Week 21

Week 21: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
The Franco-Prussian War

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871) was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria. The complete Prussian and German victory brought about the final unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I of Prussia. It also marked the downfall of Napoleon III and the end of the Second French Empire, which was replaced by the French Third Republic. As part of the settlement, the territory of Alsace-Lorraine was taken by Prussia to become a part of Germany, which it would retain until the end of World War I when it was given back to France in the Treaty of Versailles. The conflict was a culmination of years of tension between the two nations, which finally came to a head over the issue of a Hohenzollern candidate for the vacant Spanish throne, following the deposition of Isabella II in 1868. The public release of the Ems Dispatch, which played up alleged insults between the Prussian king and the French ambassador, inflamed public opinion on both sides. France mobilized, and on 19 July declared war on Prussia only, but the other German states quickly joined on Prussia's side. It soon became evident that the Prussian and German forces were superior, due in part to their efficient use of railways and the better Krupp steel artillery. Prussia had the fourth densest rail network in the world; France had the fifth. A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France culminated in the Battle of Sedan, at which Napoleon III was captured with his whole army on 2 September. Yet this did not end the war, as the Third Republic was declared in Paris on 4 September 1870, and French resistance continued under the Government of National Defence and later Adolphe Thiers. Over a five-month campaign, the German armies defeated the newly recruited French armies in a series of battles fought across northern France. Following a prolonged siege, Paris fell on 28 January 1871. The siege is also notable for the first use of anti-aircraft artillery, a Krupp piece built specifically to shoot down the hot air balloons being used by the French as couriers. Ten days earlier, the German states had proclaimed their union under the Prussian king, uniting Germany as a nation-state, the German Empire. The final Treaty of Frankfurt was signed 10 May 1871, during the time of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871. (The above from Wikipedia.)

LECTURE NOTES:

In the sidebar are links to notes written by Prof. Bruce Thompson who lectures here at the Institute.  He taught a course called "The Long Century" some years ago and for that course he wrote these notes.  Some of the note topics are perfect for our class so I am sure you will enjoy having them.  We have them for three of our ten weeks.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Gordon Wright,

France in Modern Times, Fifth edition,

Norton paperback,

ISBN 9780393967050

This Amazon review is for: France in Modern Times (Fifth Edition) (Paperback) "Gordon Wright's "France In Modern Times" is an all-encompassing book about French history from the start of the 1789 Revolution to contemporary times. This book has been required reading in all of my French history classes and with good reason: it clearly defines the main themes of French history in language that everyone can understand. In other words, one does not have to be a professional historian or a graduate student like myself in order to understand the points that Wright is highlighting. Furthermore, Wright gives an outstanding bibliography that enables one to continue their research on the various topics that he discusses within the book. If you are looking for one book on modern French history, this is the one that you should buy!"

About the Author: Gordon Wright was William H. Bonsall Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University. He was a past president of both the American Historical Association and the Society for French Historical Studies, and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His many other books include Raymond Poincare and the French Presidency; Rurual Revolution in France; The Ordeal of Total War: 1939-1945; and Between the Guillotine and Liberty: Two Centuries of the Crime Problem in France.

Alistair Horne,

La Belle France,

Vintage paperbacks,

ISBN 1400034876

Reviews

"Fascinating. . . . Engaging. . . . Filled with 'hot-blooded' kings, royal mistressesÉand tales of cruelty, treachery and even, occasionally, heart-warming loyalty."

–San Francisco Chronicle

"[Horne] is a virtuoso of the character sketch and the illuminating vignette. . . . La Belle France, with its refreshingly subjective style, possesses more treasures than a whole wall full of textbooks."

–The Wall Street Journal

"A breathtaking tour of French history, from its earliest kings through the Mitterrand government. . . . There are few countries with a more fascinating history than France."

–The Seattle Times

"A useful and charming introduction to a nation that has oh-so-definitely helped make the modern world what it is. . . . Horne does a service in helping the reader navigate the complexities of French history."

–Los Angeles Times

RECOMMENDED READING

Michael Howard,

The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870-1871,

Routledge; 2nd ed. (Nov. 9, 2001),

ISBN 0415266718

'No outline can suggest the richness of detail and significance, or the superb command of language with which he invests his chronicle. His book is a masterpiece.' - Sunday Times

'Brilliantly written.' - Julian Critchley, The Week

22

Week 22: Wednesday, April 11, 2018
The Siege of Paris

  1. The Siege of Paris
  2. Leon Gambetta
  3. General Louis Trochu
  4. Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers

The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune. As early as August 1870 the Prussian 3rd Army led by the Crown Prince (the future Emperor) Frederick III had been marching towards Paris, but was recalled to deal with French forces accompanied by Napoleon III himself. These forces were crushed at the Battle of Sedan and the road to Paris was left open. Personally leading the Prussian forces Wilhelm I of Prussia along with his chief of staff Helmuth von Moltke, took the 3rd Army along with the new Prussian Army of the Meuse under Crown Prince Albert of Saxony and marched on Paris virtually unopposed. In Paris the Governor and commander-in-chief of the city's defenses General Louis Jules Trochu, assembled a force of regular soldiers that had managed to escape Sedan under Joseph Vinoy plus the National Guards and a brigade of sailors which totalled around 400,000. (The above from Wikipedia.)

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Alistair Horne,

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-1871,

Penguin Paperback,

ISBN 9780141030630

Review:

"This classic work . . . is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the civil war that still stirs the soul of France." -Evening Standard, London

In 1870, Paris was the center of Europe, the font of culture, fashion, and invention. Ten months later Paris had been broken by a long Prussian siege, its starving citizens reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats, and France had been forced to accept the humiliating surrender terms dictated by the Iron Chancellor Bismarck. To many, the fall of Paris seemed to be the fall of civilization itself. Alistair Horne's history of the Siege and its aftermath is a tour de force of military and social history, rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.

PART TWO:

Paintings, newspaper articles and cartoons, depicting the events and personalities of 1870-1871. Portraits of Gambetta, Trochu, Thiers and others.

