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Regeneration

David Garrioch: Making peasants into Frenchmen, 3 November 2005

The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism 
by Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall.
California, 341 pp., £35.95, April 2005, 0 520 24180 0
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... a people that produces 246 different cheeses? General De Gaulle’s remark may be apocryphal – France has far more than 246 cheeses – but it captures a central dilemma in French history. How could such a diverse collection of peoples be forged into a single nation? The question remains pertinent. Despite an apparent unity, regional differences and ...

Handsome, Charming …

David A. Bell: Beaumarchais, 22 October 2009

Beaumarchais: A Biography 
by Maurice Lever, translated by Susan Emanuel.
Farrar, Straus, 411 pp., $26, May 2009, 978 0 374 11328 5
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... the gaming tables, the French regent Philippe d’Orléans, brought him to Paris in 1715 to reform France’s perennially disastrous finances. Law quickly became the second most important man in the country, and cobbled together a reform scheme that had all the solidity and common sense of an Icelandic hedge fund prospectus; it ambitiously tethered government ...

When the barracks were bursting with poets

David A. Bell: Napoleon, 6 September 2001

Napoleon the Novelist 
by Andy Martin.
Polity, 191 pp., £45, December 2000, 0 7456 2536 3
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... and from there embarked on the unbelievably accelerated career which would make him master of France in six years, and all Europe seven years later. Yet even in the midst of rebuilding French institutions and society, marching his armies across most of the continent and earning a widespread reputation as the devil incarnate, he still cultivated his love ...

Further, Father, Further!

David A. Bell: ‘The Wanton Jesuit’, 17 November 2016

The Wanton Jesuit and the Wayward Saint: A Tale of Sex, Religion and Politics in 18th-Century France 
by Mita Choudhury.
Penn State, 234 pp., £43.95, December 2015, 978 0 271 07081 0
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... for the predatory Girard, and cast the story as an example of the way the Jesuits sought to keep France in thrall to superstition. More recently, the case has attracted attention from historians of illicit literature such as Robert Darnton, interested in explaining the success of Thérèse philosophe, and from historians of medicine fascinated by ...

Diary

David Gascoyne: Notebook, New Year 1991, 25 January 1996

... 29 December 1990: Caught Red Funnel Ferryboat 10 a.m. Taxi Southampton Dock to Eastleigh – Air France plane departed 12.45. Met at Roissy (3 p.m. approx. Continental time) by Jean-Claude Masson and Annick, who drove us in their car to the Grand Hotel Français, boulevard Voltaire, XIIème – a quarter little known to me. Windy, showery, as at ...

Downhill

David Marquand, 19 September 1985

Years of Recovery: British Economic Policy 1945-51 
by Alec Cairncross.
Methuen, 527 pp., £35, April 1985, 0 416 37920 6
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The Politics of Recession 
by R.W. Johnson.
Macmillan, 275 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 333 36786 3
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The Labour Government 1974-79: Political Aims and Economic Reality 
by Martin Holmes.
Macmillan, 206 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 333 36735 9
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New Jerusalems: The Labour Party and the Economics of Democratic Socialism 
by Elizabeth Durbin and Roy Hattersley.
Routledge, 341 pp., £16.95, March 1985, 9780710096500
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... Government, Sir Alec Cairncross shows that our industrial production was larger than that of France and Germany combined. It was 50 per cent above the 1938 figure, compared with 20 per cent in France and 10 per cent in Germany. France and Germany together exported less than we ...

To the Manure Born

David Coward: An uncompromising champion of the French republic, 21 July 2005

Memoirs of a Breton Peasant 
by Jean-Marie Déguignet, translated by Linda Asher.
Seven Stories, 432 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 1 58322 616 8
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... of secular educators. Brittany was the most Catholic, feudal and superstitious province of France. Many had actually seen the devil and they blamed him for every calamity, from pestilence and bad harvests to curdled milk. But by his early teens, Déguignet knew that the real devil wore a cassock. He came to believe that most Breton legends were the ...

Shameless, Lucifer and Pug-Nose

David A. Bell: Louis Mandrin, 8 January 2015

Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground 
by Michael Kwass.
Harvard, 457 pp., £35, April 2014, 978 0 674 72683 3
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... criminality could flourish. The circumstances were certainly right in mid-18th-century France, when the most famous criminal in the country’s history, Louis Mandrin, established his reputation. As Michael Kwass explains in his excellent book, flourishing global trade and domestic economic expansion had combined to create a vast new consumer ...

