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The Shaping of French National Identity
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Book description

The Shaping of French National Identity casts new light on the intellectual origins of the dominant and 'official' French nineteenth-century national narrative. Focussing on the historical debates taking place throughout the eighteenth century and during the Restoration, Matthew D'Auria evokes a time when the nation's origins were being questioned and discussed and when they acquired the meaning later enshrined in the official rhetoric of the Third Republic. He examines how French writers and scholars reshaped the myths, symbols, and memories of pre-modern communities. Engaging with the myth of 'our ancestors the Gauls' and its ideological triumph over the competing myth of 'our ancestors the Franks', this study explores the ways in which the struggle developed, and the values that the two discourses enshrined, the collective actors they portrayed, and the memories they evoked. D'Auria draws attention to the continuity between ethnic discourses and national narratives and to the competition between various groups in their claims to represent the nation and to define their past as the 'true' history of France.

Reviews

‘Matthew D'Auria has written an important contribution to our understanding of French nationalism and French identity. His lucid and engaging book shows how intellectual debates about the origins of France resulted in the production of a powerful narrative about the national past that has ever since shaped the way the French understand themselves.’

David A. Bell - Princeton University

‘D’Auria masterfully charts a vast corpus of French intellectual history. Over more than a turbulent century, narratives and self-characterizations emerged and competed in which France remade its past and the remade past served to remake France. This elegant tour de force will be a lasting benchmark in the history of national identity-formation.’

Joep Leerssen - University of Amsterdam

‘Although the shaping of French national has attracted its share of scholarly attention, it is safe to say that no one has ever surveyed this particular terrain - the grand narratives of national development, in the crucial decades before and after the French Revolution - with such insight and illumination. Matthew D’Auria’s success owes much both to the architectural skill with which he has constructed his overarching narrative, moving from Boulainvilliers through Montesquieu to Thierry, across three master-themes, race, character and class; but also to his clear and crisp writing. He offers an unignorable argument that is also a very great pleasure to read.’

Kent Wright - Arizona State University

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