23

Week 23: Wednesday, April 18, 2018
The Paris Commune, 1871

The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune contributed to the break between those two political groups. In a formal sense, the Paris Commune simply acted as the local authority, the city council (in French, the "commune"), which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. However, the conditions in which it formed, its controversial decrees, and its violent end make its tenure one of the more important political episodes of the time. (The above from Wikipedia.)

Bruce Thompson on the Paris Commune:

THE PARIS COMMUNE: With the rapid collapse of the French army in 1870, Paris found itself besieged by the Germans. Cut off from the rest of the country, Parisians ate horses, cats, dogs, rats, and many of the animals in the zoo. Merchants hoarded their goods while prices rose, or sold them under the counter, so "hour after hour the wretched housewives waited, often leaving empty-handed, with hatred in their hearts equally for the petit bourgeois as represented by the heartless butcher and for the rich bourgeois who could afford to buy without queuing" (Alistair Horne). One of the lasting legacies of the Commune was a bitter residue of class hatred. During the long months of the siege about 65 manned balloons were launched from the city, carrying nearly 11 tons of official dispatches. Only five of these fell into the hands of the enemy and only two balloonists died. This success helped to maintain morale, but indiscriminate bombardment of the city by Prussian heavy guns obviously had the opposite effect. Shells fell at random at the rate of 300-400 a day. Capitulation to Bismarck convinced the city's belligerent Left that the new French government under the leadership of Adolphe Thiers was planning a deal with the enemy to restore the old imperial regime. Seizing guns from an artillery park atop the hill of Montmartre, the revolutionaries set up a rival regime, the Commune of Paris. In the ranks were veterans of the barricades of 1848 (and a few from 1830), revolutionary feminists (Louise Michel), and a variety of idealists and radicals. When Thiers' forces conquered the city they behaved brutally; incendiaries responded by burning the Tuileries Palace, a large part of the Palais-Royal, the Palais de Justice, the Préfecture de Police, the Ministry of Finance and the superb medieval Hôtel de Ville. The number of lives lost during the bloody last week of May 1871 was between 20,000 and 25,000—an orgy of killing worse than the bloodletting of the Terror in 1793. The great city, already diminished by months of siege and bombardment, was now devastated by this terrible ordeal of punitive savagery and popular fury. The painter Auguste Renoir narrowly escaped death at the hands of an enraged mob. As Rupert Christiansen has shown, one can track the reaction of French élite opinion to the upheavals of 1870-71 via the diaries of the aristocratic man of letters Edmond Goncourt. On 28 March 1871 he recorded his opinion of the Commune: "The newspapers see nothing in what is going on but a question of decentralization: as if it had anything to do with decentralization! What is happening is nothing less that the conquest of France by the worker and the reduction to slavery under his rule of the noble, the bourgeois, and the peasant. Government is passing from the hands of the have's to those of the have-not's, form those who have a material interest in the preservation of society to those who have no interest whatever in order, stability, or preservation. Perhaps, in the great law of change that governs all earthly things, the workers are for modern society what the Barbarians were for ancient society, the convulsive agents of dissolution and destruction." A few days later, on April 2, Goncourt welcomed the arrival of the government's troops: "The sound of gunfire, about ten o'clock, in the direction of Courbevoie. Thank God, civil war has broken out! When things have reached this pass, civil war is preferable to hypocritical skullduggery…. I set out straight away for Paris, studying people's faces, which are a sort of barometer of events in revolutionary times; I see in them a hidden satisfaction, a sly joy. Finally a newspaper tells me that the Belleville troops have been beaten! I am filled with a jubilation which I savor at length. Let tomorrow bring what it will." For the opposite point of view, see Karl Marx's account of the Commune.

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Alistair Horne,

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-1871,

Penguin Paperback,

ISBN 9780141030630

Review:

"This classic work . . . is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the civil war that still stirs the soul of France." -Evening Standard, London

In 1870, Paris was the center of Europe, the font of culture, fashion, and invention. Ten months later Paris had been broken by a long Prussian siege, its starving citizens reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats, and France had been forced to accept the humiliating surrender terms dictated by the Iron Chancellor Bismarck. To many, the fall of Paris seemed to be the fall of civilization itself. Alistair Horne's history of the Siege and its aftermath is a tour de force of military and social history, rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.

24

Week 24: Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Art in the New Republic

RECOMMENDED READING

Ross King,

The Judgement of Paris:The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism,

Walker and Company paperback,

ISBN 0802715168

From Publishers Weekly.

King (Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling) presents an engrossing account of the years from 1863—when paintings denied entry into the French Academy's yearly Salon were shown at the Salon des Refusés—to 1874, the date of the first Impressionist exhibition. To dramatize the conflict between academicians and innovators during these years, he follows the careers of two formidable, and very different, artists: Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, a conservative painter celebrated for detailed historical subjects, and Édouard Manet, whose painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe caused an uproar at the Salon des Refusés. Many other artists of the day, among them Courbet, Degas, Morisot, Monet and Cézanne, are included in King's compelling narrative, and the story is further enhanced by the author's vivid portrayal of artistic life in Paris during a turbulent era that saw the siege of the city by the Prussians and the fall of Napoleon III. An epilogue underscores the irony of the tale: after his death, Meissonier quickly fell from favor, while Manet, whose paintings were once judged scandalous, was recognized as a great artist who set the stage for Impressionism and the future of painting. Illus. not seen by PW. (Feb.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Ross King has an impressive track record chronicling the transformative nature of genius. His Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (**** Mar/Apr 2003) wrapped their author's extensive knowledge of European culture in brisk, compelling prose. King continues his march through art history's great moments in The Judgment of Paris and emerges with another triumph. Though the central drama is focused on Manet and Meissonier, The Boston Globe criticizes the book as "at heart an institutional, rather than artistic history." But it is King's sympathy for the fortunes of both Meissonier and Manet that affords him the narrative backbone to paint such a far-reaching story onto one interesting canvas.

