INVESTIGATION - Should the Colbert high schools be reinstated or the 14-18 "exemplary shots" rehabilitated? There is no month when the news brings back a controversy aroused by the desire of some to rewrite the history of France according to their political and ideological criteria. Faced with the manipulation of the past by the politically correct, defending truthful history is a vital imperative.
What happened, and when? All those who know the history of history, what scholarly language is called historiography, know that historians have always had different currents, determining divergent interpretations of the past, especially that of France. . Secular history against Christian history, republican history against royalist history, Marxist history against national history, these debates were already agitating the Sorbonne in the 1900s - or did not move when some black pages were ignored by the university, such as the wars of Vendée from 1793-1794, because this popular revolt contradicts the golden legend of the French Revolution. However, the phenomenon has amplified and even hardened, in recent decades, under the influence of several factors.
In the first place, a whole political and cultural evolution, observed on the left and on the right, led, under the effect of the European construction as the mechanism of globalization, to consider the national framework as obsolete, even dangerous, and consequently to delegitimize the history of France as such, to caricature in a "national novel" the story of the birth of France and its millennial destiny, as if the existence of a French national community was fiction, a subjective opinion.
Correlatively, even if historical research has advanced knowledge in many areas, so that it is no longer possible, for example, to mention the Gauls as did the textbooks of the Third Republic, this devaluation of the national framework has changed the way in which history is told, especially in schools, where, where the school of old used to speak of patriotism and assimilation, today's school speaks of multiculturalism, openness, the right to be different. To deny this pedagogy would manifest, accuses some, a guilty "passion of identity" that is detrimental to "living together". Released in January of this year, The World History of France , edited by Patrick Boucheron (Threshold), flatters himself thus to offer a "global" and "connected" history, filled with progressive good conscience, and which comes, as Pierre Nora pointed out, with the pretext of accounting for the plurality of the roots of France, to drown French specificity.
Secondly, the succession of memorial laws, in the 1990s and 2000s, not only led to specific or community claims in the reading of history, but also reflexes of litigation, to the point that in 2005, already, a petition of historians of all tendencies had demanded the abolition or the modification of these laws become, in certain hands, uncontrollable weapons. The appeal had been launched some time after the public authorities had given up celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz, for fear of the wrath of those who see in Napoleon only the man who had restored slavery to the Guadeloupe…
Thirdly, the multiplication of the means of communication in our high-tech society offers a huge box of resonance to this manipulation of history by the politically correct. For it is no longer just the specialized magazines or the mainstream press, as the day before yesterday, or the cinema, radio and television, as yesterday, but the internet and social networks, from Facebook to Twitter, which reflect the historical debates for better or for worse, even on the small screens that people read at the coffee shop or in the subway. But what is the value of a pedestrian opinion in 280 signs on a subject that has asked a life of work to authentic scholars?
Yes, the world has changed. Yes, our society has changed. But this is no reason to disguise or rewrite the past in terms of today's political, social, psychological and mental criteria. Whether we like it or not, historical science and its methods of rigor remain irreplaceable. As for historians who are not ideologues, they continue their mission: to understand the past in order to explain the present and to draw some light for the future.
The Cathars were not saints
On Sunday, October 16, 2016, the Bishop of Pamiers, in Ariège, presided over a "Forgiveness process" in the village of Montségur where, in 1244, two hundred Cathars had perished at the stake. In question, the intolerance of the Church of the Middle Ages who had persecuted "Christians not quite like the others". Not quite like the others? Surprising understatement. The Cathars opposed in an absolute dualism the principle of good, which had given birth to the spirit, and the principle of evil, which was at the origin of matter.
For them it was not God who created the universe, but Satan, and Jesus was an angel whose earthly life had been but an illusion. The antinomy with Christianity was total. The religion of the Cathars, on the other hand, distinguished the believers, who kept their outer habits, and the perfect ones who lived in community, observing all kinds of initiatory rites and the strictest food and sexual continence.
