Rethinking France by Pierre Nora
Les Lieux de memoire, Volume 1: The State

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Synopsis

Les Lieux de mémoire is perhaps one of the most profound historical documents on the history and culture of the French nation. Assembled by Pierre Nora during the Mitterand years, this multivolume series has been hailed as "a magnificent achievement" (The New Republic) and "the grandest, most ambitious effort to dissect, interpret and celebrate the French fascination with their own past" (The Los Angeles Times). Written during a time when French national identity was undergoing a pivotal change and the nation was struggling to define itself, this unprecedented series consists of essays by prominent historians and cultural commentators which take, as their points of departure, a lieu de mémoire: a site of memory used to order, concentrate, and secure notions of France's past.

The first volume in the Chicago translation, Rethinking France, brings together works addressing the omnipresent role of the state in French life. As in the other volumes, the lieux de mémoire serve as entries into the French past, whether they are actual sites, political traditions, rituals, or even national pastimes and textbooks. Volume I: The State offers a sophisticated and engaging view of the French and their past through widely diverse essays on, for example, the château of Versailles and the French history of absolutism; the Code civil and its ordering of French life; memoirs written by French statesmen; and Charlemagne and his place in French history. Nora's authors constitute a who's who of French academia, yet they wear their erudition lightly. Taken as a whole, this extraordinary series documents how the French have come to see themselves and why.

Contributors:
Alain Guéry
Maurice Agulhon
Bernard Guenée
Daniel Nordman
Robert Morrissey
Alain Boureau
Anne-Marie Lecoq
Hélène Himelfarb
Jean Carbonnier
Hervé Le Bras
Pierre Nora
 

About Pierre Nora

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Pierre Nora is editorial director at Éditions Gallimard. Since 1977, he has been directeur d'Études at the École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales. He is the founding editor of Le DÉbat and has directed the editorial work on Les Lieux de mÉmoire since 1984. In 2001 he was elected to the AcadÉmie Française. David P. Jordan is the LAS Distinguished Professor of French History at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author of Transforming Paris and The Revolutionary Career of Maximilien Robespierre, both published by the University of Chicago Press.    
 
Published October 1, 1999 by University of Chicago Press. 516 pages
Genres: History, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Rethinking France

Publishers Weekly

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Assembled by the editorial director of France's Éditions Gallimard, these 11 essays focus on the central role of the state in French history.

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London Review of Books

Its author, Ernest Lavisse (1842-1922), one of the luminaries of that Republic, was also the editor of an 18-volume collective history of France which was later much derided by the Annales school as the worst kind of positivist and exclusively political history.

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