25

Week 25: Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Baudelaire

From Wikipedia: Charles Baudelaire, (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. Baudelaire was one of the major innovators in French literature. His poetry is influenced by the French romantic poets of the earlier 19th century, although its attention to the formal features of verse connect it more closely to the work of the contemporary 'Parnassians'. As for theme and tone, in his works we see the rejection of the belief in the supremacy of nature and the fundamental goodness of man as typically espoused by the romantics and expressed by them in rhetorical, effusive and public voice in favor of a new urban sensibility, an awareness of individual moral complexity, an interest in vice (linked with decadence) and refined sensual and aesthetical pleasures, and the use of urban subject matter, such as the city, the crowd, individual passers-by, all expressed in highly ordered verse, sometimes through a cynical and ironic voice. Formally, the use of sound to create atmosphere, and of 'symbols', (images which take on an expanded function within the poem), betray a move towards considering the poem as a self-referential object, an idea further developed by the Symbolists Verlaine and Mallarmé, who acknowledge Baudelaire as a pioneer in this regard.

On the sidebar you will find a link to the best article ever written in English on Symbolism in literature. It was written by Rene Wellek (1903-1995) the founder of the field of comparative literature in the United States. Professor Wellek created comparative literature at Yale in the 1950's and 1960's. The crowning work of Wellek's career was an eight-volume magnum opus entitled A History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, the last two volumes of which he dictated from his bed in a nursing home. This article is taken from the Dictionary of the History of Ideas.

REQUIRED READING

Charles Baudelaire,

Selected Poems from Les Fleurs du mal: A Bilingual Edition,

University Of Chicago Press,

ISBN 0226039269

RECOMMENDED READING

I would like to recommended to you some great one-volume biography equal to the fine biographies by Frederick Brown on Flaubert and Zola, but alas, no such recent biography exists in English. Therefore I will tell you about this very fine collection of articles on Baudelaire, some of which are excellent.  If you are fascinated by him, this volume is the best one to buy in order to continue your studies of Baudelaire.

Rosemary Lloyd,

The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire,

Cambridge University Press paperback, 2006,

ISBN 0521537827

26

Week 26: Wednesday, May 9, 2018
André Gide: The Immoralist

WARNING: DO NOT READ ANY INTRODUCTIONS, ANY BLURBS ON THE COVER OR BACK, ANY NEWSPAPER REVIEWS OR EVEN GRAFITTI ON THE WALLS ABOUT THIS BOOK: WHEN YOU GET TO IT, OPEN THE BOOK, TURN TO PAGE 7, TO THE "PREFACE" WHICH IS REALLY PART OF THE BOOK, AND BEGIN TO READ. YOU DO HAVE MY PERMISSION TO CONTINUE READING ON THIS PAGE THE FOLLOWING TWO PARAGRAPHS ABOUT GIDE AND THE BOOK.

Gide's brilliant confessional novel The Immoralist is a small gem that captures perfectly the intellectual crisis that permeated the intellectual world of France at the end of the nineteenth century. Everyone had begun to doubt everything: country, religion, family, everything. And Gide's narrator of this tale lives this doubt in his journey into sickness, self-analysis (read: Freud) and self-discovery. The massive, encyclopedic Magic Mountain from Thomas Mann (1924) follows the same journey.

Wikipedia: André Paul Guillaume Gide (22 November 1869 – 19 February 1951) was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947. Gide's career ranged from its beginnings in the symbolist movement, to the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars. Known for his fiction as well as his autobiographical works, Gide exposes to public view the conflict and eventual reconciliation between the two sides of his personality, split apart by a strait-laced education and a narrow social moralism. Gide's work can be seen as an investigation of freedom and empowerment in the face of moralistic and puritanical constraints, and gravitates around his continuous effort to achieve intellectual honesty. His self-exploratory texts reflect his search of how to be fully oneself, even to the point of owning one's sexual nature, without at the same time betraying one's values. His political activity is informed by the same ethos, as suggested by his repudiation of communism after his 1936 voyage to the USSR.

 

REQUIRED READING

André Gide,

The Immoralist ,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0142180025

PART TWO:

27

Week 27: Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

As we approach the end of the Nineteenth Cenutry in our thirty weeks of study of Modern France, there is no better example of the changing values and styles of French painting and culture than Toulouse-Lautrec.  Oh of course we could study his very good friend Van Gogh, or their other friend Gauguin.  But I think Toulouse-Lautrec more than his two contemporaries, embodies the rapidly changing quality of French cultural life at the end of the century.  In one way, his personal tragedy is a kind of emblem of a larger sickness at the heart of the very lively European artistic scene in the 1890's.  More than anyone else, Toulouse-Lautrec was a recorder of the wild, drug-filled, sexual liberation that was Montmartre in the 1890's.  The Montmartre of Renoir was gone.  And in the 1890's the new cabarets like the Moulin Rouge ushered in a different kind of night time tourism, of international fame, and of a decayed social scene filled with human tragedies, washed up prostitutes, sexual disease, and lots of money.  Toulouse-Lautrec made all this famous with his brilliant new lithographs that could be printed up overnight by the thousands and posted all over the city on the kiosks.  Soon Toulouse-Lautrec was famous and the Moulin Rouge was famous and people were stealing the newly valuable posters from the walls of Paris as soon as they went up.  Toulouse-Lautrec's short unhappy life is one of the great stories of art of all time.

28

Week 28: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
The Dreyfus Case

The Dreyfus affair (French: l'affaire Dreyfus) was a political scandal that divided France in the 1890s and the early 1900s. It involved the conviction for treason in November 1894 of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having communicated French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was sent to the penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana and placed in solitary confinement. Two years later, in 1896, evidence came to light identifying a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the real culprit. However, high-ranking military officials suppressed this new evidence and Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted after the second day of his trial in military court. Instead of being exonerated, Alfred Dreyfus was further accused by the Army on the basis of false documents fabricated by a French counter-intelligence officer, Hubert-Joseph Henry, seeking to re-confirm Dreyfus's conviction. These fabrications were uncritically accepted by Henry's superiors. Word of the military court's framing of Alfred Dreyfus and of an attendant cover-up began to spread largely due to J'accuse, a vehement public open letter in a Paris newspaper by writer Émile Zola, in January 1898. The case had to be re-opened and Alfred Dreyfus was brought back from Guiana in 1899 to be tried again. The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus (the Dreyfusards), such as Anatole France, Henri Poincaré and Georges Clémenceau, and those who condemned him (the anti-Dreyfusards), such as Edouard Drumont (the director and publisher of the antisemitic newspaper La Libre Parole) and Hubert-Joseph Henry. Eventually, all the accusations against Alfred Dreyfus were demonstrated to be baseless. Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army in 1906. He later served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. (The above from Wikipedia.)

