Jean-Pierre Rioux

A Short History of France Publication date : March 18, 2015

Jean-Pierre Rioux is a historian specialising in contemporary French political and cultural history. Formerly, he was a senior research fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and an inspector general for French schools. He is the author of numerous highly successful works, including Jean Jaurès (Perrin), Histoire de la révolution industrielle (Seuil) and Histoire culturelle de France (Seuil).

‘French history? It’s fine, thanks. We study it, teach it, keep busy, argue about it, produce it, sell it, play, participate! We rush around, attending conventions, accepting invitations, speaking at people’s and senior citizens’ universities and in history cafés; we are present on internet sites, game consoles, costume parties and garage sales! […]
‘But does this mean we should endorse the proliferation of French history that enthrals the public, delights the fans, excites the cultural world, and does not fail to entertain even the youngest of audiences? After all, what is the use of so much French history? What role does it play in our discussions and our hopes? To live together, what yardstick do we use to measure passing time, time past and, consequently, our own history, as it is recounted and taught? What if we had to become stronger to overcome the present identity crisis? What if we need to gather our forces to understand the feeling that we are undergoing a historical rupture?’ asks Jean-Michel Rioux.

In this book, he describes the crisis that has impacted the French view of the future — a crisis that has eroded the ‘republican pact’. He defends an idea of history as an intelligence of what constitutes the common good and rehabilitates a collective memory that aims to help the French find out who they are and what they wish to do together.

• An eminent French historian revisits his country’s history.