Fustel De Coulanges and the Action FrançaiseAuthor(s): Stephen WilsonSource: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 34, No....
FUSTEL DE COULANGES AND THE ACTION FRANCAISE.                                 BY STEPHEN WILSON    The year 1905 was the s...
124                              STEPHEN     WILSONsuch as Drumont and Nietzsche were conveniently forgotten by many of th...
COULANGES      AND LACTION FRANCAISE                         125naively given a concrete basis in a kind of alleged aposto...
126                             STEPHEN WILSON cally supposed. They quoted from his 1872 article again and again, and Maur...
COULANGES      AND LACTION FRANCAISE                         127de France etait une faton de travailler pour un parti et d...
128                              STEPHEN WILSONof the Enlightenment, to Montesquieu, Thierry, and Guizot.28 Hence they,at ...
COULANGES       AND LACTION       FRANCAISE                     129 Fustel was not unaware of this, for he expressly claim...
130                              STEPHEN     WILSON the Revue. Maurras saw in Monods tribute the purest hypocrisy and pict...
COULANGES        AND LACTION         FRANCAISE                      131ing mainly on writings produced in the circumstance...
132                            STEPHEN     WILSONmiers narrow conception of what constituted historical source material po...
COULANGES       AND LACTION FRANCAISE                        133publican, and that he had written a devastating analysis o...
134                              STEPHEN      WILSONthe concept of the barbarian invasions is one which they frequently in...
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Fustel de coulanges and the action francaise

  1. 1. Fustel De Coulanges and the Action FrançaiseAuthor(s): Stephen WilsonSource: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1973), pp. 123-134Published by: University of Pennsylvania PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2708948 .Accessed: 02/02/2011 16:34Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at .http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=upenn. .Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of Pennsylvania Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the History of Ideas.http://www.jstor.org
  2. 2. FUSTEL DE COULANGES AND THE ACTION FRANCAISE. BY STEPHEN WILSON The year 1905 was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Fustel deCoulanges, the historian and author of La Cite Antique. Surprisingly the oc-casion was celebrated with eclat by the royalist Action Francaise movement;1surprisingly, because homage to Fustel de Coulanges, a severe academic, camestrangely from a group of writers whose main purpose was polemical; sur-prisingly because the object of this royalist admiration had been tutor to theEmpress Eugenie, and subsequently a firm political Republican.2 But the his-tory of the Action Frangaise was full of surprises, not least in the matter ofthe ideological pedigree which the movement invented for itself,3 and whichhistorians have sometimes mistakenly taken at face value as an indication ofthe real intellectual origins of Integral Nationalism.4 The Action Frangaisepedigree included the obvious traditionalist royalist canon: Maistre, Bonald,Le Play, La Tour du Pin, though even here Maurras and his followers felt theneed to clip the tradition into shape, and some found the masters addition ofComte to the list hard to take.5 When more exotic recruits were brought in as"mattres de la Contre-Revolution," the need for adaptation was even greater.So post-1870 Taine and Renan were admitted with reservations and warn-ings,6 Proudhon in snippets as a "populist" gesture,7 while very real influences Charles Maurras, La Bagarre de Fustel (Paris, 1928); E. Weber, Action Francaise(Stanford, 1962), 36-38. 2Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges (1830-89) was perhaps the most importantFrench historian of the post-Romantic generation. His main works include La Cite An-tique (Paris, 1864), and Histoire des Institutions Politiques de lancienne France, 6 vols.(Paris, 1875-92). For his life and works, see P. Guiraud, Fustel de Coulanges (Paris, 1896), and J-M. Tourneur-Aumont,Fustel de Coulanges (Paris, 1931). 3The major work here is Louis Dimier, Les Maitres de la Contre-Revolution (Paris, 1917); but see also Leon de Montesquiou, Pensees choisies de nos maitres (Paris, 1908);L. de Montesquiou, Le realisme de Bonald (Paris, 1908); Joseph Berenger, LActionFrancaise, ses origines, sa methode, sa doctrine (Paris, 1920); Georges Valois,LHomme qui vient (Paris, 1923); L. de Gerin-Ricard, Les idees de Joseph de Maistreet la doctrine de Maurras (La Rochelle, 1929); R. Johannet, Joseph de Maistre (Paris, 1932);M. de Roux, Etudes pour portraits de maitres (Paris, 1936). 