representing joan of arc: youth, school, and citizenship in the

STUDIES (HIS 488-489)
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The Curtain Rises on the Thalamas Affair: Joan of Arc and the National Scene... ………………………..1
Jeanne la Jeune: A Protagonist Comes of Age in the Third Republic….…………………………………29
Stay French! Stay Young! Joan of Arc and the Role of Youth in the Public School……………….…….67
The Rights of Student and Citizen: the Ambiguous Interactions of a Lycéen with the Republic…….....118
Performing Student Protests: The Boulevard Theatre of the Thalamas Affair…………………………..151
When the Curtain Falls: Setting the Thalamas Affair in French History………………………………...190
Archives and Libraries…………………………………………………………………………………...202
Primary Sources...………………………………………………………………………………………..202
Secondary Sources..……………………………………………………………………………………...205
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I am indebted to many people for their support both in the development of this project, as well as in my
undergraduate experience as a whole. I feel blessed to have so many people to thank.
To my family in Connecticut: thank you for your constant love and for your support of my adventures, be
they simply in my head or across the globe. You encouraged me to play; you read with and to me; you never took a
book out of my hand that teachers thought too advanced for my age. Although most ten year olds do not put
biographies of medieval monarchs on their Christmas lists, you never second-guessed my curiosity. I believe that
history is a creative process; it requires a certain amount of gumption and originality in order to formulate new
questions and new understandings. If I feel compelled to construct stories as a historian, it is due to a love of
storytelling which you fostered in me.
To my many mentors on the Davidson College campus, in particular Patricia Tilburg, Jane Mangan,
Hansford Epes, Carol Quillen, Saeyoung Park, Catherine Slawy-Sutton, Carole Kruger, Sally McMillen, and
Burkhard Henke. In the words of Albert Einstein, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative
expression and knowledge.” As not just researchers but as teachers, you have assumed an incredible responsibility.
Thank you for being passionate about what you teach and for caring to teach well. It is as a result of how you have
helped bring joy to my life that I hope to be a professor. I would also like to thank Gardner Roller Ligo; over the last
four years, you have been more than a merit scholarship coordinator. You have been the fairy godmother who
reminds us always to move in the direction of our dreams.
To those who have supported me financially in my adventures completing this project and my education,
notably the family of Kendrick K. Kelley, the family of John M. Belk and the John M. Belk Educational Foundation,
and W. Thomas Smith ‘48. In regards to the thesis, the Kelley family has given an incredible gift to the History
Department and to the lives of tens of Davidson students. Yet without the support of the John Montgomery Belk
Scholarship, I would not have been able to call Davidson College home for the past four years; the influence of this
gift escapes easy expression. That I can also pursue graduate studies next year with the support of the W. Thomas
Smith Scholarship reinforces the debt of generosity I feel to the greater Davidson College family. Thank you for
investing in me.
To those researchers and archivists with whom I have worked on this project, primary among those Dr.
Olivier Bouzy at the Centre Jeanne d’Arc in Orleans. I feel privileged to have worked alongside you, and hope that
this study might be a worthy addition to the wonderful existing collection of which you are the steward.
To the friends I have made at Davidson, in whose company I find peace and joy. To Nick, Kaki, Tori, and
Catherine, who accompanied me to Chinon in January 2013 and who have been part of my thesis journey from the
very beginning. I would also like to thank Katie Jarrell for being an amazing and constant friend-from-afar.
Lastly, to Madame Annie Baradat, to whom I dedicate this work. Merci du fond de mon cœur de m’avoir
accueillie chez vous avec tant d’affection ; c’était sous votre toit où les pensées qui suivent ont commencé à
s’écouler. Votre petite-fille Américaine pense à vous toujours.
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“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.”
Victor Hugo
"If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, is dissent the highest form of
The Use of Force in International Affairs (Philadelphia: Friends Peace Committee, 1961), 6.
The Curtain Rises on the Thalamas Affair: Joan of
Arc and the National Scene
Page 2 of 216
“Is there thus to be a history for children and a history for men?” 1
- Charles Bos
On Monday November 14th, 1904 at 1:30 in the afternoon, M. Georges Berry of the
Chamber of Deputies received an audience of two fathers with their sons. First elected in 1898 to
represent the Department of the Seine, more specifically the Parisian neighborhood of the
Chaussée d’Antin, currently the ninth arrondissement, Berry was well-known as a maverick
whose liberal tendencies earned him equal censure from the Prime Minister Emile Combes’s
Bloc de Gauche as from the nationalists. This visit from two pères de familles and their 13 or 14
year old progeny concerned the Lycée Condorcet, an elite public high school in his district, and
an incident earlier that morning in a history class of the second level taught by aggregated
Professor François Amédée Thalamas. The students alleged to have been upset by the claims
made by Professor Thalamas regarding the national heroine, sometimes regarded as national
saint, the Maid, la Pucelle: Joan of Arc. In what Berry later described as an urgent but procedural
encounter, he asked for and received hand-written accounts from the students, depositions then
passed the same day to the Minister of Public Instruction, M. Joseph Chaumié.2 With these
seemingly innocuous gestures, quite procedural, the 1904 Thalamas Affair began, three weeks of
debate, protest, and social and political unrest in the name of Joan of Arc. These weeks, which
both reflected and engendered moments of deep social conflict for years to come, shaped how
and with whom the Pucelle’s story would resonate across the twentieth century. Engaging
adolescents on the national stage, the Thalamas Affair shaped students who, by acting in critique
of the state, would reshape the Johannic legacy and the trajectory of the French Right.
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés:
Débats Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel).
Ibid, 949-950.
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Joan of Arc (1412-1431) is a figure of Early Modernity whose afterlife has provided a
mirror for the aspirations and ideas of our own Modern lives. A tale of a peasant, teenager,
mystic, underdog, warrior, saint, heroine, legend, and historical figure, her story is repeatedly
transformed and appropriated; it has been used in advertisements for tea, cigars, chocolate, beans,
cheese, soap, vacuum cleaners, stamps, and war bonds, not to mention theatrical and cinematic
productions. 3 Her death, which was sacrificial but also premature, distinguishes her dramatically
from other idealized figures of French history. Represented as the Daughter of the Nation who
left her immediate family in Alsace-Lorraine to save the French people, the Maid of Orléans is
eternally young.
