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Transnational France by Stovall Tyler;

Transnational France by Stovall Tyler;

Author:Stovall, Tyler; [Stovall, Tyler]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Westview Press


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THE UNIVERSAL NATION IN A WORLD AT WAR

NO SUBJECT LENDS ITSELF BETTER TO A TRANSNATIONAL APPROACH than the history of the world wars. The Great War of 1914–1918, known to posterity as World War I, was not only the foundational event of the twentieth century but also created the modern idea of a unified globe. No conflict before it qualified as a “world war,” and the diplomats who met in Paris to restore peace after the guns of August had fallen silent gathered to create a universal political settlement, based on diplomatic principles applicable to all people on earth. The development of modern commerce and industry during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had created a global economy, and the new imperialism had drawn people everywhere into Europe’s orbit. World War I built on these processes of globalization, demonstrating the interactions between technology, strategy, politics, and culture on a worldwide scale. Out of the unprecedented destruction of this conflict arose the idea of one world united in the suffering of the past and hopes for the future.

World War I was a seminal event for France, and the universal nation played a central role in the war. The conflict came at a time when the Third Republic had overcome domestic challenges to make moderate secular republicanism the dominant political culture in France. The challenge of total war tested the nation to an unprecedented degree but also unified it in ways scarcely imaginable decades earlier. The competing universal visions of republicanism and Catholicism both ardently embraced the defense of the nation, working together to bring about ultimate victory. During the war France also mobilized the resources of its overseas empire more than ever before, making the vision of a globalized nation a concrete reality and establishing important patterns for national life in the new century. Finally, for many French people the war was a national trial of arms that pitted a universal vision of civilization against barbarism and tyranny. As during the wars of the French Revolution, the cause of France was the cause of humanity.

At the same time, the nation occupied a central role in the world conflict. Although World War I was a global affair, convulsing much of Europe, as well as Africa, Asia, and the world’s sea lanes, most observers and historians have focused on the appalling trench warfare in eastern France, and the conflict between the French and the Germans. Millions of soldiers and civilians from Europe, America, and the colonial world served in France between 1914 and 1919. Paris offered an exceptionally cosmopolitan array of visitors a window seat on the great conflict of the age. The 1919 peace conference in Paris, which laid out the key outlines of the world as a whole during the twentieth century, only confirmed the main position of France in global affairs. Perhaps never before or since in the modern era have the French played such a central role in world politics. The twentieth century thus began with a dramatic confirmation of France as a universal nation.



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