4C. T. Muret, French Royalist Doctrines since the Revolution (New York, 1933);A. V. Roche, Les Idees traditionalistes en France de Rivarol d Charles Maurras(Chicago, 1937). 5Maurras, LAvenir de lIntelligence (Paris, 1905); L. de Montesquiou, Le systemepolitique dAuguste Comte (Paris, 1907). For the opposing view, see Leon Daudet, Lestupide dix-neuvieme siecle (Paris, 1929), 145, 148; L. Dimier, Vingt ans dActionFrancaise (Paris, 1926), 18, 25-27, 81-83, 93-100; Comte is significantly omitted fromLes Maitres de la Contre-Revolution. 6For Taine, see esp. Maurras, Oeuvres Capitales (Paris, 1954), III, 505-17; AndreBellessort, Les Intellectuels.et lAvenement de la Troisieme Republique (Paris, 1931),217-37; Pierre Lasserre, "Taine historien et critique," Faust en France et autres etudes 123
  3. 3. 124 STEPHEN WILSONsuch as Drumont and Nietzsche were conveniently forgotten by many of themovements leaders.8 This context helps to explain the "kidnapping"of Fustelde Coulanges, and the affair merits attention not only because Fustel was prob-ably the most acclaimed "master" of the Action Fran;aise, but also becausethe attitude of the movement to him and his work and the use made of themprovide interesting insights into its ideological intentions and techniques. AsMaurras wrote in 1928: "Si lon voulait savoir quel fut celui des premierscoups de lAction Frangaise, qui, definissant sa doctrine, marqua le mieuxson temperament, il ne faudrait hesiter a designer la petite bagarre aca-demique et litteraire que dechaina le nom de Fustel de Coulanges. .. ."9 Fustel was adopted by the Action Frangaise as an opponent of Romanti-cism and Germanism, twin intellectual enemies in its nationalist cosmos,10and as a man who, putting the fullest value on the past and on the unity ofFrench history defined patriotism as the love of that past, thus quarreling withthe University and the exponents of "lhistoire officielle."11He was seen as anexponent before his time of Maurras "empirisme organisateur," and as thehistorian of France par excellence.2 This claim should be seen in the light ofthe movements neo-traditionalist emphasis on historiography as a means ofpolitical argument, and its conviction that its primary dispute with the ThirdRepublic lay in the area of public education.l3 Moreover, the claim was(Paris, 1929), 83-92; Daudet, Etudes et milieux litteraires (Paris, 1927), 2-3, 20-23;Daudet, Du Roman a lHistoire (Paris, 1938), 122, 179-85. For Renan, see Maurras,Oeuvres Capitales, III, 499-504; Bellessort, op. cit., 135-43, 150-59; Dimier, LesMattres de la Contre-Revolution, 175-90. 7Dimier, Les Maitres de la Contre-Revolution, 236-58; Maurras, La democratiereligieuse (Paris, 1921), 476-87; Daudet, Flammes (Paris, 1930), 52-69, 83; H.Vaugeois, Notre Pays (Paris, 1916), 102-06; for a critical view, see G. Sorel, Materiauxdune theorie du proletariat (Paris, 1921), 434-49. 8For Drumont, see Daudet, La France en alarme (Paris, 1904), 196-203; Daudet,"Edouard Drumont ou le sens de la race," Revue Universelle (Jan. 1, 1921). ForNietzsche, see Maurras, "Le Tien et le Mien dans Nietzsche," Quand les Francais nesaimaient pas (Paris, 1926), 111-22; Lasserre, "Reflexions sur Frederic Nietzsche,"Revue Universelle (15 June, 1921); also G. Bianquis, Nietzsche en France (Paris, 1929),48-52; Pedro Descoqs, A travers loeuvre de M. Charles Maurras (Paris, 1913), 392-403; Jules Pierre, Reponse d M. Maurras: LAction Francaise et ses directionspaTennes (Paris, 1914); R. Virtanen, "Nietzsche and the Action Francaise," JHI, 11(April 1950), 191-214. 9Maurras,La Bagarre de Fustel, 5. 1Ibid., 10-11. 1For the Action Francaise campaign against the "official" history of the Univer-sity, see Dimier, Les PrOjugesennemis de lhistoire de France (Paris, 1927); Lasserre,La Doctrine officielle de lUniversite (Paris, 1921); and my The Historians of the Ac-tion Francaise (unpublishedthesis; Cambridge, 1966), Ch. 4. "2Inaddition to books by Maurras, Dimier, and Bellessort already cited, see L. deGerin-Ricard, LHistoire des institutions politiques de Fustel de Coulanges (Paris,1936); Daudet, Le stupide dix-neuvieme siPcle, 122-25. As A. V. Roche points out(op. cit., 86), the Action Francaise writers seem to have had a rather limited knowledgeof Fustels more serious work. 3Note 11 above; and my "The Action Francaise in French Intellectual Life," TheHistorical Journal, 12, 2 (1969).
