Rural Society and French Politics

Rural Society and French Politics: Boulangism and the Dreyfus Affair, 1886-1900

MICHAEL BURNS
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 262
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvc45
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  • Book Info
    Rural Society and French Politics
    Book Description:

    Michael Burns charts the rural impact of the two political watersheds" of fin-de-siecle France--Boulangism and the Dreyfus Affair. Broadening our understanding of the early Third Republic, he investigates its intricate village life and shows how the deindustrialization of the countryside both upset and solidified rural cultures.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5338-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xii-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-16)

    One Sunday night in August, 1899, an elderly Parisian gentleman stopped at the Gare de l’Est to greet friends returning from a holiday in the countryside. On the platform he encountered a “brave campagnard” who stepped down from an arriving train and, in a “most simple and ingenuous manner,” called out “Tiens! mais c’est donc la fête ici.” Perhaps the peasant was reacting to the huge crowds in the bustling station, to newspaper hawkers crying out headlines of the Dreyfus retrial taking place in Rennes, or, simply, to his first glimpse of Paris. Whatever the case, our Parisian witness went...

  7. PART ONE The Ruralization of Modern France
    • CHAPTER I COUNTRY PEOPLE, COUNTRY WAYS
      (pp. 19-37)

      On a May market day in 1895 socialists in the Isère mining town of La Mure held a meeting to attract visitors from the countryside. Addressing 400 inhabitants “de tous environs,” a deputy began his political appeal with “Vous paysans.” There it ended. The audience jeered, shouted, hissed, and ignored all attempts to restore order. The deputy and his colleagues tried to calm the crowd but, says the mayor, the meeting degenerated into a ludicrousbouffonnerieand had to be quickly terminated.¹ The mayor might have held a political or personal grudge against these visiting socialists—the audience reaction might...

    • CHAPTER II TOUR DE FRANCE: GERS, ORNE, ISÈRE, MARNE
      (pp. 38-54)

      Lucien Febvre described facts as hooks on which we hang ideas.¹ An investigation of rural France would, ideally, consider facts from scores of departments, hundreds of cantons, thousands (at least) of France’s over 30,000 communes, from the Nord to Provence, Brittany to Alsace. The portrait would be finely brushed but never final. In the end it might only reveal the pretensions of a historian who believed that the quality of his ideas could be measured by the quantity of his hooks. It is the historian’s business to select representative examples with care. In this case, thetour de Francewhich...

  8. PART TWO Boulangism
    • CHAPTER III SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
      (pp. 57-87)

      “There is no way of stemming the Boulangist tide,” the French socialist Paul Lafargue wrote Friedrich Engels in 1888. “The country is demented.” Engels agreed, adding that Henri Rochefort, Boulanger’s most active propagandist, “seems off his head.” As for the peasants, they are “mercenary soldiers [lansquenets] who will always serve in the conqueror’s army by choice.…”¹ A police informant shared Engels’ assessment: “Peasants, tenant farmers, and all those who are tied in some way to rich conservatives are today perfectly won over [by Boulangists]. When the efforts of the clergy are also considered, one has an idea of the situation.”²...

    • CHAPTER IV THE RURAL LEGACY
      (pp. 88-118)

      Goncourt was mistaken. General Boulanger’s political fate, like that of his Bonapartist predecessors, would hinge on more than songs, imagery, and hired hawkers. The movement’s sophisticated, well-financed organization could attract the attention of country people, but success or failure in villages and hamlets would depend on a variety of local conditions. We shall see that interest in Boulangism ranged from noteworthy in parts of the rural Isère, Savoie, and Orne, to marginal in much of the Gers, Marne, and Vendée. But peasants lived in concrete communities, not abstract administrative units, and only the “truffle hunter,” as Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie...

  9. PART THREE The Dreyfus Affair
    • CHAPTER V OLD LEGENDS AND NEW MYTHS
      (pp. 121-137)

      Boulangists contributed to the architecture of modern European anti-Semitism. Constructed early in the Third Republic, it reached its height in France during the Dreyfus Affair. Anti-Semitic attacks may have been peripheral to Boulangism outside the Marne and a few other regions, and largely centered in cities, but those supporters of the General who chose to revivify the dying movement by politicizing anti-Semitism must take their place alongside Edouard Drumont, his contemporary Karl Lueger in Austria, and their twentieth century descendants.

      Political anti-Semites did not let their cause die with the General. They had just begun. In the half-decade preceding the...

    • CHAPTER VI DIFFERENCE AND INDIFFERENCE
      (pp. 138-164)

      Late on the night of January 24, 1898, a handful of homemade posters were attached to walls in the town of Vitry le François (Marne). “Down with the Jews,” they read, “Worker, your sole enemy is the Jew; hang him to the lamppost; down with Zola; long live the Army!” The police commissioner in this largechef-lieuwas not alarmed: “Simply youthful roguery,” he informed the subprefect, with no echo, no menace to the general population. He detained six men and arrested one; twenty-five-year-old Ernest Lirman—a drunk.¹

      The local republican newspaper called the display a cowardly act, the work...

  10. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 165-174)

    In the decades between mid-century and the Boulanger and Dreyfus Affairs striking changes occurred in the French countryside. With the demise of small local industries and the exodus of many young artisans, day laborers and rural bourgeois, thousands of hitherto economically and socially complex communes became the domain of seasoned peasants. The process had begun early in the century, but after 1850 the number of communes with fewer than 500 inhabitants increased dramatically, and rurallistes nominativesin the 1880s and 90s show that farmers now predominated in villages and hamlets. Moreover, the expansion of the national market economy, along...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 175-216)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 219-240)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 241-249)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 250-250)