 

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Piers Paul Read,

The Dreyfus Affair: The Scandal That Tore France in Two ,

[Hardcover],

Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (March 13, 2012),

ISBN 1608194329

Review

"Piers Paul Read's fresh and comprehensive take on the scandal sheds new light on Dreyfus's personal life, looks closely at the poor man's unjust exile, and tries to assess just what endowed this incident with its long-lasting fascination."--B&N Review

"Read has done a masterful job of explaining both what happened and why it happened. [He] offers wonderful portraits of the key figures in the unfolding tragedy, and he strives successfully to explain the motivations, fears, and hatred of both sides. This is a great re-examination of one of the most dramatic and consequential episodes in French history."--Booklist (starred)

"Enriched by glimpses into the captain's personal life as well as by descriptions of his ordeal in the French penal colony at Devil's Island, this book is highly recommended to general readers or undergraduates interested in French history, anti-Semitism, or church-state tensions in the modern period.-- Library Journal

"Absorbing and perceptive"--Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Piers Paul Read is best known for his book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which documented the story of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The book was adapted into the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes. The novelist and historian has won the Hawthornden Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award, and a James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2003 his authorized biography of the actor Alec Guinness was published to great acclaim.

29

Week 29: Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Fin de Siècle

Wikipedia: Fin de siècle is French for "end of the century". The term sometimes encompasses both the closing and onset of an era, as it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning. “Fin de siècle” is most commonly associated with French artists, especially the French symbolists, and was affected by the cultural awareness characteristic of France at the end of the 19th century. However, the expression is also used to refer to a European-wide cultural movement. The ideas and concerns of the fin de siècle influenced the decades to follow and played an important role in the birth of modernism. The expression fin de siècle usually refers to the end of the 19th century, in Europe, France and/or Paris. It has connotations of decadence, which are seen as typical for the last years of a culturally vibrant period (La Belle Époque at the turn of the 19th century and until World War I), and of anticipative excitement about, or despair facing, impending change, or both, that is generally expected when a century or time period draws to a close. In Russia, the term Silver Age is somewhat more popular. That the expression is in French probably comes from the fact that the fin de siècle is particularly associated with certain late 19th-century French-speaking circles in Paris and Brussels, exemplified by artists like Stéphane Mallarmé and Claude Debussy, movements like Symbolism, and works of art like Oscar Wilde's Salomé (originally written in French and premiered in Paris)—which connects the idea of the fin de siècle also to the Aesthetic movement. Also, Edvard Munch spent some of his time in Paris around the turn-of-the-century, which was his most melancholy period.

Fin de siècle music: Erik Satie:

play various selections

REQUIRED READING

Eugen Weber,

France, Fin de Siècle,

Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (March 15, 1988),

ISBN 0674318137

PART TWO:

The films of the Lumiere Brothers.

and Georges Melies, "A Trip to the Moon" 1902

 

30

Week 30: Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Paris 1900

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, there was a palpable sensation of coming catastrophe. Writers, painters, poets all registered their sense of gloom. It had been almost a century since the last great world war effort against Napoleon, and year after year, the general population was treated to increasingly violent patriotic propaganda against various parties. In France, it was the "Germans," a new term carrying nationalistic scorn that was ubiquitous now that Bismarck had pulled together all the tiny German-speaking states that had earlier been easy pickings for the French Grande Armee of Napoleon. Great international colonial empires were crashing into each other. Britain, France, Germany, Holland all had profitable colonial territories, and each nation was governed by imperialistic cabals dedicated to maintaining the vast international money-making machines of empire. If you would like one book to describe this atmosphere and the politics of the situation, there is none better than Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING

Barbara Tuchman,

The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914,

Ballantine Books paperback,

ISBN 0345405013

About the Book:

"The diplomatic origins, so-called, of the War are only the fever chart of the patient; they do not tell us what caused the fever. To probe for underlying causes and deeper forces one must operate within the framework of a whole society and try to discover what moved the people in it." --Barbara W. Tuchman

The fateful quarter-century leading up to the World War I was a time when the world of Privilege still existed in Olympian luxury and the world of Protest was heaving in its pain, its power, and its hate. The age was the climax of a century of the most accelerated rate of change in history, a cataclysmic shaping of destiny. In The Proud Tower, Barbara Tuchman concentrates on society rather than the state. With an artist's selectivity, Tuchman brings to vivid life the people, places, and events that shaped the years leading up to the Great War: the Edwardian aristocracy and the end of their reign; the Anarchists of Europe and America, who voiced the protest of the oppressed; Germany, as portrayed through the figure of the self-depicted Hero, Richard Strauss; the sudden gorgeous blaze of Diaghilev's Russian Ballet and Stravinsky's music; the Dreyfus Affair; the two Peace Conferences at the Hague; and, finally, the youth, ideals, enthusiasm, and tragedy of Socialism, epitomized in the moment when the heroic Jean Jaurès was shot to death on the night the War began and an epoch ended.