  4. 4. COULANGES AND LACTION FRANCAISE 125naively given a concrete basis in a kind of alleged apostolic succession. FredericAmouretti, one of the inspirers of the Action Frangaise, and a powerful in-fluence on its ideas, had, it was said, been acclaimed by Fustel shortly beforehis death as his only true disciple.4 Amouretti did not live to fulfill thisdestiny, but the tradition passed, according to Maurras and others, to the Ac-tion Frangaise school of historians as a whole, and the movement was thus theguardian and true interpreter of "cette haute doctrine de Fustel de Coulangesque nous avons dO exhumer et restaurer de nos mains .. ."15 The ActionFrangaise writers referred to the "doctrine" of Fustel de Coulanges despite hisfirm rejection of preconceived ideas in history: "Lesprit de recherche et dedoute est incompatible avec toute idee preconcue, toute croyance exclusive,tout esprit de parti. II faut navoir de prejuge ni en politique, ni en religion. Ilfaut netre ni r6publicain,ni monarchiste....."6 F. Lot, an undisputed pupil of Fustel, suggested that he was as much an"avocat" as an historian, that behind his facade of disinterested erudition laya passionate desire to convince.17 If so, the error of the Action Fransaisewriters was not to suppose that Fustel was more "committed" than he himselfhad allowed, but to mistake the nature of the commitment. They were con-cerned not to lift the veil of objectivity, so dear to Fustel and his contempo-raries, but only to fit his work into their own nationalist categories. Theybased this attempt very largely on Fustels essay in the Revue des DeuxMondes (September 1872): "De la manitre dEcrire lhistoire en France eten Allemagne depuis cinquante ans."18There Fustel contrasted the Germanmethod of writing history, which in spite of its facade of pure erudition wasnationalistic, with the French, which was the very opposite, praising andelevating Germany and England at the expense of France. Whereas German erudition had prepared for the Franco-Prussian war bysuggesting that Alsace, Holland, or Lombardy, if need be, were German,French scholarship, by dividing Frenchmen at home and earning them scornabroad, had enervated national defence. Fustel went on to say that, in time ofwar, French historians could not be blamed for resisting German eruditionwhich was invading "... les frontieres de notre conscience nationale." Thiswas a familiar Action Frangaise theme, but the Action Frangaise ignored thefact that Fustel restricted its validity to wartime, and his reservation: "Nouscontinuerons a professer, en depit des Allemands, que lerudition na pas depatrie." Fustel was not setting up German nationalist historiography as amodel in the way that the anti-German Action Francaise writers paradoxi- 4Amourettis original version of the story was published in the Revue dActionFrancaise (Nov. 1, 1900); it was repeated in A. Cottez, Frederic Amouretti (Paris,1937), 14-15; Maurras, Quand les FranCais ne saimaient pas, 42-61; Gerin-Ricard,op. cit., 116-20. 15Maurras,Gaulois, Germains, Latins (Paris, 1926), 81-82. 16Fustelde Coulanges, "Fragments sur le methode historique," Revue de synthesehistorique, 2 (1901), 262, cited by Tourneur-Aumont,op. cit., 221. 17F. Lot, Letter to Marc Bloch (April 17, 1930), "Psychologies dhistoriens. Deuxlettres de Fustel de Coulanges a Gabriel Monod et une lettre de Ferdinand Lot surFustel," Annales, 9 (1954), 149-56. 18Reprinted Fustel de Coulanges, Questions historiques (Paris, 1893), 3-16. in
  5. 5. 126 STEPHEN WILSON cally supposed. They quoted from his 1872 article again and again, and Maurras twice republished a piece written in November 1902 in which heparaphrased Fustels article at length, with long quotations.19 According to Maurras, Fustel taught that the first duty of a great nationwas to love itself in its past. He welcomed Fustels attack on liberal historians who preferred other cduntries, Germany or England, to France, who saw the Germans as virtuous though in fact they were depraved, as regenerators of Gaul though in fact they disturbed a peaceful and established civilization. French historians were indulgent towards the German Emperors who pillaged Italy and exploited the Church in the struggle of the Empire and the Papacy,yet they condemned the Italian wars of Charles VIII and Francois Ier; theyfavored the Reformation against the Renaissance; they believed Saint-Simonwhen he said that Louis XIV waged war for frivolous reasons; they did notreproach William III with destroying the Republic in Holland, nor the Electorof Brandenburg for waging aggressive war for forty years, yet they attackedLouis XIV for taking Lille from the Spaniards and for accepting Strasbourgwhen it freely gave itself to him; they were for Frederick II against Louis XV.These were all reproaches that Action Frangaise writers were to take up intheir attack on "lhistoire officielle." Maurras went on to quote with relish:"Notre patriotisme ne consiste le plus souvent qua honnir nos rois, a detesternotre aristocratie, a medire toutes nos institutions. Cette sorte de patriotismenest au fond que la haine de tout ce qui est francais.... Ils brisent la traditionfranpaise et ils simaginent quil restera un patriotisme franCais.... Chacunfait son ideal hors de France.... Le veritable patriotisme, cest lamour dupasse, cest le respect pour les generations qui nous ont precedees."20 As adeclaration in a time of national crisis this was legitimate enough and neednot, as Fustel himself pointed out, have been prejudicial, as an attitude, togenuine scholarship. Fustel was not advocating that French historians shouldbe for Louis XV against Frederick, or for the Renaissance against the Ref-ormation. It was rather the whole attitude of being for and against that he wascondemning. Nor was he condoning the wars of Louis XIV, as Maurras mighthave discovered by turning to another essay reprinted with "De la maniere,"in Questions Historiques, which appeared in fact at a far more critical timethan the other: January 1, 1871. There Fustel damned the "esprit de con-quete" of Louis XIV and of Louvois, which was contrary to the will of the na-tion expressed by Colbert and others, and he saw in Louvois and Louis theancestors of Bismarck and William I. Fustel was lamenting French lack of patriotism, but he considered that realpatriotism was being seriously undermined by the French post-revolutionarytradition of using history as a means of political propaganda: "Ecrire lhistoire 19Maurras, Oeuvres Capitales, III, 527-32. 20These "saintes paroles dor," Maurras, Pour un jeune Francais (Paris, 1949), 56were often quoted by the Action Francaise; Dimier read them at the 1905 celebrationwhere they were greeted with applause: Dimier, "Discours prononce a la commemo-ration du 75e anniversaire de la naissance de Fustel de Coulanges," Les Prejugesennemis de lhistoire de France, 439-66; also Maurras, La Bagarre de Fustel, 82-92, andLouis Dunoyer, "Discours," Cahiers du Cercle Fustel de Coulanges (Oct. 1928).