This demographic component of her identity transcends divisive political, religious, or
gendered perspectives. Scholars have benefitted from these latter categories of analysis to read in
the Belle Époque’s shifting and kaleidoscopic Joan of Arc the culture wars and domestic
struggles of France’s Third Republic. They have not, however, in the same way explored how
notions of her heroism specifically as a young person contributed to dialogues about the nation’s
future. This missing discussion is even more striking because the concept of adolescence had
particular poignancy in the Third Republic. Burdened by the nation’s historic inability to institute
fully the values of the First Republic of 1789, the nation was weighed down further by the
political tumult of the nineteenth century, most recently the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.
With the 1875 founding of the new Republican government, the hope for a brighter future was
literally and metaphorically invested in the next generations. The new language around
adolescence thus developed in tandem with deliberate and elaborate spaces for displaying one’s
patriotism, nationalism, and admiration for national history. The loyalty of the young to the new
I am indebted to James Freeman’s work for this list. James Freeman, “Joan of Arc: Saint, Soldier, and
Symbol- of What?” The Journal of Popular Culture no. 41 (2008) 601-636.
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state and to its vision of history envisioned not only to maintain state stability but to guarantee
the Revanche, national “comeback,” against Germany. Debates over what exactly constituted a
reinvigorated “New France” began with the Republic’s founding, and with them, an interest in
preserving and repackaging the past. Though Right and Left used Joan of Arc to represent
resurgence and territorial integrality, her story lent itself easily to divisive political discussion.
Michel Winock posits that by Joan of Arc’s beatification in 1909, however, she belonged
completely to the Right. 4 The little studied Thalamas Affair of 1904 raises critical questions
about the ramifications of teaching of Joan’s story in this specific political culture. More
precisely, it allows us to better understand how the Right appropriated her at the same time as it
developed a following among students and young citizens. Furthermore, it offers insight into the
diverse ways that young people can be drawn into shaping the future of the state through the
language of the past.
The term “Thalamas Affair” is not as well-known as other crises in the Third Republic,
which for good reason became established examples.5 In his work on memory and French history,
Pierre Nora reminds us that:
There is nothing arbitrary about the unfolding of an event, however indeterminate it
might appear. It is not the occurrence of an event that matters but the prominence, the
volume, the pace, the interconnections, the relations to other events, the sequellae, and
the aftershocks. 6
The Thalamas Affair of 1904 originated in the classroom, in the differences between a professor
and a student’s understandings of Joan of Arc, and lead to a month of unrest in Paris and political
Michel Winock, “Joan of Arc,” in Les Lieux de Mémoire, edited by Pierre Nora, vol. 3, Paris: (Editions
Gallimard, 1992). 433-480.
Prime among these are Boulangism, the Dreyfus Affair, the Panama Affair, or the Separation of Church
and State, all of which occurred before 1905 and all of which brought Radical Republicans in Parliament in direct
conflict with either anti-Republican or pro-clerical ideologies.
Nora, “The Return of the Event (1974),” 434.
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debate before the fires eventually died out. On the surface level, this scandal seems a random fait
divers. Nora reminds us, however, that even a fait divers has its own development, with its own
staging, settings, actors, and epilogues. The particular convergence of pressing social and
political questions reflected in the 1904 Affair is distinct from both earlier scandals and from the
Thalamas Affair of 1908-1909, which has attracted much greater interest among historians. 7
This convergence allows me to propose a new understanding of Joan of Arc’s role in the Third
Republic, one which displays how her own youth was communicated and received by the youths
of the Third Republic. The celebration of Joan of Arc as a young hero cannot be disentangled
from the celebration of the young who were told to become heroes. That the French Right chose
to incorporate this 1904 Affair into its raison d’être encouraged the young to identify with Joan
and with the Right as defenders of la Vraie France. As Winock writes, it was not evident at the
beginning of the Third Republic that the Pucelle would, in the course of the twentieth century,
become a figure of the Far Right. What is evident is that the young in 1904 could not disrespect
her; she was understood as their forerunner, their inspiration, and their model. Allow me then
now to set the stage for a fiery discussion over national history, education, and France’s youngest
citizens, a discussion whose short time span belies its greater echoes.
Deputy Georges Berry and Minister Joseph Chaumié belonged to the complex and often
contradictory institution that was the Third Republic’s parliamentary government. This
institution deliberately fostered dialogues of nationalism and state loyalty while simultaneously
fighting for the Republic’s survival –and fighting against many diverse detractors. Founded in
1875 and notorious for the weakness of its executives, the Third Republic was correspondingly
The 1908-1909 Thalamas Affair, in which militant students mobilized for ten weeks of violent protests at
the Sorbonne against this same Professor Thalamas, was the great aftershock of 1904.
Page 6 of 216
notorious for the power of its legislature. 8 The Chamber of Deputies consisted of 533 members
elected by districts, or arrondissements, of vastly irregular population and size. Reaching a total
of 603 deputies in 1914, it contributed to rise and fall of 108 governments from 1870 to 1940.
The Senate, though constituted as a theoretically more stable body, was negligible. The
government of Emile Combes, from 1902-1905 - precisely two years and seven months –
represented one of the longer prime ministries, exceeded only by his immediate predecessor
Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau (1899-1902) and Georges Clemenceau (1906-1909). Despite the
appearance of constant change, the great majorities of governments and of elected officials
included lifetime or long term politicians. Thus, the club of power brokers remained quite small
in reality, paradoxically creating a powerful Chamber often eager to create reform or change
governments from within, but very fearful of change from without. As Theodore Zeldin
eloquently expresses it, “it based itself on the art of débrouillage, the art of getting by
somehow…sustained by the enormous strength of inertia.” 9
The strength of this institution had been tested on several occasions in the late 1890s and
early 1900s, not only through virulent debates over reform efforts but also through scandals of
national and sometimes international scope. First, the Boulangist upheavals in the late 1880s and
early 1890s set conservatives and army leaders under General Georges Boulanger against
Republicans in government. Republicans prosecuted Boulanger, known as “General Revenge,”
for conspiracy and fraud while impugning his character- all of which lead to the general’s suicide.
