Defining French “Empire” under Napoleon III

Examining the similarities and differences between Leroy-Beaulieu and Prévost-Paradol’s respective colonial models. In the last years of the Second Empire, two liberal thinkers with little apparent connection to one another, Lucien-Anatole Prévost-Paradol and Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, wrote tracts that sought to articulate new colonial models of empire and justify the expansion of French settlement in Algeria.[…]

The Role of French Algeria in American Expansion during the Early Republic

The year 1830 was important for a distant event: the bombardment by French forces of the Barbary Power, Algiers. Aside from the significance of Alexis de Tocqueville and other famous French observers of early American democracy, historians of French-American relations in the first part of the nineteenth century have tended to focus more on the[…]

How the Paris Catacombs Solved a Cemetery Crisis

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris—the Catacombs—was started as a solution to the intrusion of death upon daily life. By Allison C. Meier Recently the Guardian reported on a British health expert’s proposal to bury bodies alongside roads. The idea of lining thoroughfares with corpses may seem macabre, but it could promote the[…]

The Devil Does His Mischief: The Huguenot World of Demonology during the Scientific Age

Huguenots were not only believers in science, but also remained firmly committed to their belief in God and his providence.[1] At the request of the famed scientist Robert Boyle, the French divine, Pierre du Moulin, translated an account of a demon that had plagued a Huguenot family in Burgundy, France in 1612. Moulin’s 1658 translation[…]

England and France in Conflict: The Hundred Years’ War, 1337-1453

The war owes its historical significance to a number of factors. Introduction The Hundred Years’ War is the name modern historians have given to what was a series of related conflicts, fought over a 116-year period, between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France, and later Burgundy; beginning in 1337, and ending in[…]

Notre-Dame’s Centuries of Survival, Captured in Art

A Getty exhibition illuminates the medieval cathedral’s role in European history and spotlights wondrous objects that survived the recent fire. Introduction The world came to a collective halt on April 15, 2019, when news broke that a fire was taking over Notre-Dame, an 850-year-old cathedral in the heart of Paris. Despite its age, the cathedral[…]

“The Last I Write to You”: The Courage of Youth Resisters in World War 2 France

About 3000 resisters, many under the age of 25, were tried in German military courts in France and executed. World War II in Europe was the cause of innumerable atrocities against civilians: for instance, the Shoah, Allied and Axis carpet bombing, the destruction of Warsaw, and the cruelties of enforced starvation. Another example is less[…]

Between Two Republics: American Military Volunteers in Revolutionary France

Most of these Americans left behind little evidence explaining why they took up arms for the French at a time when the official policy of the United States was one of neutrality. Introduction Historians have long recognized the vital contributions of French soldiers and officers to the American colonists during the American Revolution. Without the[…]

How Janet Flanner’s “High-Class Gossip” about Paris and Europe Changed America

The journalist’s witty Paris Letters for the New Yorker helped establish Americans’ feelings of superiority over Europe. By Matthew Wills Janet Flanner, part of that famous group of ex-pats in Paris that included Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, was a significant journalist in her own right, though she once described herself as “a high-class gossip[…]

The Native Americans Who Drew the French and British into War

The Anishinaabeg played an outsized role in world affairs. When a young George Washington approached the forks of the Ohio River in the spring of 1754, he was nervous. The previous year, as he scouted the area that would become Pittsburgh to contest French claims to the region, he came across seven scalped settlers. His[…]

Lustucru: From Severed Heads to Ready-Made Meals since 17th-Century France

Charting the migration of the Lustucru figure through the French cultural imagination since the 17th century. By Jé Wilson This article, Lustucru: From Severed Heads to Ready-Made Meals since 17th-Century France, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ In France in[…]

Creating French Culture Since the 8th Century: Treasures from the Bibliothèque nationale de France

The relationship between power—or politics—and culture in French history is an ambivalent one, defined as much by conflict and censorship as by cooperation and patronage. Introduction Throughout French history the powerful have sought to harness culture to their own ends. They understood that the representation of power—what today we call “image”—is a form of power[…]

Pierre Poivre, the French Spice Quest and the Role of Mediators in Southeast Asia, 1740s to 1770s

Examining the connectedness and transnational interactions in the French spice project through the lens of Poivre’s informal networks. “One of these rare men, who reflect about things which are really useful, and who does not abandon a project until it is finished, had decided to bring wealth to France, his homeland, with the help of[…]

The Confessional Issue and Religious Networking in Post-Westphalian Europe

The often overlapping religious and diplomatic networks acted in concert to advance, for example, Protestant concerns. By Dr. Linda S. FreyProfessor of HistoryUniversity of Montana By Dr. Marsha L. FreyProfessor of HistoryKansas State University Geoffrey Parker, a noted historian of the Thirty Years’ War, argued that one of the great achievements of that conflict was[…]