  6. 6. COULANGES AND LACTION FRANCAISE 127de France etait une faton de travailler pour un parti et de combattre un ad-versaire.... Lun etait republicain et se croyait tenu a calomnier lanciennemonarchie; lautre etait Royaliste et calomniait le regime nouveau. Aucundeux ne saper;evait quil ne reussissait qua frapper la France.... Lhistoireainsi pratiquee nenseignait aux Frangais que lindifference, aux etrangers quele mepris."21The Action Francaise writers were of course great practitionersin this tradition, but in their eyes Fustels criticism of it applied only to theirrepublican opponents. They took his remarks in favor of an understanding ofthe ancien regime to imply as a natural corollary the condemnation of theFrench Revolution, a crude deduction that Fustels letter to Mommsen, forexample, disclaims.22 The Action Francaise ignored this, resting their caseinstead on the general implications of Fustels work, and particularly on histhesis that the Germanic invasions of Gaul were of negligible importance. Inhis quotations from LHistoire des Institutions, Maurras concentrated onpassages that minimize the impact of the barbarian invasions, and stress theRoman framework of Gaul.23 The Action Fran9aise writers, in fact, tookquite seriously the ancient aristocratic theory of Boulainvilliers, which sawFrench history in terms of the struggle of two races, and Fustel was hailed byMaurras and his school as the man who had finally liberated French historyby refuting the theory of "two races" from the documents, thus reestablishingthe unity of French history.24Till then "lhistoire officielle" had been able tomaintain and propagate a history of mutual hate and civil war: "Elle se sert desAlbigeois et des Camisards, des Bagaudes et des Templiers, de la Saint-Barthelemy et des Dragonnades: ces incidents, ces accidents, ces antiquesblessures vite cicatrisees par le bienfait des hommes et par la fortune dutemps, on y insiste, on les avive, on y verse le flot acide et bouillonant de nosdivisions daujourdhui, on sefforce dy retenir lattention pour mieux rejeterdans loubli les ^ages paix et dunion qui precederent et suiverent. II nest pas dequestion de lensemble de notre passe, mais uniquement, selon la penetranteexpression de notre ami M. Rend de Marans, de nos schismes."25The theoryof "two races" had served above all to consecrate the Revolution as the justrevenge of a subject race, or a "holy war"; Fustel reduced it, as Pierre Gaxottewrote in 1928, to the vulgar and loathsome muddle of outbreaks and crimesthat it really was.26 Fustels history was the only one that did not authorizeclass struggles between Frenchmen, that presented "lUtile," "le Bon," and"le National," with "le Vrai."27 The Action Francaise suggested that this fundamental criticism of theRevolution, added to Fustels hostility to Germanism, incensed the "officialhistorians" of the University who still clung to Boulainvilliers, to the tradition 21Fustelde Coulanges, Questions historiques, 6. 22Ibid.,509. 23Maurras, Bagarre de Fustel, 14-36. La 24Maurras, Dictionnaire politique et critique (Paris, 1932-33), II, 114-19; JeanHeritier, "Fustel de Coulanges et 1ideede conquete," Revue Universelle (1 aout 1930). 25Maurras, Democratie religieuse, 205. La 26PierreGaxotte, "Fustel de Coulanges," The Criterion, 8 (Dec. 1928). 27Maurras,La Bagarre de Fustel, 10-11; Daudet, Moloch et Minerve (Paris, 1924),163.
