The picturesque town of Dreux, 60 miles west of Paris, quietly entered history in 1821 when Victor Hugo won the hand of his beloved there. Another century and a half would pass before the town made history again, but this time there was nothing quiet about it. In 1983, Jean-Francois Le Pen's National Front candidates made a startling electoral gain in the Dreux region. Its liberal traditions had ended abruptly. With the radical right controlling the municipal council and the deputy mayor's office, Dreux became the forerunner of neofascist advances all across the nation. This text examines the reason behind such a major change to the region. The author was born in Dreux and served as the city's socialist mayor from 1977 to 1983. She brings this experience to bear in her study, drawing up a picture of the town in all its particularity and at the same time fitting it into the broader context.
Local history, collective memory, political life, the role of personality, partisanship and rumour, the claims of newcomers and oldtimers, Muslims and Catholics: Gaspard sifts through these factors as she crafts a clear and rousing account of the conditions that brought the National Front to power. Viewed amid the consequences of recent demographic and economic transformations, Dreux, with a population of about 30,000, is facing big-city problems such as class conflict, unemployment and racism. This is a book about the decline of small-town "virtues" and the democratic ideal in France and has important implications for other European nations and the United States.
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(229mm x 152mm x 14mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Author Biography - Francoise Gaspard
Francoise Gaspard teaches history at theEcole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Arthur Goldhammer received the French-American Translation Prize in 1990 for his translation of A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Eugen Weber is Joan Palevsky Professor of Modern European History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Los Angeles.