolutionaries...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||18 - The Dark Years: Vichy France||For decades after the end of World War II the question of French collaboration with the Nazis was obscured. One of the reasons for this was the desire of de Gaulle and others to downplay the central role of communists in resisting...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||19 - Resistance||If the extent of French collaboration during World War II has been obscured, so too has the nature of resistance. Although the communist Left represented the core of the resistance movement, resistors came from any different backgrounds, including...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||20 - Battles For and Against Americanization||Anti-Americanism in France has historically been directed toward the U.S. government and corporations rather than American citizens. In the wake of World War II, the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe was considered by many to be a form||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||21 - Vietnam and Algeria||France's colonial territories were of very high importance after the embarrassment of occupation during World War II. Algeria, in particular, was a complicated case because it involved large numbers of French settlers, the pieds-noirs. Despite...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||22 - Charles De Gaulle||Charles de Gaulle's importance in postwar French political life was matched by his importance in the nation's collective imagination. This authority was consciously contrived by de Gaulle, who wished to bear upon his figurative body the will of...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||23 - May 1968||The student protests of May 1968 in France were linked to international protests against the American war in Vietnam and other political and social consequences of the Cold War. In many respects, the terrible condition of many schools in...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
||24 - Immigration||French culture is threatened both by European Unification and the rise of xenophobia within France itself. The defeat of the referendum on the European Constitution testified to the dissatisfaction of many people in rural France with the economic...||10/9/2009||Free||View in iTunes|
This class works as a fun, entertaining series of stand alone lectures. If you do the reading, which I did not, it’s must be a pretty comprehensive overview with some interesting in-depth work particularly on Zola and the Resistance. As is, I found that the lectures are perfect companions on long walks—always fluent with a light touch and dozens of interesting asides and stories.
On a deeper level, I went into these lectures with a philosopher’s systematizing and abstract inclinations and a personal experience of frustration with history classes and historians’ desultory interests and methods. In other words, I was a pretty bad history student despite interest in the subject matter. I didn’t fit in. This class was a tonic. Yes, it’s often oblique and anecdotal, but Professor Merriman’s deep love of the subject matter, personal connection to France, and wearing of his hippie heart on his sleeve gave me my first sense of history as a humanistic field. It’s no coincidence that Merriman is especially strong on biography and social movements; he sees history and politics at the human scale in all its contingency, fallibility, dignity, and glorie.
Only 24 lectures? I want more! This is no dry, chronological recitation of events. This is a passionate, detailed and personal account of French history and culture. Some reviewers object to his political point of view. One of the things I love about France is that it is not a social faux pas to admit to having a political opinion. And it is nice to hear someone with a “far left” perspective, although he did not seem so far left to me. There are conservative historians out there. Alistair Horne, for example, who has been called “George Bush’s favorite historian” has written numerous books on French history.
Inspired by this class, I just started reading Merriman’s book on the Paris Commune. Vive la France! Vive la commune!
France Since 1871
Absolutely fantastic. As a professor who has taught some of this material myself, I am humbled by the depth of Merriman’s knowledge, by his stylish, adroit presentation of the information in such a way that none of its poignance and drama is lost, and by his delivery, which manages to be both witty and passionate at once. Wonderful. Don’t miss it.