Political songs play an important part in popular culture and are powerful means of fostering and transmitting a sense of community and identity. Songs cross cultures and languages, as we discussed in an earlier blogpost on the French and American songs sung at the Liberation. On 14 July, Bastille Day, we want to shed light on another item from the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation collection: the Chants de la liberté (Liberation.b.130), a wonderfully illustrated collection of songs, accompanied by musical notation, which puts into perspective French political and historical struggles. Each song is accompanied by a didactic note, which provides some historical context.
The title of the collection, which echoes the name of the publisher (the socialist Éditions de la liberté, well represented in the Liberation collection), places the Liberation of Paris at the end of August 1944 as the last of a series of revolutions in the history of France (brushing over the fact that the uprising led by the military resistant group FFI, French Forces of the Interior, could only be successful thanks to the arrival of the Allied forces). The editor and harmoniser, Vincent Gambau, specialised in popular, traditional and regional songs. The illustrator, Robert Fuzier, a member of the SFIO (Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), participated in the Front populaire government in 1936. Engaged in the Résistance and in clandestine publishing, he was arrested in August 1943.