'There are many troublemakers' in the Midi. Imagining society and politics in nineteenth-century France

B.J.J. Rulof

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Abstract

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, many French were concerned with the fundamental societal divisions that would preclude orderly public life and herald the dissolution of society. Travellers and senior officials sent to administer Mediterranean departments were well aware of the regional particularities that characterised the country. Accordingly, descriptions of the public spirit in the Herault were pervaded with a sense of distinctiveness. This article shows that state officials, inspired by neo-Hippocratic notions and elitist views, construed a stereotype of vivid, impressionable southerners given to political extremism. Their reports shape our understanding of nineteenth-century society and politics as historians commonly consult these rich and irreplaceable documents in archives across France. Officials, for example, were inclined to describe a particular form of royalism known as legitimism that found widespread support from different layers of society as an illustration of the population's innate behavioural dispositions. Their discursive construction of the southerners, in fact, was as much about exogenous identity politics as it contributed to contemporary debates about the moral and social capacites required of enfranchised citizens. As they made use of arguments borrowed from a well-established tradition of stereotyping, they stigmatised especially lower-class monarchists as being unworthy for civic participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalEuropean Review of History / Revue européenne d'histoire
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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