Come and see for yourself

David A. Bell: Tocqueville, 18 July 2013

Tocqueville: The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty 
by Lucien Jaume, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Princeton, 347 pp., £24.95, April 2013, 978 0 691 15204 2
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... the glass. In Tennessee, he noted that the people had elected to Congress ‘an individual called David Crockett, who had received no education, could read only with difficulty, had no property, no fixed dwelling, but spent … his whole life in the woods’. Yet Alexis de Tocqueville also found America ‘a most interesting and instructive country to ...

Casino Politics

David Stevenson: Writing European history, 6 October 2005

The Lights that Failed: European International History 1919-33 
by Zara Steiner.
Oxford, 938 pp., £35, April 2005, 0 19 822114 2
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... Alan Bullock, are dead, and their project remains incomplete. Individual volumes cover Germany, France from 1848 to 1945, Spain, the Low Countries, Romania and the European Jews. As yet they include only tsarist (not Soviet) Russia, and there is nothing on Austria or Italy. Even so, the formula has generated a number of classics, which have remained in ...

Enlightenment’s Errand Boy

David A. Bell: The Philosophes and the Republic of Letters, 22 May 2003

Calvet’s Web: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters in 18th-Century France 
by L.W.B. Brockliss.
Oxford, 471 pp., £55, July 2002, 9780199247486
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The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon 
by Colin Jones.
Allen Lane, 651 pp., £25, August 2002, 0 7139 9039 2
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... comfortable and dull Provençal city (which remained a Papal enclave until its annexation by France during the Revolution). A confirmed bachelor, he kept regular hours, eschewed games and exercise, and read virtually no contemporary literature. Brockliss calls Calvet a ‘prig’, an ‘intellectual and moral snob’ and a ‘social climber’. At first ...

Go to the Devil

David Carpenter: Richard II, 22 July 2010

Richard II: Manhood, Youth and Politics, 1377-99 
by Christopher Fletcher.
Oxford, 336 pp., £24.95, August 2010, 978 0 19 959571 6
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... was the reverse of the unmilitary monarch of popular legend, who was keen to promote peace with France. Instead, between 1382 and 1386, he pursued with ‘uncompromising vigour’ plans for expeditions to the Continent during which he might win his manhood. In 1385, thwarted by poverty and circumstance, he instead led an army to Scotland, ‘an important ...

Added Fashion Value

David A. Bell: Capitalism’s Rosy Dawn, 7 October 2021

Capitalism and the Emergence of Civic Equality in 18th-Century France 
by William H. Sewell Jr.
Chicago, 412 pp., £28, April, 978 0 226 77046 8
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... is not the French, but the Haitian, in which enslaved people not only freed themselves but forced France to abolish slavery everywhere in its empire (until Napoleon brutally reimposed it in 1802).As the French Revolution’s lustre has faded, the task of explaining why it occurred has come to seem less urgent. A few decades ago, fierce battles raged between ...

Minute Particulars

David Allen, 6 February 1986

New Images of the Natural in FranceA study in European Cultural History 1750-1800 
by D.G. Charlton.
Cambridge, 254 pp., £25, December 1984, 0 521 24940 6
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Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account 1760-1840 
by Barbara Maria Stafford.
MIT, 645 pp., £39.95, July 1984, 0 262 19223 3
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... exhibited such phases. Here the width of Professor Charlton’s canvas proves its worth. France, he finds, lagged well behind England in the preliminary phase of awakening to natural scenery. The English were alive to pastoral attractions as early as the 1720s and markedly so by the 1740s, but it was not till the 1760s that the French showed a ...

Violets in Their Lapels

David A. Bell: Bonapartism, 23 June 2005

The Legend of Napoleon 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Granta, 336 pp., £20, August 2004, 1 86207 667 7
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The Retreat 
by Patrick Rambaud, translated by William Hobson.
Picador, 320 pp., £7.99, June 2005, 0 330 48901 1
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Napoleon: The Eternal Man of St Helena 
by Max Gallo, translated by William Hobson.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £10.99, April 2005, 0 333 90798 1
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The Saint-Napoleon: Celebrations of Sovereignty in 19th-Century France 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Harvard, 307 pp., £32.95, May 2004, 0 674 01341 7
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Napoleon and the British 
by Stuart Semmel.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 09001 3
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... France, it has often been said, is a democracy with the manners of an absolute monarchy. Think of the ceremonial splendour with which French presidents surround themselves, the haughty, distant style they tend to adopt, or the way relationships within their entourages tend to mimic, with delicious self-consciousness, patterns of favouritism and intrigue developed long ago at the court of Versailles ...

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