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Contesting concepts of the nation in arms: French memories of the war of 1870-1871 in Dijon

Varley, Karine (2006) Contesting concepts of the nation in arms: French memories of the war of 1870-1871 in Dijon. European History Quarterly, 36 (4). pp. 548-573.

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Abstract

In the campaign to rebuild hope after the defeat of 1870–1, cultural representations of the Franco-Prussian War asserted that the nation had united behind the defence. Yet, while patriotic discourse insisted on the popular character of the resistance, memories of the Paris Commune served to discredit the concept of the nation in arms. By examining radical republican efforts to commemorate the defence of Dijon, this article challenges assumptions of consensus over the conduct of the armed forces in 1870–1. The city’s first war memorial portrayed a civilian- led resistance with revolutionary iconography. Deemed subversive by the government of Moral Order, it was toppled in 1875. Memories of Garibaldi’s antimilitarism and anti-clericalism, revived at the unveiling of his statue in 1900, exacerbated controversies over radical military reforms and the separation of Church and State. At the heart of debates about the defence of Dijon lay competing concepts of the role of the army within the Republic.