"Tuchman [was] a distinguished historian who [wrote] her books with a rare combination of impeccable scholarship and literary polish. . . . It would be impossible to read The Proud Tower without pleasure and admiration." --The New York Times

"Tuchman proved in The Guns of August that she could write better military history than most men. In this sequel, she tells her story with cool wit and warm understanding, eschewing both the sweeping generalizations of a Toynbee and the minute-by-minute simplicisms of a Walter Lord." --Time

All

Week 21: Wed., Apr. 4, 2018
The Franco-Prussian War

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871) was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria. The complete Prussian and German victory brought about the final unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I of Prussia. It also marked the downfall of Napoleon III and the end of the Second French Empire, which was replaced by the French Third Republic. As part of the settlement, the territory of Alsace-Lorraine was taken by Prussia to become a part of Germany, which it would retain until the end of World War I when it was given back to France in the Treaty of Versailles. The conflict was a culmination of years of tension between the two nations, which finally came to a head over the issue of a Hohenzollern candidate for the vacant Spanish throne, following the deposition of Isabella II in 1868. The public release of the Ems Dispatch, which played up alleged insults between the Prussian king and the French ambassador, inflamed public opinion on both sides. France mobilized, and on 19 July declared war on Prussia only, but the other German states quickly joined on Prussia's side. It soon became evident that the Prussian and German forces were superior, due in part to their efficient use of railways and the better Krupp steel artillery. Prussia had the fourth densest rail network in the world; France had the fifth. A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France culminated in the Battle of Sedan, at which Napoleon III was captured with his whole army on 2 September. Yet this did not end the war, as the Third Republic was declared in Paris on 4 September 1870, and French resistance continued under the Government of National Defence and later Adolphe Thiers. Over a five-month campaign, the German armies defeated the newly recruited French armies in a series of battles fought across northern France. Following a prolonged siege, Paris fell on 28 January 1871. The siege is also notable for the first use of anti-aircraft artillery, a Krupp piece built specifically to shoot down the hot air balloons being used by the French as couriers. Ten days earlier, the German states had proclaimed their union under the Prussian king, uniting Germany as a nation-state, the German Empire. The final Treaty of Frankfurt was signed 10 May 1871, during the time of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871. (The above from Wikipedia.)

LECTURE NOTES:

In the sidebar are links to notes written by Prof. Bruce Thompson who lectures here at the Institute.  He taught a course called "The Long Century" some years ago and for that course he wrote these notes.  Some of the note topics are perfect for our class so I am sure you will enjoy having them.  We have them for three of our ten weeks.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Gordon Wright,

France in Modern Times, Fifth edition,

Norton paperback,

ISBN 9780393967050

This Amazon review is for: France in Modern Times (Fifth Edition) (Paperback) "Gordon Wright's "France In Modern Times" is an all-encompassing book about French history from the start of the 1789 Revolution to contemporary times. This book has been required reading in all of my French history classes and with good reason: it clearly defines the main themes of French history in language that everyone can understand. In other words, one does not have to be a professional historian or a graduate student like myself in order to understand the points that Wright is highlighting. Furthermore, Wright gives an outstanding bibliography that enables one to continue their research on the various topics that he discusses within the book. If you are looking for one book on modern French history, this is the one that you should buy!"

About the Author: Gordon Wright was William H. Bonsall Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University. He was a past president of both the American Historical Association and the Society for French Historical Studies, and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His many other books include Raymond Poincare and the French Presidency; Rurual Revolution in France; The Ordeal of Total War: 1939-1945; and Between the Guillotine and Liberty: Two Centuries of the Crime Problem in France.

Alistair Horne,

La Belle France,

Vintage paperbacks,

ISBN 1400034876

Reviews

"Fascinating. . . . Engaging. . . . Filled with 'hot-blooded' kings, royal mistressesÉand tales of cruelty, treachery and even, occasionally, heart-warming loyalty."

–San Francisco Chronicle

"[Horne] is a virtuoso of the character sketch and the illuminating vignette. . . . La Belle France, with its refreshingly subjective style, possesses more treasures than a whole wall full of textbooks."

–The Wall Street Journal

"A breathtaking tour of French history, from its earliest kings through the Mitterrand government. . . . There are few countries with a more fascinating history than France."

–The Seattle Times

"A useful and charming introduction to a nation that has oh-so-definitely helped make the modern world what it is. . . . Horne does a service in helping the reader navigate the complexities of French history."

–Los Angeles Times

RECOMMENDED READING

Michael Howard,

The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870-1871,

Routledge; 2nd ed. (Nov. 9, 2001),

ISBN 0415266718

'No outline can suggest the richness of detail and significance, or the superb command of language with which he invests his chronicle. His book is a masterpiece.' - Sunday Times

'Brilliantly written.' - Julian Critchley, The Week

Week 22: Wed., Apr. 11, 2018
The Siege of Paris

  1. The Siege of Paris
  2. Leon Gambetta
  3. General Louis Trochu
  4. Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers

The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune. As early as August 1870 the Prussian 3rd Army led by the Crown Prince (the future Emperor) Frederick III had been marching towards Paris, but was recalled to deal with French forces accompanied by Napoleon III himself. These forces were crushed at the Battle of Sedan and the road to Paris was left open. Personally leading the Prussian forces Wilhelm I of Prussia along with his chief of staff Helmuth von Moltke, took the 3rd Army along with the new Prussian Army of the Meuse under Crown Prince Albert of Saxony and marched on Paris virtually unopposed. In Paris the Governor and commander-in-chief of the city's defenses General Louis Jules Trochu, assembled a force of regular soldiers that had managed to escape Sedan under Joseph Vinoy plus the National Guards and a brigade of sailors which totalled around 400,000. (The above from Wikipedia.)

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Alistair Horne,

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-1871,

Penguin Paperback,

ISBN 9780141030630

Review:

"This classic work . . . is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the civil war that still stirs the soul of France." -Evening Standard, London

In 1870, Paris was the center of Europe, the font of culture, fashion, and invention. Ten months later Paris had been broken by a long Prussian siege, its starving citizens reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats, and France had been forced to accept the humiliating surrender terms dictated by the Iron Chancellor Bismarck. To many, the fall of Paris seemed to be the fall of civilization itself. Alistair Horne's history of the Siege and its aftermath is a tour de force of military and social history, rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.

PART TWO:

Paintings, newspaper articles and cartoons, depicting the events and personalities of 1870-1871. Portraits of Gambetta, Trochu, Thiers and others.

