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1870-71: Conflict, Commune and Crisis


Seminar Questions

  • What was the impact of the Franco-Prussian war on French society, immediately and in the long term?

  • Explain the origins of the Paris Commune, weighing the various short and long term factors.

  • Why did the actions of women during the Commune and its defence become so controversial?

  • What were the legacies of France's "terrible year"?


Core reading:

  • G Gullickson, Unruly Women of Paris: Images of the Commune (1996), introduction, synopsis, and chps 1-2, 6-7[ebook]

  • K Varley, ‘Under the Shadow of Defeat: The State and the Commemoration of the Franco-Prussian War, 1871-1914, French History 16:3 (2002), 323-44 [electronic]
  • Manifesto of the Paris Commune; read also a further primary source from the list below.

  • Background: Popkin, History of Modern France, chps. 17-18.


Further reading:


Primary sources

  • For a fictional account of the Franco-Prussian War, try Emile Zola’s The Debacle (English and French copies available in the library)

  • K Marx, The Civil War in France (1933) [on the Commune]

  • Database of images and other primary sources relating to the Commune at http://digital.library.northwestern.edu/siege/index.html

  • Many excellent images of the war and commune are reproduced in A Boime, Art and the French Commune: Imagining Paris after War and Revolution (1995) and H Clayson, Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege, 1870-71 (2002)

  • Ernest Vizetelly, My adventures in the Commune ( London , 1914)

  • Paris under siege, 1870-71: From the Goncourt Journal (1969)
  • Short primary documents (addresses, manifestos, etc.), and especially the Manifesto of the Paris Commune.
  • Selected documents in W Fortescue, The Third Republic in France, 1870-1940: conflicts and continuities (2000)



The Franco-Prussian War

  • B Taithe, Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil, 1870-71 (2001)
  • B Taithe Defeated Flesh: Medicine, Welfare and Warfare in the Making of Modern France (1999)

  • B Taithe, 'The Red Cross flag in the Franco-Prussian War: Civilians, Humanitarians, and War in the "modern" age,' in R Cooter, S. Sturdy and M. Harrison (eds), Medicine, War and Modernity (1998), 22-47
  • B Taithe, Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil, 1870-71 (2001)

  • M Howard, The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France, 1870-71 (1961)

  • S Lambert, The Franco-Prussian War and the Commune in Caricature 1870-71 (1971)

  • John Milner, Art, War and Revolution in France, 1870-71 (2000)

  • H Clayson, Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege, 1870-71 (2002)

  • R Chrastil, ‘The French Red Cross, War Readiness and Civil Society, 1866-1914,’ French Historical Studies 31 (2008), 445-76

  • Rachel Chrastil, Organizing for War:France 1870-1914 (2010)

  • Rebecca L. Spang, ‘“And they ate the zoo”: Relating gastronomic exoticism in the siege of Paris,’ Modern Language Notes, 107 (September 1992), 752-73

  • A Corbin, The Village of Cannibals (1992)

  • J Bury, Gambetta and National Defence (1936)


The Paris Commune

  • R Tombs, ‘Paris and the Rural Hordes: An Exploration of Myth and Reality in the French Civil War of 1871,’ The Historical Journal 29:4. (1986) 795-808

  • R Tombs, The War against Paris, 1871 (1981)

  • R Tombs, The Paris Commune, 1871 (1999)

  • R Tombs, 'Crime and Security of the state,' in V. Gatrell et al (eds), Crime and the Law (1980), 214-37
  • A Horne, The Terrible Year: The Paris Commune, 1871 (1971)

  • A Boime, Art and the French Commune: Imagining Paris after War and Revolution (1995)

  • A Boime, Art in an age of civil struggle, 1848-1871 (2008)

  • R Gould, Insurgent Identities: Class, Community and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune (1995), esp chapter 6

  • K Jones and F Vergès ‘“Aux citoyennes: Women, Politics, and the Paris Commune of 1871’ History of European Ideas 13:6 (1991), 711-32

  • P Nord, ‘The Party of Conciliation and the Paris Commune,’ French Historical Studies 15:1 (1987) 1-35
  • E Schulkind, The Paris Commune of 1871: The View from the Left (1972)

  • E Schulkind, ‘Socialist Women during the 1871 Paris Commune’ Past and Present 106 (1985) 124-163.

  • E Schulkind, ‘The Activity of Popular Organizations during the Paris Commune of 1871’, French Historical Studies1:4 (1960) 394-415

  • R. D. Price ‘Ideology and Motivation in the Paris Commune of 1871’, The Historical Journal 15:1 (1972) 75-86.

  • G. Wright, ‘The Anti-Commune: Paris, 1871’ French Historical Studies 10:1 (1977) 149-172.

  • M P Johnston, ‘Enlightening the “Misguided brothers of the countryside”: Republican Fraternalism in the Paris Commune of 1871,’ French History 11:4 (1997)

  • M P Johnson, ‘Citizenship and gender: The Légion des Fédérées in the Paris Commune of 1871,’ French History 8:3 (1994)

  • C Eichner, Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune (2004)

  • C Eichner, 'Vive la commune': Feminism, Socialism and Revolutionary Revival in the Aftermath of the 1871 Paris Commune,' Journal of Women's History 19:3 (2003)
  • M Johnson, The Paradise of Association: Political Culture and Popular Organization in the Paris Commune of 1871 (1996)

  • D Shafer, The Paris Commune: French Politics, Culture, and Society at the Crossroads of the Revolutionary Tradition and Revolutionary Socialism (2005)

  • E Kamenka, (ed), Paradigm for revolution? The Paris Commune 1871-1971 (1972)

  • S. Edwards, The Paris Commune, 1871 (1971)


    Legacies of the war and commune

    • M Perrot, Workers on Strike: France, 1871-1890

    • J Merriman, The Dynamite Club

    • B Taithe Defeated Flesh: Medicine, Welfare and Warfare in the Making of Modern France (1999)

    • K W. Swart, The Sense of Decadence in Nineteenth-Century France (1964)

    • W Schneider Quantity or Quality (1990)

    • R Nye Crime, Madness and Politics in Modern France: the Medical Concept of National Decline (1984)

    • R Pick Faces of Degeneration (1989)

    • Paul Miller, From Revolutionaries to Citizens: Anti-Militarism in France, 1870-1914 (2002)

    • K Varley, Under the Shadow of Defeat (2008)

    • D G. Troyansky, ‘Memorializing Saint-Quentin: Monuments, Inaugurations and History in the Third Republic ,’ French History, 13:1 (1999), 48-76

    • N McWilliam, ‘Race, remembrance and revanche: Commemorating the Franco-Prussian War in the Third Republic' Art History, 19 (1996), 473-98

    • R Chrastil, Organizing for War:France 1870-1914 (2010)

    • R Gildea, ‘Eternal France: Crisis and national self-perception in France 1870-2005,’ in S Carvalho and F Gemenne (eds), Nations and their Histories: Constructions and Representations (2009)

    • A Mitchell, Victors and Vanquished: The German Influence on Army and Church in France after 1870 (1984)

    • K Offen, ‘Depopulation, nationalism and feminism in fin-de-siècle France,’ American Historical Review, 89:3 (1984), 648-676