Next of note, less known but still critical to our context, came the Panama Scandal which
The Third Republic’s swing in the direction of a strong legislature reflected a rejection of the
authoritarian, executive-oriented government of Napoleon III from 1852-1870. For more information, see Robert
Gildea, Children of the Revolution: the French, 1799-1914, Cambridge: (Harvard University Press, 2008); and Rod
Kenward, France and the French: A Modern History, Woodstock: (Overlook, 2006).
Theodore Zeldin, “The Politicians of the Third Republic,” in France 1848- 1945.Vol. 1, Oxford: (Clarendon
Press, 1973), 570- 604.
Page 7 of 216
facilitated virulent discourse against the financiers and the French Jew. 10 Lastly, and most
notably, the Dreyfus Affair of 1898 to 1906 forced Frenchmen into the grossly stereotyped
camps of the University, Jewish/Freemason, Republican urban intellectual on the one side, and
the Catholic and Nationalist citizen who acknowledged a debt to the army and to the land on the
other. The Dreyfus Affair created an environment of, if not deep hatred, then pervasive distrust
among French citizens and tainted any subsequent scandals with the scent of treachery and
treason either to the high ideals of the Republic or to the essential values of True France, the
conservatives’ Vraie France. In the France of November and December 1904, the concept of a
“loyal opposition” to the Third Republic was simply alien. 11
As with all government sponsored educational institutions, the Ministry of Education
assigned faculty to Lycée Condorcet. The year 1902 brought a new faculty member to this
prestigious public high school, the aggregated teacher of history Francois Amédée Thalamas.
Parisian by birth and currently residing in Versailles, he was already a tried and trained
professional, having received his degree as a teacher of history and geography in 1892. 12 By the
This scandal was based on the financing of (and the particular financiers involved in) the Panama Canal
by the government’s Panama Canal Company. Please see Frederick Brown, For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in
the Age of Dreyfus, New York: (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).
For more and better analysis of these events, the historiography is abundant. See, among others:
Nicolas Atkin, and Frank Tallett, Religion, Society, and Politics in France Since 1789, London: (Hambledon Press,
1991); Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett, The Right in France, 1789-1997, London: (Tauris, 1998); Frederick Brown,
For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, New York: (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010); Robert Gildea,
Children of the Revolution: the French, 1799-1914, Cambridge: (Harvard University Press, 2008); Gildea, The Past in
French History, New Haven: (Yale University Press, 1991); Rod Kenward, France and the French: A Modern History,.
Woodstock: (Overlook, 2006); Michel Winock, Nationalisme, antisémitisme, et fascisme en France, Paris : (PointsHistoire/Seuil, 1990).
“François Amédée Thalamas.” Dictionnaire des parlementaires français, 1889 - 1940, tome VIII, p. 3068,
A man whose academic career came to include directing public education in French-held Indochina, authoring
numerous books, and being elected to the Legion of Honor, he, like many other teachers of the era, was very
politically active. Thalamas would present himself for and win a seat in the Chamber of Deputies representing
Versailles in 1910, serving until a loss in 1914 after a less than complimentary presence in the scandalous Caillaux
Affair. He even took a leave of absence from Lycée Charlemagne in the spring of 1906 to run an ultimately
unsuccessful campaign. Whatever the extent of his activism in the educational programming in Amiens, a file of
Page 8 of 216
turn of the century, Thalamas had earned a reputation
within the teaching community as a spokesperson for
those more progressive professors eager to change the
teaching of history. During his tenure in Amiens, his
letters to the rector of the Académie of Lille disparaged
the teaching of history based on names, wars and
diplomacy, rather than on a scientific and methodological
approach.13 In comparison with prior posts at the lycées
of St. Quentin and of Amiens, and at the Lycée Michelet
Figure 1: François Amédée Thalamas,
Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris,
in Vanves, the Lycée Condorcet represented the height of
his career.
Professor Thalamas’s 1902 arrival at Condorcet coincides with a moment of shifts for the
Third Republic educational system, what historians have called a “reinvention” and liberalization
of controls over teaching styles which hoped to counteract a perceived crisis in national
education.14 As Kathleen Alaimo so eloquently expresses it, the driving force behind these
changes and behind the entire educational system was the “awareness that adolescence was a still
malleable and plastic stage of life, vital to the process of socialization.” 15 The early years of the
Third Republic had changed the face of elementary education by insisting on free education that
complaints established against him by parents led to his transfer to Vanves, his last post before coming to
Condorcet. For more on the political activity of the teaching corps, see Paul Gerbod, Les enseignants et la politique.
Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1976.
Letters of teachers of the Lycée d’Amiens to the Rector of Lille, 16 July 1897, AND, 2T 874, in Philippe
Marchand, « L’Interrogation d’histoire au baccalauréat 1880-1914, » In Lycées, Lycéens, Lycéennes, Paris : (Institut
National de Recherche Pédagogique, 2005), 227-228.
Evelyne Hery, « Les Professeurs de lycée et l’application de la Reforme de 1902, » In Lycées, Lycéens,
Lycéennes, Paris : (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, 2005), 257-267.
Kathleen Alaimo, “Adolescence, Gender, and Class in Education Reform in France: The Development of
Enseignement Primaire Supérieur, 1880-1910,” French Historical Studies, 18 (4) 1994, p. 1052.