Week 23: Wed., Apr. 18, 2018
The Paris Commune, 1871

The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune contributed to the break between those two political groups. In a formal sense, the Paris Commune simply acted as the local authority, the city council (in French, the "commune"), which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. However, the conditions in which it formed, its controversial decrees, and its violent end make its tenure one of the more important political episodes of the time. (The above from Wikipedia.)

Bruce Thompson on the Paris Commune:

THE PARIS COMMUNE: With the rapid collapse of the French army in 1870, Paris found itself besieged by the Germans. Cut off from the rest of the country, Parisians ate horses, cats, dogs, rats, and many of the animals in the zoo. Merchants hoarded their goods while prices rose, or sold them under the counter, so "hour after hour the wretched housewives waited, often leaving empty-handed, with hatred in their hearts equally for the petit bourgeois as represented by the heartless butcher and for the rich bourgeois who could afford to buy without queuing" (Alistair Horne). One of the lasting legacies of the Commune was a bitter residue of class hatred. During the long months of the siege about 65 manned balloons were launched from the city, carrying nearly 11 tons of official dispatches. Only five of these fell into the hands of the enemy and only two balloonists died. This success helped to maintain morale, but indiscriminate bombardment of the city by Prussian heavy guns obviously had the opposite effect. Shells fell at random at the rate of 300-400 a day. Capitulation to Bismarck convinced the city's belligerent Left that the new French government under the leadership of Adolphe Thiers was planning a deal with the enemy to restore the old imperial regime. Seizing guns from an artillery park atop the hill of Montmartre, the revolutionaries set up a rival regime, the Commune of Paris. In the ranks were veterans of the barricades of 1848 (and a few from 1830), revolutionary feminists (Louise Michel), and a variety of idealists and radicals. When Thiers' forces conquered the city they behaved brutally; incendiaries responded by burning the Tuileries Palace, a large part of the Palais-Royal, the Palais de Justice, the Préfecture de Police, the Ministry of Finance and the superb medieval Hôtel de Ville. The number of lives lost during the bloody last week of May 1871 was between 20,000 and 25,000—an orgy of killing worse than the bloodletting of the Terror in 1793. The great city, already diminished by months of siege and bombardment, was now devastated by this terrible ordeal of punitive savagery and popular fury. The painter Auguste Renoir narrowly escaped death at the hands of an enraged mob. As Rupert Christiansen has shown, one can track the reaction of French élite opinion to the upheavals of 1870-71 via the diaries of the aristocratic man of letters Edmond Goncourt. On 28 March 1871 he recorded his opinion of the Commune: "The newspapers see nothing in what is going on but a question of decentralization: as if it had anything to do with decentralization! What is happening is nothing less that the conquest of France by the worker and the reduction to slavery under his rule of the noble, the bourgeois, and the peasant. Government is passing from the hands of the have's to those of the have-not's, form those who have a material interest in the preservation of society to those who have no interest whatever in order, stability, or preservation. Perhaps, in the great law of change that governs all earthly things, the workers are for modern society what the Barbarians were for ancient society, the convulsive agents of dissolution and destruction." A few days later, on April 2, Goncourt welcomed the arrival of the government's troops: "The sound of gunfire, about ten o'clock, in the direction of Courbevoie. Thank God, civil war has broken out! When things have reached this pass, civil war is preferable to hypocritical skullduggery…. I set out straight away for Paris, studying people's faces, which are a sort of barometer of events in revolutionary times; I see in them a hidden satisfaction, a sly joy. Finally a newspaper tells me that the Belleville troops have been beaten! I am filled with a jubilation which I savor at length. Let tomorrow bring what it will." For the opposite point of view, see Karl Marx's account of the Commune.

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Alistair Horne,

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-1871,

Penguin Paperback,

ISBN 9780141030630

Review:

"This classic work . . . is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the civil war that still stirs the soul of France." -Evening Standard, London

In 1870, Paris was the center of Europe, the font of culture, fashion, and invention. Ten months later Paris had been broken by a long Prussian siege, its starving citizens reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats, and France had been forced to accept the humiliating surrender terms dictated by the Iron Chancellor Bismarck. To many, the fall of Paris seemed to be the fall of civilization itself. Alistair Horne's history of the Siege and its aftermath is a tour de force of military and social history, rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.

Week 24: Wed., Apr. 25, 2018
Art in the New Republic

RECOMMENDED READING

Ross King,

The Judgement of Paris:The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism,

Walker and Company paperback,

ISBN 0802715168

From Publishers Weekly.

King (Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling) presents an engrossing account of the years from 1863—when paintings denied entry into the French Academy's yearly Salon were shown at the Salon des Refusés—to 1874, the date of the first Impressionist exhibition. To dramatize the conflict between academicians and innovators during these years, he follows the careers of two formidable, and very different, artists: Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, a conservative painter celebrated for detailed historical subjects, and Édouard Manet, whose painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe caused an uproar at the Salon des Refusés. Many other artists of the day, among them Courbet, Degas, Morisot, Monet and Cézanne, are included in King's compelling narrative, and the story is further enhanced by the author's vivid portrayal of artistic life in Paris during a turbulent era that saw the siege of the city by the Prussians and the fall of Napoleon III. An epilogue underscores the irony of the tale: after his death, Meissonier quickly fell from favor, while Manet, whose paintings were once judged scandalous, was recognized as a great artist who set the stage for Impressionism and the future of painting. Illus. not seen by PW. (Feb.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Ross King has an impressive track record chronicling the transformative nature of genius. His Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (**** Mar/Apr 2003) wrapped their author's extensive knowledge of European culture in brisk, compelling prose. King continues his march through art history's great moments in The Judgment of Paris and emerges with another triumph. Though the central drama is focused on Manet and Meissonier, The Boston Globe criticizes the book as "at heart an institutional, rather than artistic history." But it is King's sympathy for the fortunes of both Meissonier and Manet that affords him the narrative backbone to paint such a far-reaching story onto one interesting canvas.

