Education and publishing: the legacy of Pierre Larousse (1817-1875)

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GDU’s frontispiece (Z900.a.86.1)

Last week was the Semaine de la langue française et de la francophonie, so it is a good occasion to consider the famous French lexicographer and publisher Pierre Larousse (1817-1875).

The son of a blacksmith and an innkeeper, Pierre Athanase Larousse was born in Toucy (Burgundy) in 1817. He was a very good student and, not surprisingly, an avid reader at a time when books were distributed by peddlers. To some extent he was a free spirit, out of the conventions of his time. He cohabited for many years with Suzanne Pauline Caubel, before marrying her in 1872.

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Français and québécois

I recently stumbled upon a very interesting article on the Icelandic language and the threats it faces in a modern, English-speaking digital world. This put me in mind of Québec and France, and of the different approaches they have taken against a similar problem.

Take a guess: how was this film’s title translated in France?

With its Académie française, its strict language rules, the huge backlash every time someone proposes a change, any change, to the standard – see for example, the spelling reform of 2016 or the debate around trying to make the language more inclusive – you would think that France would be the best of the two at defending la francophonie, better than a French-speaking province surrounded by two enormous English-speaking cultures. Well that’s not the case. Although France is very good at resisting any attempt at modernising the language coming from within, it doesn’t worry so much about the enemy outside – the great influence of English or American and how it is affecting French vocabulary. Continue reading

Radio broadcasting and the war

“La chanson des V”. Beethoven’s famous 5th symphonie start was the signature tune for the BBC programme “Les Français parlent aux français”. The rythm of its first four notes equals the letter “V” (for Victory) in morse code. Liberation.b.34

The powerful role of radio propaganda during World War II cannot be overestimated. Information was transmitted quickly to vast populations across borders, overpassing enemy lines. In the UK, the BBC would broadcast in several languages, including French of course, and would even send secret messages to the French Resistance in the form of apparently senseless phrases. The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection has several publications related to this topic, some of them particularly fascinating.

Maurice Van Moppès was an illustrator, Free France member and broadcaster who worked for “Les Français parlent aux français”, one of the BBC radio programmes that transmitted news from the Front (for more on this check the 5 volumes of Ici Londres, 1940-1944: les voix de la liberté, 539:1.b.820.2-6). The programme was also supposed to boost the French people’s morale and send code messages to the Résistance. Continue reading

Constantin Joffé: the fate of a prisoner-of-war

Liberation.c.930

Liberation.c.930

One of the most striking aspects of the Liberation Collection is the huge number of books consisting of personal narratives, containing the memories of people involved in and affected by World War II. Through dealing with these books one becomes very intrigued by and connected with their authors, their experiences and their suffering. Instances of personal narratives in the Liberation Collection vary widely, in terms of the backgrounds to which the authors belonged, in terms of the topics they choose to address or the quality of the publications themselves. But they all share a deeply human and personal view of the tragic conflict. Here is one example. Continue reading

Youth Culture at the Liberation: Résistantes and Résistants in Cardboard Cut-Outs

We are grateful to the Managing Editor of the French History Network Blog for permission to reproduce the article by Southampton doctoral student Emily Hooke on a set of cardboard toy theatre scenes depicting the Liberation of Paris. The University Library has these in its Liberation Collection, and they featured prominently in the exhibition which we mounted in 2014.

Emily-Hooke-Fig-1

Roland Forgues, Le Général de Gaulle à l’Arc de Triomphe, 26 août 1944 (Paris: Edition de l’Office Central de l’Imagerie, 1944). Liberation.a.110. See bibliographic record here. Click on the image to enlarge.

On a trip to Paris a few years ago, I was wandering along the Seine, glancing casually at the boquinistes when I spotted something interesting: three pieces of cardboard illustrated with scenes from the Liberation of Paris — 19-26 August 1944 — and dated later that year.[1] Looking closer, I could see these sheets were cardboard cut-outs, as the tabs under the figures show (fig. 1, fig. 2, fig. 3). They also contained the only information I have been able to find of them: They were illustrated by Roland Forgues and commissioned by l’Office central de l’imagerie, Paris.

Researching further, I found that these were far from the only representations of the Resistance aimed at youth during the Liberation. Indeed, there was a boom in children’s literature at the Liberation — despite the paper shortages. These sought to repair the damage done by children’s comic books under the Occupation such as Le Téméraire, which framed the Resistance as villains – ‘without morals and without courage’.[2]

The cardboard cut-outs sparked my interest in popular culture, and added a new dimension to my research: youth. Following the Liberation the Resistance became seen as ‘military, patriotic and essentially masculine’ despite evidence to the contrary, and I wanted to see how they fitted into the construction of this gendered narrative.[3] Continue reading