Page 9 of 216
was universal and obligatory, and, by being open to all, was necessarily laïque or secular.16 The
Jules Ferry and Camille Sée laws of 1880-1882 made educational opportunities for both boys
and girls a guarantee of French citizenship, thereby intensifying an already antagonized
relationship with the Catholic Church, whose various orders and teaching congregations were
historically central to all levels of education, but now were primarily based in elementary and
secondary education. 17 Lycées and collèges, the equivalent of high school and middle school,
shared an emphasis on the social and moral messages necessary for youth approaching adulthood,
a socialization that positioned these youths as the generation responsible for embodying and
asserting France’s rightful authority. 18
The first years of the twentieth century saw the earliest students of Ferry system reach
maturity, thus prompting new questions about its efficacy and the extent to which the curriculum
properly prepared young citizens for both practical and liberal professions as well as for
participation in the life of the Republic. 19 Reforms in 1902 led by the radical Republicans
encouraged educators to take more liberties with the styles and subjects of instruction, and
Professor Thalamas exemplified this. At the 1907 Conferences des Musées Pédagogiques at the
Sorbonne, he described the way he had chosen to structure his classes to be particularly
conducive to the teaching of history and its moral imperatives:
I divided the two-hour long course in two classes of completely different character; one I
call the classe libre…consecrated exclusively to the presentation of a student and a
presentation of the professor. The student begins his presentation; the professor then
As we shall see, what constituted secular – a question dealing in the nuance between neutral and
irreligious – had to be defined by practice. A large component of the 1 December 1904 debates dwells on this
problem of neutrality versus rejection of all religion.
Raymond Grew, and Patrick J. Harrigan, "The Catholic Contribution to Universal Schooling in France,
1850-1906," The Journal of Modern History, 57 (2), 1985.
Kathleen Alaimo, “Adolescence, Gender, and Class in Education Reform in France.”
See “Adolescence, Gender, and Class in Education Reform in France,” and Antoine Prost, Histoire de
l’enseignement en France, Paris: (Colin, 1981,) 247-272.
Page 10 of 216
begins the critique, corrects him. Then, later, the professor begins his presentation. Of
what manner? Of a manner varied, looking firstly to know the moral and intellectual
conditions of his class… 20
He desired to know the moral and intellectual conditions of his class, a need that reflected the
high estimation of the teacher himself. The doctor, lawyer, and schoolteacher, each esteemed as
the bourgeois Republican ideal Frenchmen, replaced the clergy in different aspects of their
historic functions.
Thalamas thus came of age as a teacher in some of the most politically divisive years of
the Third Republic. The educational reforms of the years 1901 to 1904, named the lois
d’exception, specifically targeted the Church; they represented only one of a multi-pronged
attack by the anticlerical state against an institution as ancient as it was contrary to the dominant
secular spirit of the age. The Dreyfus Affair proved in the eyes of the intellectual Republican
Left a greater need for divorce between the Republic and the Church. Legislating religion out of
the classrooms of the Republic was thus not just a choice of curriculum. It was an emergency
procedure, undertaken with vigor by the radical Left coalition of the Bloc de Gauches in the
interest of maintaining the state’s security and sense of independence.21 Prime Minister Pierre
Waldeck-Rousseau had allowed teaching congregations, provided they had been awarded
authorization by Parliament, but his successor, Emile Combes, closed nearly 10,000
congregational schools. Instruction in the name of religion could not come before education in
the name of the Republic.
A law of 7 July 1904 banned the regular clergy from all education, a
gesture of anticlericalism repeated in the July 30 th decision by the Chamber of Deputies to
Charles Seignobos, L'enseignement De L'histoire, Conférences du Musée pédagogique, Paris: (Imprimerie
nationale, 1907), 153.
For a monograph which treats the debates around and resolutions of this legislation in great detail,
please see Mona Ozouf, L’Ecole, l’Eglise, et la République, Paris: (Editions Cana, 1982).
For more detail, see Nicholas Atkin, and Frank Tallett. Religion, Society, and Politics in France since 1789,
London: (Hambledon Press, 1991). See also Rod Kenward, France and the French: A Modern History, Woodstock:
(Overlook, 2006).
Page 11 of 216
rupture diplomatic relations with the Vatican. It is no surprise that such a climate of political and
religious instability could have given birth to the Thalamas Affair of 1904.
Just as important as the greater social and political setting is the particular educational
setting of the Lycée Condorcet. In 1904, this illustrious institution celebrated its centennial.
Chartered in Fructidor Year XI (September 1803) as the Lycée de la Chaussée d’Antin for young
men by the signatures of Napoleon Bonaparte and his Minister Maret, the Lycée Condorcet’s
path through the tumultuous nineteenth century and into the twentieth closely follows a
trajectory of “creation and reinvention” in secondary education. 23 Housed in a former monastery
whose property reverted to the State in 1790, throughout the nineteenth century, its name
changed as a function of the political climate: Bonaparte in 1804, Bourbon in 1815, Bonaparte in
1848, Condorcet in 1870, Fontanes in 1875, and finally Condorcet in 1883.24 The Livre d’Or,
published in celebration of the anniversary, boasted a history of transcending such political
upheavals and producing alumni who represented a veritable constellation of emulated Second
Empire and Third Republic figures. 25 Alumnus and history teacher Louis Benaerts expressed
great confidence that the student body - 1,597 in 1902- would continue this legacy of
“legitimated pride” with the “capable direction” of the headmaster, Desiré Blanchet.
Amid all
the turmoil of the nineteenth century and the physical transformation of this working class
quartier into an elegant point between Haussmann boulevards, “Only this aged façade has stayed
almost identical… students, nourished in this school, have sat here, despite changes of regimes
See Philippe Savoie, “Création et Réinvention des Lycées 1802-1902,” In Lycées, Lycéens, Lycéennes.
Paris : (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, 2005), 59-71.
Livre d’or Lycée Condorcet, Paris : 1904. Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
It counted among its alumni Presidents of the Republic, ministers of the Second Empire and of the
Republics, ambassadors, nobles, deputies, intellectuals and scientists of the Academies, explorers, poets,
dramatists, and journalists, most active at this time. Students at Condorcet at the turn of the century include, for
instance, Jean Cocteau, artist, poet, sculptor, and film director. See Livre d’or Lycée Condorcet, Paris : 1904.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Ibid, 23.
Page 12 of 216
and of curriculum, here where we learn to appreciate the essential French qualities of finesse, of
righteousness, and of justice.”
Condorcet was an epicenter of francité, a landmark of modern
French spirit but also constant French ideals in the heart of the metropolis.
Figure 2: Jean Beraud, « La Sortie du Lycée Condorcet, » 1903.