Week 25: Wed., May. 2, 2018
Baudelaire

From Wikipedia: Charles Baudelaire, (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. Baudelaire was one of the major innovators in French literature. His poetry is influenced by the French romantic poets of the earlier 19th century, although its attention to the formal features of verse connect it more closely to the work of the contemporary 'Parnassians'. As for theme and tone, in his works we see the rejection of the belief in the supremacy of nature and the fundamental goodness of man as typically espoused by the romantics and expressed by them in rhetorical, effusive and public voice in favor of a new urban sensibility, an awareness of individual moral complexity, an interest in vice (linked with decadence) and refined sensual and aesthetical pleasures, and the use of urban subject matter, such as the city, the crowd, individual passers-by, all expressed in highly ordered verse, sometimes through a cynical and ironic voice. Formally, the use of sound to create atmosphere, and of 'symbols', (images which take on an expanded function within the poem), betray a move towards considering the poem as a self-referential object, an idea further developed by the Symbolists Verlaine and Mallarmé, who acknowledge Baudelaire as a pioneer in this regard.

On the sidebar you will find a link to the best article ever written in English on Symbolism in literature. It was written by Rene Wellek (1903-1995) the founder of the field of comparative literature in the United States. Professor Wellek created comparative literature at Yale in the 1950's and 1960's. The crowning work of Wellek's career was an eight-volume magnum opus entitled A History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, the last two volumes of which he dictated from his bed in a nursing home. This article is taken from the Dictionary of the History of Ideas.

REQUIRED READING

Charles Baudelaire,

Selected Poems from Les Fleurs du mal: A Bilingual Edition,

University Of Chicago Press,

ISBN 0226039269

RECOMMENDED READING

I would like to recommended to you some great one-volume biography equal to the fine biographies by Frederick Brown on Flaubert and Zola, but alas, no such recent biography exists in English. Therefore I will tell you about this very fine collection of articles on Baudelaire, some of which are excellent.  If you are fascinated by him, this volume is the best one to buy in order to continue your studies of Baudelaire.

Rosemary Lloyd,

The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire,

Cambridge University Press paperback, 2006,

ISBN 0521537827

Week 26: Wed., May. 9, 2018
André Gide: The Immoralist

WARNING: DO NOT READ ANY INTRODUCTIONS, ANY BLURBS ON THE COVER OR BACK, ANY NEWSPAPER REVIEWS OR EVEN GRAFITTI ON THE WALLS ABOUT THIS BOOK: WHEN YOU GET TO IT, OPEN THE BOOK, TURN TO PAGE 7, TO THE "PREFACE" WHICH IS REALLY PART OF THE BOOK, AND BEGIN TO READ. YOU DO HAVE MY PERMISSION TO CONTINUE READING ON THIS PAGE THE FOLLOWING TWO PARAGRAPHS ABOUT GIDE AND THE BOOK.

Gide's brilliant confessional novel The Immoralist is a small gem that captures perfectly the intellectual crisis that permeated the intellectual world of France at the end of the nineteenth century. Everyone had begun to doubt everything: country, religion, family, everything. And Gide's narrator of this tale lives this doubt in his journey into sickness, self-analysis (read: Freud) and self-discovery. The massive, encyclopedic Magic Mountain from Thomas Mann (1924) follows the same journey.

Wikipedia: André Paul Guillaume Gide (22 November 1869 – 19 February 1951) was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947. Gide's career ranged from its beginnings in the symbolist movement, to the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars. Known for his fiction as well as his autobiographical works, Gide exposes to public view the conflict and eventual reconciliation between the two sides of his personality, split apart by a strait-laced education and a narrow social moralism. Gide's work can be seen as an investigation of freedom and empowerment in the face of moralistic and puritanical constraints, and gravitates around his continuous effort to achieve intellectual honesty. His self-exploratory texts reflect his search of how to be fully oneself, even to the point of owning one's sexual nature, without at the same time betraying one's values. His political activity is informed by the same ethos, as suggested by his repudiation of communism after his 1936 voyage to the USSR.

 

REQUIRED READING

André Gide,

The Immoralist ,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0142180025

PART TWO:

Week 27: Wed., May. 16, 2018
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

As we approach the end of the Nineteenth Cenutry in our thirty weeks of study of Modern France, there is no better example of the changing values and styles of French painting and culture than Toulouse-Lautrec.  Oh of course we could study his very good friend Van Gogh, or their other friend Gauguin.  But I think Toulouse-Lautrec more than his two contemporaries, embodies the rapidly changing quality of French cultural life at the end of the century.  In one way, his personal tragedy is a kind of emblem of a larger sickness at the heart of the very lively European artistic scene in the 1890's.  More than anyone else, Toulouse-Lautrec was a recorder of the wild, drug-filled, sexual liberation that was Montmartre in the 1890's.  The Montmartre of Renoir was gone.  And in the 1890's the new cabarets like the Moulin Rouge ushered in a different kind of night time tourism, of international fame, and of a decayed social scene filled with human tragedies, washed up prostitutes, sexual disease, and lots of money.  Toulouse-Lautrec made all this famous with his brilliant new lithographs that could be printed up overnight by the thousands and posted all over the city on the kiosks.  Soon Toulouse-Lautrec was famous and the Moulin Rouge was famous and people were stealing the newly valuable posters from the walls of Paris as soon as they went up.  Toulouse-Lautrec's short unhappy life is one of the great stories of art of all time.

Week 28: Wed., May. 23, 2018
The Dreyfus Case

The Dreyfus affair (French: l'affaire Dreyfus) was a political scandal that divided France in the 1890s and the early 1900s. It involved the conviction for treason in November 1894 of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having communicated French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was sent to the penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana and placed in solitary confinement. Two years later, in 1896, evidence came to light identifying a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the real culprit. However, high-ranking military officials suppressed this new evidence and Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted after the second day of his trial in military court. Instead of being exonerated, Alfred Dreyfus was further accused by the Army on the basis of false documents fabricated by a French counter-intelligence officer, Hubert-Joseph Henry, seeking to re-confirm Dreyfus's conviction. These fabrications were uncritically accepted by Henry's superiors. Word of the military court's framing of Alfred Dreyfus and of an attendant cover-up began to spread largely due to J'accuse, a vehement public open letter in a Paris newspaper by writer Émile Zola, in January 1898. The case had to be re-opened and Alfred Dreyfus was brought back from Guiana in 1899 to be tried again. The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus (the Dreyfusards), such as Anatole France, Henri Poincaré and Georges Clémenceau, and those who condemned him (the anti-Dreyfusards), such as Edouard Drumont (the director and publisher of the antisemitic newspaper La Libre Parole) and Hubert-Joseph Henry. Eventually, all the accusations against Alfred Dreyfus were demonstrated to be baseless. Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army in 1906. He later served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. (The above from Wikipedia.)

