Marc Ferro

Resentment in History Publication date : April 27, 2007

Feelings of resentment are not confined to individuals; they can also motivate groups. How many conflicts in the world today fail to be resolved because they continue to feed on the resentment they have engendered? The violence in the former Yugoslavia between communities who are differentiated only by religion is but one example. Another is colonisation, which has often resulted in lasting resentment toward former colonial powers, such as France.
In this book, Marc Ferro examines the historical role of resentment. He argues that although resentment has been largely ignored as a motive by historians, it sometimes provides the only plausible explanation. After delving into philosophy, in an attempt to understand the psychological underpinnings of resentment, Ferro shows how in a dozen different national and social conflicts (heretics vs. Catholics; the rebellion, during the Algerian war of independence, of French officers who had fought in Indochina; the slogan “Black is Beautiful” used to fight racism; Lenin vs. Kropotkin), feelings of resentment provide the key to understanding the deadlocked character of a given situation and the failure to resolve it.
Always on the lookout for new approaches, Ferro has opened a new avenue for historical researchers — historical psychology.

This brilliant thesis, by one of the most innovative historians of his generation, will further readers’ understanding of African and Algerian claims concerning slavery or French colonialism. Ferro’s thesis may be regarded as the psychological foundation of the so-called “shock of civilisations”. This highly accessible book is illustrated with numerous historical examples, all grippingly recounted.

Marc Ferro is a historian and a director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.