For the morning of 14 November, 1904, Professor Thalamas assigned a presentation on
Joan of Arc, her “person and the role,” to one of the forty-five fourteen-year old boys enrolled in
his second level History and Geography class. How the presentation went that morning remains
ambiguous, but the testimony of the students and of Professor Thalamas himself allows us to
determine a few certainties. Thalamas recounted directing the student, named Gallerand, to use
the “great histories of France” written by Ernest Lavisse and Jules Michelet. 28 Rather, the student
drew from the hagiographic panegyrics of Recteur-pretre (RP) Stephan J. Coubé, whose
Ibid, 22.
François Amédée Thalamas, Jeanne d’Arc : L’histoire et la légende, Paris : (Paclot et Compagnie,
1905), 1. In his work, he does not name the student; that is gleaned from the debates in the Chamber of Deputies
and the trimestral grades of the Archives of Lycée Condorcet in the Archives Municipales de Paris.
Page 13 of 216
speeches of praise for the Pucelle in the Eglise Notre Dame de Paris had been serialized and
published a few years prior. 29 Thalamas claimed to have corrected the presentation “from top to
bottom” by emphasizing the application of a scientific method to history: “…the Historian does
not occupy himself with miracles or the will of God, but with describing deeds.” Having
“scientifically” defined the role of Joan as well as her trial, the correction “raised no issue” and
the student even expressed his gratitude for the correction. 30
From here, in the contents of the class discussion of Joan of Arc’s national importance,
accounts diverge. What Professor Thalamas presented as an evident and unremarkable correction
comes before M. Georges Berry and M. Joseph Chaumié, the Minister of Public Instruction
under Prime Minister Emile Combes, as the offending and harassment of the students’
sensibilities by insulting the memory of a national heroine. Chaumié, after receiving the
depositions of two students, passed the case file to two investigators of the Ministry, who
invested several days in taking the depositions of more students of the class. A total of 40 gave
testimony, and each set of findings made available for Professor Thalamas’s thorough review on
Saturday 24 November. 31 On November 31, Chaumié had determined that the young professor
had lacked the tact necessary in his post, thereby earning an official punitive sanction. Thalamas
was immediately transferred to Lycée Charlemagne, another elite institution where he would
teach a less prestigious course.32
Thalamas, 1. See SJ. Coubé, La double mission de Jeanne d’Arc : Discours prononce le 14 mai 1899 en
l’église Notre Dame de Paris, Paris : (Victor Retaux, 1899). Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
Thalamas, 1.
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés:
Débats Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel), 948.
1564W, Archives Municipales de Paris. The term “blamer,” or to assign blame, is the official language of
the sanction in this context. It carries a deeper and stronger connotation of fault than our English equivalent. The
levels in French education begin with 11 at the lowest level; thus, a demarcation from 2 nd to 5th represents a true
fall in prestige. Lycée Charlemagne, also located on the Right Bank but closer to the Hotel de Ville, was another
Page 14 of 216
Among the tools used by the legislature to survey ministers, the interpellation, calling of
ministers before the Chamber, often allowed deputies to perform their opposition to “executive
tyranny.” 33 On 1 December, Chaumié underwent such an interview when called by Republican
Deputies Maurice Sembat and Maurice Allard to answer for his sanctioning of Thalamas, a close
personal friend of many radical Republicans. 34 Procedural as interpellations might have been, the
tensions expressed in the Chamber – in the midst of a last-minute scramble to set the following
year’s budget - call into question the priorities and values of the Chamber as a whole. In their
opposition to Chaumié, the Radical Republicans asserted the teachers’ total liberty in the
classroom, as a result of their freedom of conscience as French men. They presented Thalamas as
a martyr, a victim of clericals, under assault by a conservative and treacherous establishment as
was Joan of Arc. Minister Chaumié, in response, defended his actions by affirming the right of
the lycéen to freedom of conscience, an argument which revealed a paradox in the philosophy of
the Third Republic’s educational system. Citing depositions in which students claimed that
Thalamas said he would “demolish the legend of Joan of Arc,” Chaumié placed ultimate
authority in the student rather than in the teacher as arbiter of what is appropriate for the
classroom, even if it meant not teaching “truth” as written by the elite of the Sorbonne. The
teacher had to respect his audience as much as he respected “the truth.”
well-regarded post for teachers. The Livre de traitement de l’administration of Lycée Charlemagne shows Thalamas
earning wages starting from 1 December as a professor of the 5th level. It is unclear from the sources in the
Archives Municipales whether this resulted from practical staffing needs at Lycée Charlemagne or whether it was a
deliberate assignment from the Ministry.
See Zeldin, “The Politicians of the Third Republic.”
Among this group, we must include Jean Jaures, the Radical deputy and socialist leader whose
newspaper L’Humanité came to Thalamas’s defense. Indeed, so also did Jaures present a defense of Thalamas at
the end of the session that I will examine in detail later.
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés: Débats
Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel).
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The urgency inside the Parliamentary chamber reflected the potential emergency that the
Thalamas Affair created on the streets of Paris. Many studies have been done on the spectacular
and dramatic character of the Third Republic, and the ways in which the boulevard culture in
particular blended performance with daily life. 35 Not only was it in this context of performing
patriotism that young students had come to learn about Joan of Arc, but it was in this spirit that
they performed their defense of her on patriotic and nationalist grounds. For nearly three weeks
in November and December 1904, the Parisian Préfecture de la Police submitted near one
hundred police reports regarding the protests and processions, both peaceful and violent, that
partisans of Right and Left mounted in response to the events at Condorcet and in halls of
government. Hundreds of youths participated, while hundreds were also arrested. Thousands of
wreaths were deposited at Joan of Arc statues across Paris. Tens of partisan reunions were held,
and the police ordered near constant surveillance of her statues, in the Latin Quarter, outside the
bureaus of known militant political clubs of Right and Left, and in the areas surrounding
Condorcet, Charlemagne, and Thalamas’s home in Versailles. Protesters were identified in the
press as “Thalamiste” or “Anti-Thalamiste.” Thalamas himself became transformed by
conservative voices into the modern Pierre Cauchon, as traitorous to the nation as was the bishop
who condemned the Maid of Orléans herself. Most significantly, the Action Française on 5
December held a meeting in honor of Joan of Arc that celebrated several of the Right’s political
programs, but prioritized the contribution made by these youngest of citizens, those youth of
Condorcet and of Paris involved in the protests, for reasserting a vision of the True France, la
James Lehning, Melodramatic Thread: Spectacle and Political Culture in Modern France, Bloomington, IN:
(Indiana University Press, 2007); see Venita Datta, Heroes and Legends of Fin de Siècle France: Gender, Politics, and
National Identity, Cambridge: (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Also see Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular
Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-siècle Paris, Berkeley: (University of California Press, 1998).