  7. 7. 128 STEPHEN WILSONof the Enlightenment, to Montesquieu, Thierry, and Guizot.28 Hence they,at first, attacked Fustels work mercilessly, driving him to an early death, andthen more subtly forced his work into oblivion.29The main agent in this workof Republican defence, for whatever threatened the Revolution threatened theRepublic, was Gabriel Monod, "le sentinelle allemand dans luniversite."30Fustel was only rescued from this neglect by the Action Francaise celebrationof 1905. The Action Francaise position here invites at least two importantcriticisms. Fustels main thesis, that there were really no Barbarian invasionsin the popularly-imagined sense, that feudalism was mainly the product of so-cial and political disintegration and owed nothing in particular in its charac-ter to the Germans who happened to provoke it, that the Merovingian govern-ment was more than three-quarters Roman, met with basic criticism in hisday, and is now largely discredited. DArbois de Jubainville claimed thatFustel ignored the proven falsity of several Merovingian dipl6mes, uponwhich he based part of his thesis, and suggested that he was led to this obsti-nacy by the fact that his motive was not disinterested study, but a desire todisprove the romantic theories of Thierry.31Monod, though he accepted themain thesis on the nature of the invasions, suggested that the Germans did nothave that respect for the Empire that Fustel attributes to them, and criticizedFustel for assuming that Thierrys theories were "lopinion regnante."32Marc Bloch, more recently, has pointed out that the theory of the invasionsbeing carried out by mere "bandes," does not tally with the documentary, letalone the archeological and place-name evidence.33There is no evidence thatFustels critics, in rejecting his theory, which was not original, had to fall backon that of Boulainvilliers and the Romantics. The only two prominent Frenchthinkers of the late nineteenth century who did maintain the theory of "tworaces" were Gobineau and Drumont.34 Bloch has indicated how study of theproblem was vitiated by posing it in the artificial terms: Roman or German? 28E.g.,Bellessort, op. cit., 208-17. 29Gaxotte,op. cit.; Daudet, Etudes et milieux litteraires, 20-23; Maurras, Reflexionssur la Revolution de 1789 (Paris, 1948), Introd. 30See Maurrass article of this title, Quand les Franqais ne saimaient pas, 62-92;also Maurras, Gaulois, Germains, Latins, 81-82. 31H. dArbois de Jubainville, Deux manieres decrire lhistoire. Critique de Bossuet,dAugustin Thierry et de Fustel de Coulanges (Paris, 1896), 7-9, 94-102. DArbois deJubainville (1827-1910) was a distinguished Celtic scholar in his day, but not free froma polemical tendency. 32G. Monod, Revue Historique, 47 (1891), 334-39; idem, "Du role de loppositiondes races et des nationalites dans la dissolution de lempire carolingien," Annuaire dela Bibliothequede lEcole des Hautes Etudes (1895). 33M. Bloch, "Sur les Grandes Invasions (1945)," Melanges historiques (Paris, 1963),I, 90-109. Maurras had argued that place-names could not be used as evidence of thesize or extent of invasions: "Plus une race est etrangere, mieux son passage est accusedans la nomenclature des lieux . . . le nom general de toutes nos provinces, la France,ne designe pas le caractere gallo-romain quelles ont en commun, mais la petite hordefranke qui leur a donne quelques rois." Maurras, Anthinea (Paris, 1920), 240-41. 34The Action Francaise attitude towards Gobineau and racist theories was on thewhole hostile; see Maurras, "Le systeme de Gobineau," Gaulois, Germains, Latins,29-30; J. Heritier, "Lhistoire dans les romans de Gobineau," Revue du Siecle(1 Mai 1925).
  8. 8. COULANGES AND LACTION FRANCAISE 129 Fustel was not unaware of this, for he expressly claimed that he was not a Romanist. But Fustel would surely have rejected the interpretation put upon his thesis by the Action Francaise. He did not see it as the pretext for any con- temporary political argument. The nationalist arguments from history which sought to prove that the Rhineland was Celtic and Roman, for example, would seem to be explicitly disavowed by his letter to Mommsen, in which he said that ethnographical or philological considerations had nothing to do with the case of Alsace: "Ce qui est actuel et vivant, ce sont les volontes, les idees,les interets, les affections. Lhistoire vous dit peut-etre que lAlsace est un pays allemand; mais le present vous prouve quelle est un pays francais." Alsace was French because it wanted to be. Fustel attacked the German idea of the principle of nationalities, which would justify her conquering Holland, Switzerland, parts of Austria and Russia, and put in its place the liberal prin- ciple that a people has the right to resist and free itself from a foreign power.35 Although the Action Francaise, particularly in its attack on Pangermanism, condemned the principle of nationalities, it never made so clear a definition of what was intended by the term, perhaps because it was unable to adopt Fustels contrasting principle.36 It is clear then that Fustels critics were not criticizing a view of France, which he had built on his particular interpretation of her origins, for he would not have based his view on those grounds. As he told Mommsen, they had each left their studies to discuss the problem of Alsace. Fustels view of the in- fluence of the past on the present was far more subtle and less doctrinaire, as we shall see later. Nor is it true that the University attacked Fustel out of hand and then condemned him to oblivion because his ideas challenged its orthodoxy. Fustels exasperation at the criticisms of his Histoire des Institu- tions, which led him to rewrite and alter the plan of his original work, exas- peration aggravated by illness, led him to obstinacy in his views and bitterness towards those who opposed them, but this attitude was not always recipro- cated.37 Fustel was employed and esteemed by the University where he was an influential teacher;38 Monod reviewed his works, as they appeared, in theRevue Historique, and with his criticisms always expressed his admiration fortheir author. When he died, he wrote: "La mort de M. Fustel de Coulanges est un des coups les plus sensibles qui puissent frapper la science et les lettresfran:aises...," and concluded, "... il restera par ses livres comme par sa vieun sujet dadmiration et denseignement pour les gens a venir." Elsewhere hesaid: "... il etait incapable de laisser les preoccupations politiques influer sonjugement historique."39 Fustel too, had been a fairly regular contributor to 35Fustelde Coulanges, Questions historiques, 504-12. 36See my The Historians of the Action Francaise, ch. 8. 37E.g., Fustel de Coulanges, La Monarchie franque (Paris, 1888), Preface; also"Psychologies dhistoriens. Deux lettres de Fustel de Coulanges a Gabriel Monod . .,"Annales, loc cit. 38He taught at the University of Strasbourg, at the Ecole Normale in Paris, and atthe Sorbonne, where a chair in medieval history was especially created for him:Tourneur-Aumont,op. cit., 13-18. Lot, loc. cit., testifies to his influence as a teacher. 39G. Monod, "Fustel de Coulanges," Revue Historique, 41 (1889), 277-85, and 47(1891), 334; idem, Portraits et Souvenirs (Paris, 1897), 148.
