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Village Of Cannibals: Peasant Protest In 19th Century France

1186 words - 5 pages

Village of Cannibals: What meanings do historians like Peter McPhee and Alain Corbin read into the various forms of peasant protest and violence that they discuss? In his article "Popular Culture, Symbolism and Rural Radicalism in Nineteenth Century France", Peter McPhee looks at the changing nature of peasant protest and violence of the time. Through a series of examples McPhee highlights changes seen in the French consciousness and the difference between the urban and rural response to protest. McPhee explains that after the time of the Second Republic (1848-1851), France had become highly politicied with strikes, demonstrations and protests common place. McPhee also points out that this politicisation of a the French masses came about with the formation of the democrate -socialiste party, the first mass left-wing party in European history as well as the effects of rural depovulation and falling birth rates which saw a new "modern" form of protest emerge. This was the first time the peasant and working class had8been involved or concerned in national issues and lead to many cultural changes. One of these was the increased notion of a French nation-state. However despite this new ideal of "Frenchn}ss", in regional communities traditional festivals and processions remained important in public life and became an outlet for political discussion and displays of protest. Both religious and secular festivals were used for the outlet of political and radical sentiment as can be seen by the examples McPhee gives of Collioure and Vidauban. The scenes of Marianne arriving in town in triumph holding a dagger and tricolour, both national and revolutionary symbols, and of the mock trial and execution of the "dummy" are important examples of protests against the harsh oppressive hand of Paris being dealt with in a more modern and less violent form. An underlying message of McPhee's article is that the newly awoken mass of rural people are somewhat out of touch with the standards of the centralised Parisian beauracracy . "At all hours and everywhere people sing about what is the most obscene and most appalling in political matters. Here everything breathes the most frightening socialism!" McPhee also points out that these new radicals or "rouges" were even prone to using the church as an outlet for their outlawed political gatherings.The Government could outlaw red carnations, dancing, singing, masquerades and the shout, "Long live the democratic and social Republic", but hw could it outlaw church services?" One of the main messages of McPhee's article is the attempt of the newly politicised rural masses to express themselves and protest in their own way. They continues to use their own customs and festivals to almost isolate themselves from the Parisian dominated society. "Peasants in southern France fou~d a way of rejoicing in being both radicals and provincials, twin objects of contempt for Parisian...

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