Page 16 of 216
Vraie France, against the Bloc de Gauches. They spoke for Joan of Arc, and Joan of Arc spoke
for the regeneration of their France.
These upheavals eventually calmed, though issues over church and state continued to
transform the Republic. Professor Thalamas continued to be evoked in conservative writings,
particularly each May from 1905-1908, May being the month of the liberation of Orléans. His
specter also reappeared in conservative presses with the December 1905 law separating Church
and State.36 It was not until 1908 that he resurfaced at the center of outright disorder. From
December to February 1908-1909, the Action Française led ten protests named “Thalamas
Wednesdays,” les mercredis de Thalamas, led by conservative militants Maurice Pujo and
Maxime Real del Sarte among others. Removed from his podium in the Amphitheatre where he
taught, heckled at, the victim of a public spanking as well as hurled tomatoes and eggs according
the conservative press, he was condemned as the insulter of Joan of Arc. He was a traitor to the
nation. Again, hundreds of students were arrested, hundreds of protests held, hundreds of articles
written about the verbal and physical violence exchanged between and among protestors and
police forces. It is this event that is today better recognized as the “Thalamas Affair.”
Current scholarship presents the chronology of these two events in 1904 and 1908-1909
as such: a brief explosion of tensions in 1904 worthy of drama in the press, followed by the
violent manifestations in 1908-9 by an Action Française willing to exploit Thalamas’s course at
the Sorbonne as a public relations opportunity. It has served as one among other litmus tests for
Joan of Arc’s iconological transformation from a fragmented national figure to figurehead of the
For more information, please see Frederick Brown, For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of
Dreyfus, New York: (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010); Nadia Margolis, “The ‘Joan Phenomenon’ and the French Right,” in
Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, edited by Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood, 269-288; Mona Ozouf, L’Ecole,
l’Eglise, et la République, Paris: (Editions Cana, 1988); and Theodore Zeldin, France 1848-1945, Oxford: (Clarendon
Press, 1973).
Page 17 of 216
French Right and the French Church. 37 Yet the question of Johannic reception offers only one
way to understand the events of 1904 and 1908-1908. More specifically, although the 1904
protests are independently rich for mining insight into politics, religion, education, nationalism,
gender, and adolescence, existing interpretations of 1904 do not do it justice.
I believe that the common reading fails to ask a few simple questions. Firstly, the name
the “Thalamas Affair” fails to acknowledge that there were indeed two distinct events, one in
1904 and one in 1908-9. I insist on re-examining the causal relationship between the two. It may
seem obvious to state that the “Thalamas Wednesdays” of 1908-1909 would not have occurred
without the events of 1904. Without 1904, “Thalamas,” sometimes equated to “Dreyfus” in
conservative propaganda, would not have had power as a cultural reference. 38 We must ask: what
in particular made 1904 so remarkable, so advantageous to the Right, that 1904 continued to
resonate with conservatives such that 1908-9 occurred? What about 1904 rendered Thalamas a
perennial symbol and a cultural reference? Scholars who have successfully incorporated the
Thalamas Affairs into other studies have done so in a manner which neither recognizes the
unique character of each event nor uses all the available sources. Despite the availability of
primary sources related to the 1904 event, including newspaper articles, police reports, and the
interpellation of the Minister of Public Instruction in the Chamber of Deputies, the existing
research largely limits itself to the account given in Thalamas’s 1905 pamphlet on Joan of Arc,
the introduction of which explains the Affair from his perspective. 39
I borrow “disputed” from Michel Winock. See Michel Winock, “Joan of Arc,” in Les Lieux de Mémoire,
edited by Pierre Nora, vol 3, Paris: (Editions Gallimard, 1992), 433-480.
The name “Thalamas” would not have been consistently invoked between 1905 and 1908 by the Right,
including in the sixth verse of La France Bouge, the anthem of the militant Camelots du Roy.
In his 1905 treatise Jeanne d’Arc: l’histoire et la legende, Thalamas wrote a prologue to justify his
behavior at the Lycée Condorcet. The remainder of the book offers his biography of Joan of Arc. Hanna’s footnotes
regarding 1904 in both “Iconology and Ideology” and “Laying Siege to the Sorbonne” refer only to Weber’s Action
Française. In that monograph, Weber offers no endnotes for his discussion of 1904, and only a few newspaper
articles from 1908-9. Krumeich uses several sources, including Thalamas’s treatise and records from an Action
Page 18 of 216
Studies have streamlined the event such that it exemplifies what we already know about
politics, national history, and memory in the Third Republic. A fuller investigation raises new
questions, as Joan of Arc’s place in the Third Republic was clearly one debate among many in a
society undergoing remarkable and rapid change. By focusing on 1908-9 and its consequences
for Joan’s memory and the development of the French Right, historians have reduced 1904 as the
less interesting prologue to 1908-9.40 The 1908-9 Sorbonne protests certainly seem a prime
example of the battle between the “Dreyfusard University” and the conservatives of “True
France.” 41 How Joan functioned at the core of this militant group’s ideology has garnered more
Française meeting, but the remainder comes from the radical Left newspaper Humanité. His article “Joan of Arc:
Between Right and Left” references scholar Christian Amalvi’s article on the war of school textbooks as well as
Menager. Menager, meanwhile, references a single report of February 1909 held in the Archives Nationales.