  9. 9. 130 STEPHEN WILSON the Revue. Maurras saw in Monods tribute the purest hypocrisy and pictured him as making use of his position as director of the Revue, as maitre de con-ference dhistoire at the Ecole Normale and as directeur des etudes histo-riques at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes to damn Fustel to obscurity.40 This claim must be seen in the context of Maurras attacks on the Monod family as the prime example of the meteque Protestant family established in France at the expense of the French, and, like all Action Franqaise excursions into "lhistoire occulte," cannot be taken very seriously.41Nor was Monod the ig- noramus that Maurras claimed he was, for, in fact, Monod was especially well-qualified to criticize and judge Fustels work.42The Academy crowned the ensemble of Fustels work; he was elected to the Institut; and his posthumous works were published faithfully by Camille Jullian, a pupil who, in the spirit of his master, was free with his criticisms.43 La Cite Antique was generally recognized as a classic. The Action Frangaise commemoration did perhapshelp to bring Fustel back into public notice, and his centenary was celebratedat the Sorbonne in the presence of the President of the Republic.44 But on aprofounder level public recognition or the lack of it was unimportant. Fustelslasting influence was as a writer, and lay, as Bloch and others have remarked,in his compelling style rather than in any message he had to convey.45 The Action Frangaise, however, adopted Fustel for partisan reasons; theytook from their reading of him a confirmation of the unity of French history,a unity that in their view excluded the Revolution and most of the nineteenthcentury, and a belief in the Latin origins of France.46They based their read- 40The historian, Auguste Longnon, who expressed sympathies for the ActionFrancaise, and who took part in the 1905 celebration taught at the Ecole des HautesEtudes, and Funck-Brentano, a committed Action Francaise writer was a pupil ofMonod: Annuaire de la Bibliotheque de IEcole des Hautes Etudes (1896, 1912-13);these facts qualify the sharp distinction made by Maurras between the Action Franqaiseand the University. 41Maurras, "Les Monod peints par eux-memes," (Oct. 1899), Au signe de Flore(Paris, 1931), Bk. IV. 42Monodwas the author of Etudes critiques sur les sources de lhistoire meroving-ienne (Paris, 1872 & 1885);and Etudes critiques sur les sources de lhistorie carolingienne(Paris, 1898). Fustel fully recognized his competence and suggested his name as sup-pleant to Lavisse when the latter went from the Ecole Normale to the Sorbonne:Annuaire de la Bibliothequede IEcole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (1912-13). 43TheAction Francaise attitude towards Jullian fluctuated. In 1901, Maurras wasfavorable (Gaulois, Germain, Latins, 15), but later he called him a "romantic" and abad disciple of Fustel, Pour un jeune FranCais, 51-59. Jacques Bainville satirized hisCelticism in Couleurs du temps (Paris, 1928), 231-34. 44Accordingto Gaston Dodu, Revue des Etudes Historiques (Jan.-Feb. 1933), 66,the 1930 celebration attracted little notice. 45M. Bloch, "Fustel de Coulanges historien des origines francaises," Revue Interna-tionale de lEnseignement (July 15, 1930); F. Lot, op. cit. 46"Nous nous sommes faits latins il y a dix-huit siecles; nous sommes rest6s latinspendant toute notre histoire . . . aujourdhui encore nous sommes latins, par le genredesprit, par les gouts, la maniere de penser." Fustel de Coulanges, Lecons aIImperatrice sur les origines de la civilisation francaise (Paris, 1930), 119; compareMaurras: "Je suis Romain par tout le positif de mon etre, par tout ce quy joignent le
  10. 10. COULANGES AND LACTION FRANCAISE 131ing mainly on writings produced in the circumstances of the Franco-Prussianwar. They learnt little historical method from Fustel; they ignored the fact thathe used the very "German" methodology that they condemned. Louis Di-mier may have adopted his reverence for the document, but his narrow con-ception of what a document was, as indeed the whole Action Francaise ob-session with its own ancient texts, annotated and rehashed to the point ofabsurdity, are as far as possible from the spirit of an historian, whose ultimateaim was the widest synthesis.47 There are, however, affinities, which deserveattention, between Fustels historical views and attitudes and those of the Ac-tion Frangaise. First, the Action Frangaise shared Fustels belief in the over-whelming influence of ideas in history, a belief that was developed in Francein the nineteenth century particularly by the Catholic Right, but which wasalso a basic assumption of liberals and Republicans with their emphasis onpure politics and education. The force of ideas and beliefs in society is thethesis dominating La Cite Antique: "La nature physique a sans nul doutequelque action sur lhistoire des peuples, mais les croyances de lhomme enont une bien plus puissante."48Maurras view was similar;49the Action Fran-gaise, for example, attributed the outbreak of the French Revolution mainlyto the influence of the ideas of thephilosophes, and saw modern French historyas a process of decline and disintegration caused by "les idees fausses." Thispresumption