Democracy and Modernity

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

  • The Republic in the Village by Maurice Agulhon, translated by Janet Lloyd
    Cambridge, 412 pp, £27.50, September 1982, ISBN 0 521 23693 2

In France, some years ago, a film director was making a film about the Napoleonic Wars. He enlisted more than a hundred extras to represent the French and other armies; the rate of pay for these extras was precisely the same whether they were playing officers or merely soldiers. Filming, which lasted several weeks, took place in open country, a long way from any town or village, so an open-air canteen was set up to provide for this fairly large number of ‘troops’. After a few days, the officers of this celluloid army began to eat at a separate table from the mere privates and NCOs: later on, an actual partition was put up to divide the ‘officers’ mess’ from the vulgum pecus, thereby acknowledging the social distinctions which had been established in a group where there was no difference in income.

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