France as a "nation"

source: Emmanuel Todd, The Making of Modern France: Politics, Ideology and Culture (Blackwell, 1991) Is France one nation? What makes it so? And what are the large socio-cultural factors that led to modern France? These are the questions that Emmanuel Todd raises in The Making of Modern France: Ideology, Politics and Culture. Todd is one …

Great structures?

The scholars of the Annales school of French history characteristically placed their analysis of historical change within the context of the large structures -- economic, social, or demographic -- within which ordinary people live out their lives. They postulate that the broad and enduring social relations that exist in a society -- for example, property …

Contingent historical development

Here's a relatively limited historical puzzle to solve. A powerful new technology -- the railroad -- was developed in the first part of the nineteenth century. The nature and characteristics of the technology were essentially homogeneous across the national settings in which it appeared in Europe and North America. However, it was introduced and built …

Tempo of change

Think of some of the gradual processes of change that have important effects on human society: soil erosion, water pollution, loss of jobs, inflation, diffusion of innovation, a firm's decline in market share, and a nation's decline of naval power, to name a heterogeneous list. And think about the very different time scales associated with …

Segregation in France

The mix of race, poverty, and urban space has created intractable social issues in many American cities in the past sixty years. Residential segregation creates a terrible fabric of self-reproducing inequalities between the segregated group and the larger society -- inequalities of education, health, employment, and culture. As intractable as this social system of segregation …

Strange parallels

Victor Lieberman uses the phrase, "strange parallels," as the title for his two-volume study of Southeast Asian history (Strange Parallels: Volume 1, Integration on the Mainland: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800-1830). Besides offering a highly expert history of Burma and its many kingdoms between 800 and 1830, Lieberman poses a fascinating and novel …

Mentalité?

Is there such a thing as a "mentalité" of a people, group, or nation? Take these young people at an Iowa potluck supper, or the traders pictured below at the Chicago Board of Trade -- is there a midwestern mentalité that they can be said to share? What factors might be comprised by such a …

Marc Bloch’s history

One of the historians whom I most admire is Marc Bloch. He was one of France's most important medieval historians in the first half of the twentieth century, and he died at the hands of the Gestapo while serving in the Resistance in Paris in 1944. (Carole Fink's biography is an outstanding treatment of his …

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