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Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0804710138
ISBN-10: 0804710139
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eugen Weber was Joan Palevsky Professor of Modern European History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 632 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804710139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804710138
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. E. Stoebner on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Eric Hobsbawm recently asked", writes the author, "whether the `nation' might be `an attempt to fill the void left by the dismantling of earlier community and social structures'. This actually reverses the order of events, at least in regard to France. In France the political nation of the Ancien Regime functioned side by side with traditional community and social structures. The ideological nation of the Revolution had to compete with these. It was not invented upon their dismantling; its invention implied their dismantling." This process, as Weber's book richly demonstrates, lasted until the early 20th century. In the meantime, linguistic and cultural parochialism lived on outside the cities. In the Third Republic, the author estimates, "French was a foreign language for half the citizens", the half who spoke the patois of the province within which they spent their entire lives. A French national identity existed only among the middle and upper classes, most strongly among government employees, including administrators, bureaucrats, teachers, and military officers. But the relentless efforts of mandatory schooling gradually took effect, which tried to instill an awareness of of being "French" and belonging to the nation-state of "France" rather than to one's own province. To be educated was synonymous with speaking standard French and adopting French high culture. Additionally, the advance of industrialization, improvements in transportation and infrastructure, and military service increased mobility in the population so that groups from different parts of the country had to move away from home and interact with each other. People saw and experienced life in different regions, and the use of standard French became necessary as a lingua franca.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This superb book traces the modernization of rural France in the last quarter of the 19th century. The book is divided into 3 parts; descriptions of traditional rural France, analysis of the agents of change, and discussion of how changes took place. This book is about both material changes and the parallel changes in psychology that were part of and the result of modernization in France. The emphasis is not primarily on economic statistics but on the day to day life and psychology of rural France. This book provides real insight into the mentality of French peasants and how this mentality was transformed from parochial self-conceptions and accompanying insular social organization to conceptions of French nationality and conscious membership in French society. For example, in the mid-19th century, a large number of Frenchmen did not speak French but rather a variety of regional languages. Expansion of the national economy, mandatory primary education, and other forces would eventually destroy local languages and produce a more homogenous French speaking nation. Weber demonstrates convincingly that this process took place relatively rapidly, focused in the years between the Franco-Prussian War and WWI. While this is a very thick and scholarly book, the quality of writing is excellent and the book is packed with entertaining and revealing anecdotal information.
It is clear that the process of modernization was accompanied by loss of regional cultural distinctions and languages. This cultural homogenization is perhaps regrettable but was an inevitable part of a process that resulted also in higher standards of living, greater individual freedom, and several other benefits.
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Format: Paperback
Wonderful reading, but this is a lengthy book. . .adressing so many important aspects about French peasant society. It was written in a time when advanced students were expected to know French, so it may present some difficulty to those without the knowledge or a dictionary handy, assuming one wants to understand the quotations, samples of poetry, song, or colloquial dialogue. It is not of major consequence to understand the book, but it might be a little annoying to someone without an intimate grasp of French.
Since there are great content reviews already, I will not add anything more than the tips above. Overall, this is a book rich in facts and will certainly prove a welcome addition to the library of any advanced student or scholar in this subject area.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eugene Weber’s “Peasants into Frenchmen” examines the transformation of the French peasantry during the Third Republic. Challenging the notion that the French were a united people throughout the nineteenth-century, he writes “it is clear that France around 1870 did not conform to…[the] model of a nation. It was neither morally nor materially integrated” (p. 485). Weber argues persuasively that the peasantry did not nationalize until the 1880s and 1890s. Before the Third Republic, a tremendous cultural difference existed between urban dwellers and rural folk. Weber highlights these differences in three separate sections. The first part focuses on the several backwards elements of peasant culture before 1870, the second section examines the various technological, economic, and cultural agents that transformed the countryside, and the conclusion examines the decline, if not the destruction, of rural cultural peculiarities.

Weber’s book is a monumental achievement. His thesis that modernization did not occur until the late nineteenth-century and the early twentieth-century is supported by well-documented facts and almost one-hundred pages of footnotes. He uses a variety of sources, ranging from the novels of Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert to archival work. The majority of his secondary sources are in French. Despite his tremendous volume of detail, Weber’s prose is elegant, clear, and, at times, witty. He balances general facts with quirky and amusing stories. He shows that there can be a joy to studying history. Overall, the depth of Weber’s knowledge and erudition exemplifies how historical scholarship ought to be done.
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