Winock’s piece, though remarkable and comprehensive, cites an anti-Semitic opinion piece published in the
newspaper of the AF, a work of Jean-Francois Sirinelli, and Martha Hanna’s scholarship. Margolis, whose research
into Thalamas is the most comprehensive, cites only from his treatise in “The ‘Joan Phenomenon’ and the French
Right,” while her « La chevauchée solitaire du professeur Thalamas” relies on his treatise, the press of the Far Right,
and secondary sources. Dissertations by Johanna Gauer Edge and Rachel Calman likewise rely on other secondary
sources, such as a 1948 dissertation by Mary Gresham Machen, Michel Winock, and Martha Hanna, or Thalamas’
treatise. Rachel Lorraine Calman, "The Many Faces of a National Saint: Joan of Arc as a Symbol of French Identity,
1890—1956, " (PhD thesis, Drew University, 2001), 35-38. Johanna Gauer Edge, “Saint and Martyr: Epochal Images
of Joan of Arc from the July Monarchy to the Third Republic,” (master’s thesis, Caldwell College, 2002), 27-29.
For instance, Eugen Weber describes 1904 as a “minor scandal” with little or no impact. Martha Hanna
dismisses 1904 in a sentence as the moment when Thalamas achieved the AF’s hatred and national “notoriety …
for disrespectful remarks about Joan of Arc.” Eugen Weber, Action Française: Royalism and Reaction in 20th
Century France, Stanford: (Stanford University Press, 1962), 54. See also Martha Hanna, “Iconology and ideology:
images of Joan of Arc in the idiom of the Action Française, 1908-1931,” French Historical Studies 2, 1985, 220. A
dissenting, or more nuanced, view can be found in Robert Gildea’s broader discussion of the Affairs. His The Past in
French History positions “Grandeur” vis-à-vis other Western nations as the fundamental goal of history and Third
Republic propaganda. He maintains that Dreyfusards nearly salvaged a national, Republican, and multifaceted ideal
of Joan in 1904 but lost it in 1908. The Thalamas Affairs, in his paradigm, exemplify the greater failure to reconcile
French ideologies. Please see Robert Gildea, The Past in French History, New Haven: Yale University Press (1994),
Martha Hanna, “Laying Siege to the Sorbonne: The Action Française’s Attack on the Dreyfusard
University,” Historical Reflections, Spring 1998, 173. Also of relevance is Bernard Menager, « Nationalists and
Bonapartists, » in Nationhood and Nationalism in France: From Boulangism to the Great War, Routledge, eBrary.
He includes 1908-9 as a moment when the participation of young Bonapartists in the protests offers a ground for
exploring the complex – competitive but also constructive - relationships among young conservative groups of
different political leanings.
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attention than why Thalamas became part of that same ideology. 42 Other scholarship highlights
anti-Semitic discourse, which, while present in 1904, had reached a new virulence in 1908-9.43
Detailed analysis of 1904 has been more integrated into the works of Nadia Margolis, who
admits that it had enough significance to warrant Parliamentary debate. 44 Margolis’s second
contribution is a study of Thalamas’s life, in which she presents him as an incorrigibly tactless
and ambitious disciple of the scientific historical method, endowed with an overeager political
Margolis as a historian situates herself at the juncture of political history and Johannic
Studies. Within Johannic Studies itself, attention to the Thalamas Affairs varies dramatically. 46
Historians disagree on whether the Affairs have a causal, symptomatic, or episodic role in the
Hanna, “Iconology and ideology,”220. See also Gerd Krumeich, « Joan of Arc between Right and Left, »
In Nationhood and Nationalism in France, ed. Robert Tombs, London: Harper Collins Academic, 1991. 63-73. The
question of how Thalamas became the ‘bête noire’ is one of my driving questions. It is necessary to move beyond
the simple statement made by Hanna that in 1908-9 he was targeted for “his well-known contempt for the popular
cult of Joan of Arc” (220).
Winock, 465. In addition to Winock and Weber, see also Nadia Margolis, “The ‘Joan Phenomenon’ and
the French Right,” in Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, edited by Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood, New York:
(Garland, 1999), 269-288. Historians establish a clear link between the 1908-1909 event and later uses of Joan by
conservatives, anti-Semitic, and integral nationalist groups.
Nadia Margolis, “The ‘Joan Phenomenon’ and the French Right,” in Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, edited
by Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood, New York: (Garland, 1999), 269-288. . A French historian of the Middle
Ages, she has used the Thalamas Affairs in two different studies. Margolis argues that the Right’s eventual
appropriation of the figure derives from forces latent but tangible in the heroine’s own lifetime; this larger-picture
approach is equally reflected in her discussion of the Vichy Government and the current Front National party. She
then moves on to cite Winock and his perspective on the events as exemplifying both the AF’s anti-Semitism,
which equated Bishop Pierre Cauchon, Alfred Dreyfus and Thalamas as traitors to the nation, and the tense switch
from “mythomania-disguised-as-positivism to positivism and critique of sources.”
Nadia Margolis, « La chevauchée solitaire du professeur Thalamas: rationalistes et réactionnaires dans
l’historiographie johannique 1904-1945 », Bulletin de l’Association des Amis de Centre Jeanne d’Arc 15 (1991) 7-28.
This agenda found him both friends and foes and repeatedly forced him to defend himself to the press or the
Chamber. Notably, his involvement with the Caillaux Scandal of 1914 is not noted by Edward Berenson in his
monograph on the event. Please see Edward Berenson, The Trial of Madame Caillaux, Berkley: (University of
California Press, 1992).
The academic discipline dubbed Johannic Studies, well developed in Europe, subdivides into studies of
the medieval, historical figure or how generations of French people, and increasingly international audiences, built
upon or transformed the limited facts in order to transform her for their uses. For the former see Regine Pernoud,
Joan of Arc: Her Story, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. For the latter, see, among others, Gerd Krumeich,
Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’Histoire, Paris: Editions Albin Michel, 1993. 9. See also James Freeman, “Joan of Arc: Saint,
Soldier, and Symbol – of what?” Journal of Popular Culture, 41 (4)2008, p. 601-634.