More than a heresy, Catharism was therefore a complete questioning of the Christian faith, of the Church, of the family, of property and the oath of man to man, the foundations of feudal organization. Mostly enough to provoke the counter-offensive of a society where Christian orthodoxy was considered as the guarantor of the social order.
To reduce what was akin to a sect, a vast missionary effort was led by St. Bernard of Citeaux and then by the Dominicans, an order founded on this occasion. In 1208, Pierre de Castelnau, commissioned by Pope Innocent III to fight heresy by preaching, was assassinated, a crime of which the Count of Toulouse, who is favorable to the Cathars, is suspected of being the sponsor. Noting the helplessness of peaceful methods, the pope preaches the crusade against heretics. Since King Philip Augustus refuses to mix the crown with the case, the military intervention begins in 1209 under the direction of Simon de Montfort. Contrary to popular belief, the army of this lord of Ile-de-France counts many knights of Languedoc.
The war will last twenty years, cruel in both camps: the crusaders massacre the inhabitants of Béziers in 1209, the count of Toulouse does the same to Pujols in 1213. In 1241, twelve years after the end of the Albigensian crusade, political conflict -Religious that did not eliminate Catharism, the new Count of Toulouse, hostile to heresy, puts in vain the siege under Montségur, ultimate sanctuary of the Cathars. In 1244, it is the royal army that seizes the place and condemns to death 225 perfect (uncertain figure) who refuse to abjure. The Cathar castrum will be destroyed: the current castle of Montségur is actually a royal fortress built later.
Michel Roquebert, the great specialist of the Cathars *, agrees that the medieval Church could not have fought these with other means than those which it has progressively implemented, from persuasion to the use of force by the secular arm.
*The Cathar Epic, by Michel Roquebert (Tempus, 2008).
Should we burn Colbert?
Last September, Louis-Georges Tin, the president of the Representative Council of Black Associations (Cran), and the philosopher Louis Sala-Molins published inThe worlda platform in which, following the debate launched in the United States by the dismantling of the statues of General Lee, they called to rename in France colleges and high schools bearing the name of Colbert, on the grounds that the minister of Louis XIV would be guilty of crime against humanity for legalizing slavery by enacting the famous Black Code. In this case, the two men were pursuing a militant fight they have been conducting for a long time.
In addition to the absurdity of reducing the immense work of Jean-Baptiste Colbert to the March 1685 ordinance "On the Slaves of the Islands of America", a text that his services have prepared, but which has been developed after his death, in 1683, by his son and successor to the Secretary of State for the Navy, the Marquis de Seignelay, consider the Black Code, expression that designates this order from the late eighteenth century, with today's eyes are pure anachronism. Seen in 2017, this "collection of regulations made concerning the government, the administration of justice, the police, the discipline and the negro trade in the colonies" is deeply shocking, since it inscribes slavery in French law . Seen in his time, he takes another value.
The Black Code is conceived while slavery is practiced overseas by all European maritime nations, and even within society, in Africa and in the Arab-Muslim world. In this context, the intervention of the French State has a relative merit: rules are laid to soften the fate of slaves, slaves whose servile condition preceded the Black Code.
Jean-François Niort, an academic who teaches in Guadeloupe, published in 2015, on this royal decree, a book (1) that will earn him to be accused of denial because he contradicted Louis Sala-Molins who, in a a book published thirty years ago (2), affirmed that the Black Code was based on the negation of the humanity of the slave. On the contrary, Niort shows that several prescriptions of this text, particularly in religious matters, implied that the servile worker should be considered as a man, and not as a thing or an animal (the owners of slaves were thus required to have them baptized).
Jean-François Niort also emphasizes that the intervention of the Royal State, setting limits to the arbitrary power of the owners, created the conditions for a possible evolution of the legislation in favor of slaves. The fact remains that the latter were related to movable property, an unworthy status, which the evolution of minds in the West will finally lead to condemnation and abolition in the first third of the nineteenth century. The Black Code was certainly not idyllic, but it must be put back in its time.
(1) The Black Code, by Jean-François Niort (The Blue Horseman, 2015). (2)Thee Black Code or Calvary of Canaan, by Louis Sala-Molins (PUF, 1987).
