French Revolution Identity

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Preceding the French revolution, there were two main historical periods which I believe had a major impact on the development of French Identity, one positive, the other negative: the Hundred Years War (1337 -1453) and the Wars of Religion (1562-1598), representing respectively periods of external threat to and internal conflict in France. Examination of both periods reveals the driving force in each period of threat and conflict and the instinct of peoples, as Thiesse observes, to become more radical in beliefs and actions; creating albeit quite different outcomes in the two periods in terms of engendering a common sense of French nationhood and identity. In looking at these two periods we shall focus of the three key determinants of national …show more content…
The possession or control of proximate territory within a France would inevitably cause a reaction at some point. This had indeed been the case since the late 12th century when England had come into possession of almost the whole of Western France by virtue of the English King Henry II’s marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Edward III’s subsequent claim to the French throne, along with lands he possessed in the south-west of France provoked Philip VI of France to attack England as he felt threatened. In 1346, England laid a siege on Calais, which after a year was surrendered, in turn damaging French pride and exacerbating the cause of national identity. Calais therefore became a symbol of the English threat. While just a small part of French territory, it was a hugely disproportionate threat and source of angst. The ‘radical’ response, the triumphant furore and the legend that built around Joan of Arc in the wake of relief of the siege of Orléans was instructive. By 1453, Charles VII had recaptured all the English controlled lands (with the exception of Calais). Anne Curry notes that ‘Whatever the precise role of Jeanne d’arc - there can be no doubting her patriotism’. The increasing morale and sense of patriotism which Joan transferred to her nation with the motivation of ridding the French of the English epitomises the developing sense of national identity which came about as a result of the growing geographical identity she provoked. It is evident that the external threat of the English on France was important for the development of geographical identity as by the end of the war, it gave France a feeling of nationhood. Cavendish writes in ‘History Today’ that ‘the long struggle powerfully strengthened the sense of national identity in both France and England, and created a mutual antagonism’. This statement bears relevance as at the start of the Hundred Years War, England possessed a reasonable amount of land

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