explains the movements own emphasis on propaganda, andDimier, in one of the movements important doctrinal works, made it thebasis of his historiography. The modern historical school, which held sway inFrance, distrusted "les temoignages" in favor of "les monuments," he claimed,which was to substitute archeology for history; for the past was preservedessentially in human memory; human memory, tradition in effect, was thehistorical fact par excellence, and the role of the historian was to trace and thuspreserve tradition. Dimier quoted approvingly Fustels plea for Plutarch:"... nous pensons que, si contestes que puissent etre les renseignementsdonnes par les anciens, ils valent mieux que nos conjectures modernes...."50But whereas Fustel made this plea in the cause of genuine understanding ofthe past, Dimier was able to turn it into a condemnation of the Free-Thoughtstemming from the Revolution. Dimier was more of a scholar than most of the Action Franqaise historians,among whom a certain journalistic scorn for scrupulous documentation seemsto have prevailed, justified often by an appeal to the common memory. Di-plaisir, le travail, la pensee, la m6moire, la raison, la science, les arts, la politique et lapo6sie des hommes vivants et reunis avant moi." La politique religieuse (Paris, 1914),396. 47Henri Berr, a pupil of Fustel, founded the Revue de Synthese Historique in 1900.Tourneur-Aumont, op. cit., 184-86. See M. Siegel, "Henri Berrs Revue de SyntheseHistorique," History and Theory, 9 (1970). 48Fustel de Coulanges, La Cite Antique (Paris, 1870), 241. 49Stephen Wilson, "History and Traditionalism: Maurras and the ActionFrancaise," JHI, 29 (July-Sept. 1968), 365-80. 50Dimier, Les Maitres de la Contre-Revolution, 196-206; Fustel de Coulanges,Nouvelles Recherches sur quelques problemes de lhistoire (Paris, 1891), 56.
  11. 11. 132 STEPHEN WILSONmiers narrow conception of what constituted historical source material pointsto another aspect of Action Francaise historiography hard to reconcile withFustels method and practice. The Action Franqaise slogan "Politiquedabord," however unrealistic in the context of its general activity, certainlyinformed its historiographical enterprises. Action Francaise history waspolitical history, viewed usually from a national level. Nevertheless, ActionFranqaise writers felt an attraction towards Fustels socio-historical stand-point. Like de Maistre, like Taine, Fustel stressed the inescapable historicalfoundations and framework of societies. "Je vais vous parler des choses tresvieilles," he told the Empress Eugenie, "mais, qui, toutes vieilles quellessont, durent encore et vivent encore a lepoque oii nous sommes, de choses quidatent de deux a trois mille ans, et que nous retrouvons soit autour de nousdans nos institutions politiques et nos habitudes de societe, soit en nous-memesdans nos idees, dans nos arts, dans notre pensee."51 Fustel was here giving voice to the kind of traditionalism which was devel-oped later by Barres and by Maurras himself and which explains their wide-spread intellectual appeal. Fustels belief in the influence of the past on thepresent meant a belief which the Action Frangaise shared, in the influence ofinstitutions rather than of individuals. "Ne croyons pas ... que nous pensionsavec notre raison propre. Linstrument de notre pensee, cest lheritage demillions dhommes qui nous ont precedes," wrote Dimier;52 and Amourettisaid of Fustel: "... comme il etait clairvoyant et raisonnable, lhistoire deshommes de France quil a ecrite sest appelee Histoire des Institutions."53For the Action Francaise, of course, Frances political and cultural salvationcould only come from the institution of monarchy. Fustels emphasis on in-stitutions was therefore very welcome, and passages could be found thatseemed to lead in a specifically royalist direction; for example: "Les insti-tutions politiques ne sont jamais loeuvre de la volonte dun homme; la volontede tout un peuple ne suffit pas a les creer. Les faits humains qui les engendrentne sont pas ceux que le caprice dune g6enration puisse changer. Les peuples nesont pas gouvernes suivant quil leur plait de letre mais suivant que lensemblede leurs interets et le fonds de leurs opinions exigent quils le soient.... I1 fautplusieurs ages dhomme pour fonder un regime politique et plusieurs autres ages pour labattre."54 Fustels historical conservatism does not have thesame pessimistic tone as Maurrass, but he did, without advocating any specif-ically Right-wing solution, draw specific political conclusions from it simi-lar to those of the Action Francaise, although of course these were notsystematic, and they were not public utterances. He put the same kind of pre-mium on success in politics as did Maurras; he was hostile to any active formof political democracy, and he also expressed antiparliamentary opinions.55The Action Frangaise was able to claim, too, that Fustel was a national Re- 5"Fustel de Coulanges, Lemons a llmperatrice sur les origines de la civilisationfrancaise, 1. 52Dimier,Les PrMjuges ennemis de lhistoire de France, 464. 53Maurras,La Politique (Paris, 1928), 18. 54Fustelde Coulanges, La Gaule romaine (Paris, 1891), xii. 55Tourneur-Aumont, cit., 60, 117; Guiraud,op. cit., 244. op.