Marie-Antoinette, queen martyr and world star
On November 22nd, Daniel Picouly, a successful writer and TV host, was talking about his books in front of an audience of high school students from Nice who explained that his novel, The Child Leopard, Renaudot Prize 1999, staged a boy of 10 years old, his double at the age when he fell in love with ... Marie-Antoinette.
Shortly before, a dispatch informed that the American pop star Katy Perry had just shot a video clip of her new single, clip in which she was disguised as Marie-Antoinette. Another dispatch, at the same time, indicated that the The Final Hour of Marie-Antoinette's Life (Marie Antoinette, The Last Hour), from and with French actress-director Bunny Godillot, was full at The Cockpit Theater in London.
Arrived in France at 14 and a half years to marry the future Louis XVI, who became queen four years later, she quickly became unpopular, partly because, raised at the court of Vienna where the style was much simpler and family she had struggled to integrate the codes of Versailles and was carried away by the temptation of luxury and frivolity. Accused of being an expender, which was true, and of favoring the interests of her native Austria, which she did not succeed, but not for want of trying, Marie-Antoinette was hated from the collar affair, swindle in which she was not yet guilty.
In the years preceding the Revolution, having realized that she had damaged the monarchy, she tried to be interested in politics, but with clumsiness. Conducted by force in Paris with the king, in October 1789, assigned to residence, she corresponded in order to find help, in France or outside the kingdom, scaffolded a plan of escape with the complicity of the Swede Fersen to whom the link a loving friendship, plunged into despair at the failure of the flight to Varennes.
It was after the capture of the Tuileries and the internment of the royal family that Marie Antoinette began to moult. While Louis XVI, lucid on the future, displayed a serenity which was the fruit of his spiritual elevation, the queen finally learned to estimate her husband with whom she had associated herself in the trial, refusing to abandon her, was to get out of danger with his children. In the Temple, Christian faith and family life were now their only recourse.
During the trial of Louis XVI, then his own confinement to the Conciergerie after the decapitation of the king and his trial, the queen, sick and prematurely aged, felt in her turn that she would not escape the ax of a revolution gone crazy . Rejecting the most ignoble accusations (incest with her son), sentenced to death for what she was and not for what she had done, this mother will rise to the scaffold, October 16, 1793, showing of the most admirable dignity. Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France, she no longer had a place in a country surrendered to the Terror, and who was waging war against kings.
Two centuries later, this sacrificed woman is regarded as innocent by historians, and as an icon by the general public. Ironic of History.
Shadows and lights of French Algeria
Although he was careful not to come back on the subject during his official trip as President, in Algiers in early December, the Emmanuel Macron in February 2017 qualifying the colonization in Algeria of "crime against humanity", triggered a lively controversy, commensurate with the emotion felt by the French from "there", this community of wounded history. How to depict under the colors of crime against humanity one hundred and thirty years of administration of a French territory?
French Algeria, from 1830 to 1962, does not constitute a bloc. Schematically, his story comes down to three phases. First phase, until 1847, even until the revolt of Kabylie in 1871: the conquest. A rough operation, conducted by soldiers who had won their stripes in the revolutionary and Napoleonic armies and whose methods they applied. This war has made from 250,000 to 300,000 Algerian victims.
Bugeaud was certainly not a gift, but the troops of Abd el-Kader or the Kabyles, who were not prisoners, were waging an equally ferocious war. At the other end of the chain, the third phase, the war that will lead to the independence of Algeria, from 1954 to 1962, will be no less cruel, resulting in 15,000 military casualties among the French and 150,000 on the side of FLN. At the end of this bloody confrontation, the French of Algeria will be victims of acts now constituting the crime against humanity: about 15,000 Europeans or Muslims faithful to France disappeared before and after March 19, 1962, and of 60,000 to 80,000 harkis slaughtered.
But, between these two phases of the beginning and the end, there was a long interval between French Algeria. Fifty or sixty years when the relationship of domination between the colonizer and the colonized could be transformed, pacified, to generate, in a large part of the native population (word of time), a feeling of attraction towards the La France.