Politics and Class, 1790-1794: Radicalism, Terror, and Repression in Southern France

Popular uprisings and resistance to taxation played havoc with the nine departments into which the National Assembly divided Languedoc. Between 1789 and 1793, popular uprisings and resistance to taxation played havoc with the nine departments into which the National Assembly divided Languedoc. Counterrevolutionaries organized a series of military assemblies between 1790 and the spring of[…]

France, 1693: The Year of Battles under Louis XIV

Louis XIV repeatedly reminded his commanders that 1693 had to be viewed as the year of decision. After blundering into the Nine Years War in 1688, it took Louis XIV almost another two years to build the most extensive coalition of opponents he would ever face. Increasingly desperate, the king implemented a variety of strategies[…]

Ambassadors and Missionaries, Converts and Infidels: The 1686 Siamese Embassy to Versailles

Examining the formal and contextual heterogeneity, as well as the interpretive instability, of objects representing the 1686 Siamese embassy to Versailles. Between 1680 and 1688 six embassies were dispatched between King Narai (1633-1688) of Siam and King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France. These extraordinary diplomatic events, which were the first official exchanges between the two[…]

The Fate of Secrets in a Public Sphere: The Comte de Broglie and the Demise of the ‘Secret du Roi’

The Comte knew that there were both advantages and pitfalls in the use of secrecy in diplomacy. Introduction In every century, secrecy has been a part of the diplomatic game and the sine qua non of espionage. For Louis XV, however, secrecy became a volatile weapon that did him more harm than good, especially at[…]

French Identity and Immigration to Constantinople and Greece in the 13th Century

After capturing Constantinople in 1204, the Fourth Crusaders established several states in former Byzantine territory. Starting from the captured imperial center, westerners moved into Thrace, Greece, the Aegean islands, and even Asia Minor. These campaigns of conquest had varied success, with the greatest and longest lasting in southern Greece.[1][2] The Fourth Crusaders had struck out[…]

Hitler and France’s Maginot Line

The humiliating failure of the vaunted Maginot Line thrilled the vast majority of Germans, who adored their Führer and supported his ruthless agenda. “Monsieur Maginot built a fortified line,” noted the German justice inspector Friedrich Kellner in his diary in June 1940, just after Hitler’s army burst through the French fortifications. If France really expected[…]

Power and Pomp at Versailles

Versailles was the location of two seismic shifts in political culture. Ten million tourists flock to Versailles annually to imagine courtly life in such sumptuous surroundings. Versailles was about awesome royal power, intense rivalries, brilliant craftsmanship and engineering, and – for those who did the manual labour – drudgery and deference. Above all, Versailles embodied[…]

The Jewish People, Expatriate Artists, and Political Radicalism in Interwar France

Jewish would-be artists began arriving in Paris in the decade before the First World War. Jews were new neither to Paris nor to the artistic avant-garde in the 1920s. What was new were both their numbers and visibility. One French study estimates that over five hundred Jewish artists were working in Paris in the interwar[…]

Masculinity and Political Violence in Interwar France

It was an era and a culture that was both misogynist and racist, in which Jews from Léon Blum on down were castigated as effete “coffeehouse Jews.” On a clear, beautiful day in the center of the city of Paris I performed the first act in front of the entire world. Scholom Schwartzbard, letter from[…]

When Paris Was Reno: American Divorce Tourism in the City of Light, 1920-1927

Traveling to Paris for a divorce became all the rage in the early 1920s. It was one of the Franco-American scandals of the 1920s. It brought Americans on an eastward ho to undo in Paris what had been wrought in America.  It led to questionable legal practices at the Paris bar and diplomatic tensions over[…]

Serenading the President: John Adams, the XYZ Affair, and the 18th-Century American Presidency

Sentiment began to change in earnest in the wake of the decision to publicize the XYZ dispatches during the spring of 1798. Behold the chief who now commands,Once more to serve his country stands.The rock on which the storm will beat,But arm’d in virtue, firm, and true,His hopes are fix’d on Heav’n and you. Joseph[…]

Robespierre, the Duke of York, and Peisistratus during the French Revolutionary Terror

Pisistratus’s story as a tyrant of Athens offered a powerful script for interpreting Robespierre’s actions, and a cue for resistance. Dr. Simon MacdonaldFellowInstitut d’études avancées de Paris Abstract Maximilien Robespierre was deposed on 27 July 1794/9 Thermidor Year II when the charge that he was a tyrant burst spectacularly into open political discussion in France.[…]

Tyrant of Languedoc? Nicolas de Lamoignon de Basville in Public and in Private

Basville’s private correspondence reveals aspects of his character that deepen our understanding of the intendancy in the old regime. On 11 November 1703, the intendant of Languedoc, Nicolas de Lamoignon de Basville, wrote in private to his brother in Paris on the subject of the maréchal then commanding royal forces in the Cévennes, Nicolas de[…]