  12. 12. COULANGES AND LACTION FRANCAISE 133publican, and that he had written a devastating analysis of democracy in therepublics of antiquity.56 Another feature of Fustels work that the Action Frangaise writers held upfor praise was its positivism. Maurras wrote an article: "LHistoire de Fustelverifiee par la philosophie de Comte."57 Maurras found in Fustels work thesame conflict between ideas and institutions, the individual and the past, willand determinism, which bedevilled his own attempts to give his political doc-trine a "positivist" base. Maurras greatly admired the way Fustel resolvedthis conflict, at least on a personal level, through his instructions for hisfuneral: "Je desire un service conforme a lusage des Francais, cest-a-dire,un service a leglise. Je ne suis, a la verite, ni pratiquant, ni croyant, mais jedois me souvenir que je suis ne dans la religion catholique et que ceux quimont precedC dans la vie etaient aussi catholiques. Le patriotisme exigeque si lon ne pense pas comme les ancetres, on respecte au moins ce quils ontpense."58 Such an attitude was of course very similar to Maurras own.What is striking, all in all, in comparing Fustel and Maurras is how close inattitude and modes of thought were these two men born nearly forty yearsapart. Maurras intellectual climate was in many ways not that of the 1890s,when he in fact came to intellectual maturity, but that of the 1870s or eventhe 1860s. Intellectually the Action Francaise was ultraconservative in a waythat it did not declare. The Action Francaise set itself up as the heir to Fustel de Coulanges.Jacques Bainville, Pierre Gaxotte, Franz Funck-Brentano were regarded ashis disciples in spirit, as Amouretti and Augustin Cochin had been his disci-ples in fact.59 Homage was paid to Fustel at the Institut of the Action Fran-gaise, and, most important, the "Cercles Fustel de Coulanges" were created in1928 in order to apply his methods and ideas to the teaching of history inschools.60 Since the historiographical propaganda of the Action Francaisewas aimed precisely at undoing and replacing the history teaching in Stateschools, this put Fustels work, or the Maurrasian interpretation of it at thevery centre of the movements concerns and its action. As Left-wing criticspointed out,61 there was an irony in this situation, for the neo-traditionalistswere advocating for the future a model of society, with emphasis on the familyand the cult of ancestors, which had received its classic expression in La CiteAntique, where, of course, it was irrevocably located in the distant past.There were other ironies too. The Action Francaise writers were blind sup-porters of Fustels thesis that there had really been no barbarianinvasions, yet 56Maurras, Les chefs socialistes pendant la Guerre (Paris, 1918), 140-41; Belles-sort, op. cit., 204-06. 57Maurras,Dictionnairepolitique et critique, II, 114-19. 58Guiraud, cit., 266; L. de Gerin-Ricard,op. cit., 57. op. 59J. H&ritier,"Fustel de Coulanges et lidee de conquete," loc. cit.; L. de Gerin-Ricard, op. cit., 122-23; A. Dufourcq, "Pourquoi nous aimons Fustel de Coulanges,"Revue des Questions Historiques (July 1, 1930). 60See Cahiers du Cercle Fustel de Coulanges (1928-39). 6"E.g.,J. Jaures, LHumanitg (Mar. 13, 1905); A. Thibaudet, Les Idees de CharlesMaurras (Paris, 1919), 265.
  13. 13. 134 STEPHEN WILSONthe concept of the barbarian invasions is one which they frequently in-voked.62 The Action FranCaise, finally, very often quoted Fustels remarkthat "Lhistoire imparfaitement observee nous divise; cest par lhistoiremieux connue que loeuvre de conciliation doit commencer."63 By their ownlights, this was the assumption which the Action Frangaise writers actedon. The historian, however, observing the half-century long "fronde" of theAction Francaise, must point out that, with rare exceptions, Maurras and hismovement served neither the cause of political consensus nor that of historicalunderstanding. University of East Anglia. 62It was an axiom of Action Francaise propaganda that the Germans were ir-revocably barbarian and thus always potential invaders of France. Bainville wrotetypically in 1906: "Devenus forts comme nation, delivres de la tutelle europeenne, lesAllemands se sont vautres dans leur barbarie. Ils se sont retournes a leur etat primitif, aleur fonction de hordes envahissantes." Journal (Paris, 1948), I, 45. For a fuller de-velopment of this thesis, see Bainville, Histoire des Deux Peuples continue jusquHitler (Paris, 1933). 63Fustel de Coulanges, Revue des Deux Mondes (Aug. 1, 1871), 538, cited by J.Berenger, op. cit., 27-29; Dimier, Les Prejuges ennemis de lhistoire de France,Epigraph.