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The current time is: 10/18/2017 10:02:50 PM
 General History    
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BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3303

France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 9:15:53 AM
 In a sidebar discussion today, I wrote,


Quote:
... that France still exists somewhat amazes me. They had, depending on how one sees it, a rough 100 years from 1870 forward, or a rough 150 years from 1815 forward. I think it fair to opine lesser nation-states would not have survived such buffeting, and I therefore tip my hat to the French. And, for all of the annoying theatrics of their politicians, when I think of France in the 20th century, I can't get past thoughts of Verdun.

It is said the 20th century began and ended at Sarajevo, but I think for the French, the 20th century began and ended at Verdun.


 Any thoughts ?

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

jahenders
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
top 60
E-3 Private First Class
Posts: 37

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 9:37:22 AM
Interesting.

I think two things have made them resilient to this point:
1) They have a pretty strong national identity hearkening back to memories of Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, and Napolean.
2) They're a fairly powerful nation state and can draw upon a lot of economic and manpower reserves after reverses.

That being said, one can't help but wonder how they'll fair (along with other nations) when a substantial portion of their population does NOT generally share that national identity and, instead, hearkens to a very different identity. In centuries past, they'd likely be expected/forced to conform, but in our delicate age they cannot be compelled and many seem disinclined to cooperate.

I fear that France, along with the US, Germany, and many Western nations (and probably others) face a rough future that may challenge their resilience.

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2475

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 9:52:00 AM
Bill,

How thought provoking and topical !

Especially with the advent of Emanuel Macron's presidency.

British people - and, more especially, English people - have difficulty coutenancing the French with equanimity.

A millennium of conflict - almost literally - does not make for an objective reckoning : and proximity enhances rivalry.

When it comes to Verdun, I think that France has as much reason to cherish that as the Russians do Stalingrad....with the significant difference that the collapse of the Soviet Union has compromised the reputation of the latter, even to the extinction of the name.

I've no doubt that Putin would like to see rehabilitation of the soviet culture when it comes to reverence for the battle on the Volga : will Macron uphold the same indulgence for commemoration of the Mill on the Meuse ?

A singular feature of Verdun is that it bequeathed the French nation the legacy of Petain : at the same time, it also projected De Gaulle. A toxic mix.

So much of French history over the centuries has been configured by Gallic Teutonic rivalry. I expect that this will not change, despite the platitudes we're bound to hear in the next few months.

Verdun looms very large in collective memory.

Regards, Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3303

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 9:58:47 AM
Jim,

 I would point back to Verdun regarding your comments. Heavy losses and subsequent low motivation to fight another war. Comes 1940, and Germany-Prussia beats France for the second time. As you point out, France eventually fell back on reserves -- the empire.

 Postwar, some, perhaps many, of their North African veterans stayed in France. It was all well and good; those guys had earned their shot at a better life ... and my guess is many of them assimilated, having already had some familiarity with French society by virtue of their military service. Even more significantly, Algeria itself was legally part of France. And then, the Algerian War. I don't know if the effect of the outcome of that war on assimilation in France was immediate, but it would not surprise me to learn that it had a negative effect, both on French acceptance of Arabs in their society, as well, perhaps, on the attitudes of younger Arabs in France.

Cheers,

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3303

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 10:13:51 AM
Phil,

 My guess is that Macron would like to get beyond the memories of the 20th century and its tribulations; he wishes to establish an image of a young, dynamic France "on the move" ("en marche").

 But history, especially onerous history, is not so easily dismissed from a nation's soul. Thus, we see Russians clinging desperately to icons of the Great Patriotic War and even a modern German politician proffering the notion that Germany should "be proud of her World War II soldiers". Does the memory of the Somme wind its way through Britain's national consciousness, affecting patterns of thought and choices of behavior even today ? Methinks Macron should tread carefully, as the forces of history are wont to smite lesser men of outsized ambition.

Cheers,

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2475

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 1:02:14 PM
...the forces of history are wont to smite lesser men of outsized ambition .

That's superb !

Do you mind if I borrow that, Bill ?

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3303

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 1:45:51 PM
Phil,

 No sweat, use it as you wish!

Cheers,

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 2:29:59 PM

Quote:
Jim,


 Postwar, some, perhaps many, of their North African veterans stayed in France. It was all well and good; those guys had earned their shot at a better life ... and my guess is many of them assimilated, having already had some familiarity with French society by virtue of their military service. Even more significantly, Algeria itself was legally part of France. And then, the Algerian War. I don't know if the effect of the outcome of that war on assimilation in France was immediate, but it would not surprise me to learn that it had a negative effect, both on French acceptance of Arabs in their society, as well, perhaps, on the attitudes of younger Arabs in France.

Cheers,

BW
--BWilson


This is a good analysis and critical for understanding social issues in France today (ref our other discussion on LFF...). The Algerian War, almost unknown to most other Europeans, was unusually nasty and almost led to a military coup d'etat in France (another story that is not very well known outside France I guess).

Those that fled/evacuated from Algeria to France even today bear a deep grudge against France for losing Algeria and the privileged lives they had there. Compared to being second class citizens in France, being part of the ruling class in Algeria was quite something else.

France, of course, did little to deal with this issue in the 20 years following the war and much of the unrest we see today, (including most of the terror attacks), can be traced back to the failures of after war policies or lack thereof.

K
---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2475

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 5:35:50 PM
The French have been bereft of a triumphant narrative since 1940.

To the trauma of defeat, occupation and collaboration was added the humiliation of the loss of Indo China and Algeria, not to mention the joint humiliation it underwent with Britain in the 1956 Suez Crisis.

The significance of Verdun lies largely in its amelioration of this excruciating record.

We all need a Finest Hour.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2752

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/27/2017 9:09:56 PM
If we tallied up France's victories and losses in wars, what would their record be??

Viva la France?
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2475

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/28/2017 8:05:43 AM

Quote:
If we tallied up France's victories and losses in wars, what would their record be??

Viva la France?
MD
--Michigan Dave


A good many more wins than Anglo American folklore would have us believe, I daresay .

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3303

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/28/2017 8:19:23 AM
 The loss of empire, strategically, is for France the loss of depth. In 1940, the Germans could defeat metropolitan France but could have hardly occupied all of France's colonial possessions. And manpower from the empire was the key to reestablishing a French role in the war against Germany that was significant enough to restore France as a regional power in postwar Europe.

 But today ... Macron must bear in mind that the bitter fruit of any significant miscalculation will befall a France bereft (thanks Phil!) of strategic depth. Geographically, it is roughly the France of the late 1700s confronting the lightning-fast pace of events of the 21st century.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

kaii
Edinburgh, UK
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1884

Re: France and the 20th century
Posted on: 9/28/2017 11:11:14 AM

Quote:
 The loss of empire, strategically, is for France the loss of depth. In 1940, the Germans could defeat metropolitan France but could have hardly occupied all of France's colonial possessions. And manpower from the empire was the key to reestablishing a French role in the war against Germany that was significant enough to restore France as a regional power in postwar Europe.

 But today ... Macron must bear in mind that the bitter fruit of any significant miscalculation will befall a France bereft (thanks Phil!) of strategic depth. Geographically, it is roughly the France of the late 1700s confronting the lightning-fast pace of events of the 21st century.

Cheers

BW
--BWilson


A good analysis Bill, and something the French have been slow to adapt to I think.

I am guessing there is a Presidential bunker on Reunion or Kerguelen somewhere...

---------------
A fool and his money are soon elected.

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