‘Allons enfants de la patrie’: Children and the Wars of 1870-71

As part of the Cambridge Festival 2022 programme, you can now book a place to attend a talk exploring the representations of French children during the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune. It will take place on Thursday 31 March from 5 to 6 pm in the Milstein room. We will be using literary and visual material from a historical collection of caricatures that will be on display at Cambridge University Library from 10 March to 7 May 2022.

Cambridge UL, KF.3.10

From September 1870 to May 1871, the siege of Paris by the Prussians was followed by a civil war which opposed the radical left-wing members of the Paris Commune to the more moderate Republicans leading the French government. The French military defeat, the hardships of life under prolonged sieges, and the political experiments of the Paris Commune –which ended in a massacre–, had a profound impact on the daily lives of Parisian people and especially children.

Cambridge UL, KF.3.10

Their perspective is reflected in the works of writers such as Alphonse Daudet and Guy de Maupassant. In Paris, this fuelled the production of a flurry of caricatures which circulated widely, often disseminated by the illustrated press. They portray children as victims of the war as well as privileged witnesses of the historical events unfolding around them. If children are often used as beacons of hope, torchbearers for the progressive aims of the Commune, they are also invested with the ideology of revenge against the Germans…

Cambridge UL, KF.3.12

This special event is hosted by Cambridge University Library, in partnership with the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, and the Cambridge Alliance Française.

We are also delighted that a long awaited display of the Franco-Prussian caricatures, featuring, among others, Emperors Napoleon III and Wilhelm I, and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, will take place from 10 March to 7 May 2022 in one of the Royal enclosures on the first floor of the University Library. Members of the University need to bring their blue card. External visitors can sign in and get a lanyard from the Reader Services Desk in the entrance hall, in order to come and see the small exhibition. If you cannot make it in person, here is a link to the virtual exhibition!

Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

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