Synopses & Reviews
This fascinating book offers a new perspective on French history and political culture by examining how the commemoration of the past pervades French public life. The book surveys the ways that various political communities in France during the past two centuries-proponents of revolution and counterrevolution, church and state, centralism and regionalism, and national identity and nationalism-have used different versions of the past in order to define their identities and legitimate their goals.Never before have the competing constructions of the past been examined in a single volume with such erudition and panache. . . . Gildea deals with his subject theoretically, but he intertwines his themes with dexterity and originality.-Douglas Johnson, Times Literary Supplement
This fascinating book examines how the past pervades French public life, how the French both commemorate their past triumphs, heroes, and martyrs and attempt to erase the more violent events in their history. The book surveys the ways that various political communities in France during the past two centuries have manufactured different versions of the past in order to define their identities and legitimate their goals.
Beginning with a discussion of the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989, Robert Gildea moves backward in time to show how rival factions have used various elements of French political culture--from the grandeur of the ancien regime to Catholicism, Jacobinism, Anarchism, and Bonapartism--to further their ends. Gildea shows how proponents of revolution and counterrevolution, church and state, centralism and regionalism, and national identity and nationalism campaigned to achieve the widest possible acceptance of their own view of the past. He describes the continuing battle between Left and Right for association with national heroes such as Joan of Arc and Napoleon. He exposes the reworking of collective views of the past by political communities, in order to increase or recover political legitimacy. Written in clear and trenchant prose, the book offers a new perspective on French history and political culture.