In 1852, President Louis Napoleon of France declared that August 15--Napoleon Bonaparte's birthday--would be celebrated as France's national day. Leading up to the creation of the Second Empire, this was the first in a series of attempts to "Bonapartize" his regime and strengthen its popular legitimacy. Across France, public institutions sought to draw local citizens together to celebrate civic ideals of unity, order, and patriotism. But the new sense of French togetherness was fraught with tensions.
Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence, Sudhir Hazareesingh vividly reconstructs the symbolic richness and political complexity of the Saint-Napoleon festivities in a work that opens up broader questions about the nature of the French state, unity and lines of fracture in society, changing boundaries between public and private spheres, and the role of myth and memory in constructing nationhood. The state's Bonapartist identity was at times vigorously contested by local social, political, and religious groups. In various regions, people used the national day to celebrate their own communities and to honor their hometown veterans; but elsewhere, the revival of republican sentiment clashed sharply with imperial attitudes.
Sophisticated and gracefully written, this book offers rich insights into modern French history and culture.
An excellent work, original and engagingly written. The importance of this book on Saint-Napoleon's day is that it manages time and again to link national themes to the varieties of local experience, social and political. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of the Second Empire and the many contradictions that beset it. This is a rare book, at once learned and accessible.
An impressive piece of scholarship, in which fascinating detail about Napoleonic festivals is linked to larger historical patterns of state building, identity formation, and politicization. With wit and grace, Hazareesingh has written an unusually generous, humane, and non-ideological discussion of politics in nineteenth-century France.
Sudhir Hazareesingh offers an exciting new perspective on the politics of the French Second Empire with this study of the festival of Saint Napoleon -- how it was promoted and how it was resisted and subverted. Richly documented from national and local archives, it sheds a powerful light on political passions the length and breadth of France.
Masterful, witty, and beautifully written, The Saint-Napoleon is an important contribution to modern French history and European political culture. The intellectual sophistication of this work on civic festivities and the evolution of politics at a crucial moment in European history is striking and very impressive indeed.
Hazareesingh's feast of archival information, covering twenty-two départements and hundreds of towns and villages, shows that...Saint-Napoleon's Day was a truly national festival which reflected the vigorous political and civic life of the French provinces...The sheer weight of evidence shows...that towns and villages of France were not lifeless lumps waiting to be moulded into a nation by the capital...It may have taken extremely complicated and petty forms in the provinces, but civic behaviour was still a sign of an emerging national identity. Hazareesingh has found some splendid tales of enthusiastic meddling with the machinery of the State...Instead of illuminating a few towns and villages, celebrating them as representative examples and festooning them with generalizations, Sudhir Hazareesingh has produced a firework display that lights up a large part of the country.
Hazareesingh, a specialist in 19th-century French political culture, examines in depth a major but relatively unknown observance: the official Saint-Napoleon celebrations held across France in the 1850s and 1860s...In this provocative study Hazareesingh demonstrates how inappropriate it is to consider the Second Empire's authoritarian nature or its efforts to dominate society without reference to its popularity and local vitality...The illustrations in this impeccably researched, constructed, and executed book enhance this intimate look at 19th-century life and nation building.
[A] pathbreaking book.
Until Agulhon and Ozouf alerted them to the significance of symbols, French historians rarely gave a second glance at official reports of the annual celebrations of the "name days" of successive kings in the M series in departmental archives, assuming them to be obligatory routine official verbiage. In recent years a raft of researchers, including Sanson, Corbin and Truesdell, have plugged the gap, but rarely found much to praise in Napoleon III's synthetic secular festival. Hazareesingh has found much of merit and significance in this magisterial exploration of how 15 August was marked during the Second Empire in a representative selection of 22 departmental archives...Hazareesingh's gift for portraying particular situations and human relations with humour and understanding, and relating them to the broader scene, is superbly portrayed here. He is the master of the apt quotation...The conclusion of the book deftly and with a sure touch sets the Saint-Napoléon into the development of French culture. Both specialists and undergraduates will gain enlightenment and enjoyment from this volume.
- 322 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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