French Algeria had its limits because it was a two-tier society in which 900,000 Europeans, mostly city dwellers, poor for many, enjoyed all the rights of nationality and citizenship, while 8 million Muslims were demographics. Gallopante, French since Napoleon III but who had obtained citizenship only in late stages, were mostly rural people who suffered from under-equipment.
French Algeria, however, also meant the creation of thousands of roads, bridges, dams and harbors. It was a health work (132 hospitals on the eve of independence) and a school work that allowed, in 1960, 75% of Muslim boys and 50% of girls in Algiers to attend school. French Algeria was again those oil and gas deposits discovered in 1956-1957 and of which independent Algeria lives. It was also a fraternity of arms Franco-Muslim knotted during the two world wars and during the Algerian war where the Muslim auxiliary of the French army represented a staff four times higher than that of the ALN ...
A part of shadow, a part of light: nothing that allows Manichean judgments.
The myth of the shots for the example
On November 11, alongside the ceremonies in memory of fighters of 1914-1918, took place, in a dozen departments, demonstrations of homage to the soldiers shot during this conflict. Since in 1998, Lionel Jospin, then Prime Minister, claimed, in a speech made in Craonne, the reinstatement "in our national memory of the soldiers shot for the example", the claim is recurrent.
Shots for the example? The formula maintains the confusion between two different realities: on the one hand, the executions that took place on the front, by a decision of justice, during all the duration of the Great War, and on the other hand, the repression of the collective movements disobedience of 1917.
For a total of 8 million French mobilized from 1914 to 1918, 2,400 death sentences were pronounced, including 600 executed - figure to report to 1.4 million killed in action. The reasons were various: abandonment of post in the presence of the enemy, voluntary mutilations, desertions, refusal of obedience, outrages and assault on a superior, but also crimes of common law (assassinations, rapes).
According to André Bach (1), two-thirds of the convicts were shot in 1914 and in 1915. During the first months of the war, severe measures were taken to curb the panic movements in the troop, some executions summaries having even taken place. From 1915, the stabilization of the front and the experience acquired by the soldiers led to the abolition of courts martial instituted in 1914, to give the accused, in the most serious accusations, civil lawyers, and to offer them guarantees: appeal for review, clemency of the President of the Republic.
The convicts whose clemency petition was rejected were not arbitrarily "shot for example": under the code of military justice, they were guilty. This does not prevent, of course, that mistakes have been made. The blatant injustices, about fifty cases, gave rise, after the war, to official rehabilitations, as for the six infantrymen of the 298th RI executed for abandonment of post, to Vingré, in 1914, whereas they had retreated by obeying an order. They will be rehabilitated by the Court of Cassation in 1921. Cruel as they are, these cases can not be isolated from their context, that of a world of mud and blood where thousands of men die each day or are excruciatingly wounded. .
The refusal of obedience of 1917 is another subject. Improperly designated as mutinies, they resulted from a fatigue of the fighters while the war lasted for three years, without decisive result, and the failure of the Nivelle offensive (140,000 men killed, missing, wounded or prisoners, between the 16 and April 19, 1917, for a net gain of zero). According to Denis Rolland, 78 divisions were involved in 161 disobedience movements of greater or lesser magnitude, which affected between 59,000 and 88,000 participants (2). Of these tens of thousands of men, 629 were sentenced to death between June and December 1917, but only 49 of the death sentences were executed (in addition to 2,873 prison sentences).
On a judicial level, reopening these files while the witnesses, and often the parts, disappeared would have no sense. What is the point of this retrospective antimilitarism?
(1) Rifles for example, 1914-1915, by André Bach (Tallandier, 2003).
(2)The trench strike. The mutinies of 1917, by Denis Rolland (Imago Editions, 2005).
- In the footsteps of the last Bourbons
- Guy Pervillé: Algerian War, impossible history and endless repentance
- Jean Sevillia: these queens who changed History
Source: © History of France: stop the lies