 

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Piers Paul Read,

The Dreyfus Affair: The Scandal That Tore France in Two ,

[Hardcover],

Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (March 13, 2012),

ISBN 1608194329

Review

"Piers Paul Read's fresh and comprehensive take on the scandal sheds new light on Dreyfus's personal life, looks closely at the poor man's unjust exile, and tries to assess just what endowed this incident with its long-lasting fascination."--B&N Review

"Read has done a masterful job of explaining both what happened and why it happened. [He] offers wonderful portraits of the key figures in the unfolding tragedy, and he strives successfully to explain the motivations, fears, and hatred of both sides. This is a great re-examination of one of the most dramatic and consequential episodes in French history."--Booklist (starred)

"Enriched by glimpses into the captain's personal life as well as by descriptions of his ordeal in the French penal colony at Devil's Island, this book is highly recommended to general readers or undergraduates interested in French history, anti-Semitism, or church-state tensions in the modern period.-- Library Journal

"Absorbing and perceptive"--Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Piers Paul Read is best known for his book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which documented the story of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The book was adapted into the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes. The novelist and historian has won the Hawthornden Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award, and a James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2003 his authorized biography of the actor Alec Guinness was published to great acclaim.

Week 29: Wed., May. 30, 2018
Fin de Siècle

Wikipedia: Fin de siècle is French for "end of the century". The term sometimes encompasses both the closing and onset of an era, as it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning. “Fin de siècle” is most commonly associated with French artists, especially the French symbolists, and was affected by the cultural awareness characteristic of France at the end of the 19th century. However, the expression is also used to refer to a European-wide cultural movement. The ideas and concerns of the fin de siècle influenced the decades to follow and played an important role in the birth of modernism. The expression fin de siècle usually refers to the end of the 19th century, in Europe, France and/or Paris. It has connotations of decadence, which are seen as typical for the last years of a culturally vibrant period (La Belle Époque at the turn of the 19th century and until World War I), and of anticipative excitement about, or despair facing, impending change, or both, that is generally expected when a century or time period draws to a close. In Russia, the term Silver Age is somewhat more popular. That the expression is in French probably comes from the fact that the fin de siècle is particularly associated with certain late 19th-century French-speaking circles in Paris and Brussels, exemplified by artists like Stéphane Mallarmé and Claude Debussy, movements like Symbolism, and works of art like Oscar Wilde's Salomé (originally written in French and premiered in Paris)—which connects the idea of the fin de siècle also to the Aesthetic movement. Also, Edvard Munch spent some of his time in Paris around the turn-of-the-century, which was his most melancholy period.

Fin de siècle music: Erik Satie:

play various selections

REQUIRED READING

Eugen Weber,

France, Fin de Siècle,

Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (March 15, 1988),

ISBN 0674318137

PART TWO:

The films of the Lumiere Brothers.

and Georges Melies, "A Trip to the Moon" 1902

 

Week 30: Wed., Jun. 6, 2018
Paris 1900

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, there was a palpable sensation of coming catastrophe. Writers, painters, poets all registered their sense of gloom. It had been almost a century since the last great world war effort against Napoleon, and year after year, the general population was treated to increasingly violent patriotic propaganda against various parties. In France, it was the "Germans," a new term carrying nationalistic scorn that was ubiquitous now that Bismarck had pulled together all the tiny German-speaking states that had earlier been easy pickings for the French Grande Armee of Napoleon. Great international colonial empires were crashing into each other. Britain, France, Germany, Holland all had profitable colonial territories, and each nation was governed by imperialistic cabals dedicated to maintaining the vast international money-making machines of empire. If you would like one book to describe this atmosphere and the politics of the situation, there is none better than Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING

Barbara Tuchman,

The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914,

Ballantine Books paperback,

ISBN 0345405013

About the Book:

"The diplomatic origins, so-called, of the War are only the fever chart of the patient; they do not tell us what caused the fever. To probe for underlying causes and deeper forces one must operate within the framework of a whole society and try to discover what moved the people in it." --Barbara W. Tuchman

The fateful quarter-century leading up to the World War I was a time when the world of Privilege still existed in Olympian luxury and the world of Protest was heaving in its pain, its power, and its hate. The age was the climax of a century of the most accelerated rate of change in history, a cataclysmic shaping of destiny. In The Proud Tower, Barbara Tuchman concentrates on society rather than the state. With an artist's selectivity, Tuchman brings to vivid life the people, places, and events that shaped the years leading up to the Great War: the Edwardian aristocracy and the end of their reign; the Anarchists of Europe and America, who voiced the protest of the oppressed; Germany, as portrayed through the figure of the self-depicted Hero, Richard Strauss; the sudden gorgeous blaze of Diaghilev's Russian Ballet and Stravinsky's music; the Dreyfus Affair; the two Peace Conferences at the Hague; and, finally, the youth, ideals, enthusiasm, and tragedy of Socialism, epitomized in the moment when the heroic Jean Jaurès was shot to death on the night the War began and an epoch ended.

"Tuchman [was] a distinguished historian who [wrote] her books with a rare combination of impeccable scholarship and literary polish. . . . It would be impossible to read The Proud Tower without pleasure and admiration." --The New York Times

"Tuchman proved in The Guns of August that she could write better military history than most men. In this sequel, she tells her story with cool wit and warm understanding, eschewing both the sweeping generalizations of a Toynbee and the minute-by-minute simplicisms of a Walter Lord." --Time