France has long attracted the attention of many of America's
most accomplished historians. The field of French history has been
vastly influential in American thought, both within the academy and
beyond, regardless of France's standing among U.S. political and
cultural elites. Even though other countries, from Britain to
China, may have had a greater impact on American history, none has
exerted quite the same hold on the American historical imagination,
particularly in the post-1945 era.
To gain a fresh perspective on this passionate relationship,
Laura Lee Downs and Stéphane Gerson commissioned a diverse array of
historians to write autobiographical essays in which they explore
their intellectual, political, and personal engagements with France
and its past. In addition to the essays, Why France?
includes a lengthy introduction by the editors and an afterword by
one of France's most distinguished historians, Roger Chartier.
Taken together, these essays provide a rich and thought-provoking
portrait of France, the Franco-American relationship, and a
half-century of American intellectual life, viewed through the lens
of the best scholarship on France.
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