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development of Joan’s cult and her modern memory. Was it one of “countless opportunities [for
the Action Française militants] to engage in fist-cuffs with their opponents” or a principled
political end in itself? 47 Was it an “episode among others, interesting only because she is
symptomatic of the general evolution of the cult of Joan,” or the Action Française’s first mass
mobilization campaign? 48 Olivier Bouzy asserts that the organization “found in this affair its
warhorse” for future mobilization efforts.
But in the moment, was Joan the battle prize or the
warhorse? The historians’ consensus is that by the end of the Affair in 1909 and by the time of
her beatification in 1909, the Left acknowledged her appropriation by the Right. 50 Thus the
Thalamas Affairs represented one battle in the greater “Culture War” over the formation of
national identity through symbols. 51
Scholars understand modern French nationalism as having its genesis in the Third
Republic; even the word “nationalism” in the fin de siècle was fairly new to the French language,
especially compared to its older cousin “patriotism.” 52 Both patriotism and nationalism
depended on an institutionalized and pervasive heroic ethic.53 This heroic ethic presented the
humiliation of the Franco-Prussian War as an insignificant blight to an undeniable French
grandeur which – stretching as far back as Saint Louis, and passing through Charlemagne and
Joan of Arc, among others- would inevitably lead France back to glory.54 For Michel Winock,
the Third Republic represents a major turning point in Joan’s significance: politicians and
Winock, 469.
Krumeich 242-244. See also Krumeich, « Joan of Arc between Right and Left, » 71. : “It was a lively but
chiefly ritualistic expression of… internal politics and the hostility between the two Frances.”
Olivier Bouzy, Jeanne d’Arc: Mythes et réalités, Paris: (l’Atelier de l’Archer, 1999).
Krumeich, 244.
For more on the “Culture Wars” see Brown, For the Soul of France.
Michel Winock, “Les nationalismes françaises” (paper presented at the Institut de Sciences Politiques I
Socials, Barcelona, Spain, 1994).
Paul Gerbod, “L’Ethique héroïque en France, 1870-1914,” Revue historique, 268 (544), 1982, p. 402-429.
See also Datta and Raoul Girardet, Le nationalisme français, 1871-1914, Paris: (Armand Colin, 1966).
Winock, “Les nationalismes françaises.” Please see also Gildea, The Past in French History.
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organizations used Joan’s memory towards both national unification and the advancement of
particular parties and politically divisive programs. Although initially this encouraged plurality
of historical interpretation, it eventually encouraged battles over both historical fact and concrete
political platforms for France. Any number of propagandists, politicians, artists, doctors, and
other personalities found in her story a looking glass for their diverse causes. An estimated ten
thousand works were published on Joan of Arc between 1890 and 1920 in France alone, proving
her incredible flexibility as a historical figure and providing no shortage of primary source
material to today’s historians. 55 While Gerd Krumeich examines how the debates over her
history not only exacerbated political and religious tensions but also encouraged new historical
methodologies in the process, most scholarship on Joan in this period tends towards social and
cultural history.56 She has been well studied as a heroic model of faith in God’s destiny for
France, put in the pantheon of Third Republic icons alongside Saints Louis and Genevieve.57 Her
iconography in prewar geopolitical propaganda - given her provenance from Alsace-Lorraine,
recently lost in the Franco-Prussian War- offered a framework of moral righteousness in which
the French soldier became the defender of human rights. 58 Joan, memorialized as a pure and
James Freeman’s study shows that this phenomenon was not unique to France; he incorporates
advertisements, products, images, print and television journalism, television programs, and other sources of
international popular culture, starting from Shakespeare. However, the bulk of his examples come from the late
19th and early 20th centuries. See James Freeman, “Joan of Arc: Saint, Soldier, and Symbol – of what?” Journal of
Popular Culture, 41 (4) 2008, p. 601-634.
Gerd Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’Histoire, Paris: Editions Albin Michel, 1993. He traces Joan’s
reception through French history in French history texts, from her death to the Vichy Government. In his eyes,
Joan’s increasingly polemical historiography pushed forward the discipline and method of history in the nineteenth
and early twentieth century
“L’Ethique héroïque en France, 1870-1914,” 414.
“Les nationalismes français.” Winock writes: “This national culture, also centralized, patriotic, was
nationalist in the way in which it was transcended by a feeling of French excellence, if not French superiority.
France was the country of the Enlightenment, the land of the Revolution, the sentinel of Progress. Michelet did not
hesitate to confuse the history of France with the history of humanity….The fatherland of Joan of Arc and of the
Soldiers of Year II was charged with a civilizing mission on other continents.” This version of nationalism, since it
was based on a common commitment to a national culture, was “open.” In contrast, the “closed” nationalism of
Germans – and later of the extreme French Right- proposed a national identity based on a common race. Winock
also cites a particularly revealing quotation of Georges Clemenceau from 1918: “France, yesterday the soldier of
Page 22 of 216
wholesome “daughter of the People,” represented the French destiny of unification of this lost
province with the rest of the nation, a mystical Manifest Destiny à la Française.59 The gendered
perspective on this version of heroism has been less utilized by historians, though this gap has
recently been addressed by examining theatre, literature, and nonfiction, among other contexts. 60
Scholars in multiple disciplines have examined Joan of Arc as a historical figure destined
for consumption by French youth. Targeted research into the reproduction of her as a national
icon, and into the actual impact of that reproduction on its target audience, remains limited. 61 The
newness of children’s literature in the early twentieth century makes this a dynamic area of study
despite the current academic gap. Analyzing the techniques of storytelling, literary studies
contribute an idea of how picture books and historical fiction about Joan could have affected
children of the Third Republic. 62 While a few historians have explored in depth how iconography
in school textbooks became a battleground for and object of polemical contemporary debates, yet
the Thalamas Affair, which would seem a good example, has been little addressed. 63
God, today the solder of Humanity, will always be the soldier of the ideal.” See also Michel Winock, “Nationalisme
ouvert et nationalisme ferme » in Nationalisme, antisémitisme, et fascisme en France, Paris : (Points-Histoire/Seuil,
1990), 11-40.
Girardet, 154-160.
Karen Offen, “Exploring the Sexual Politics of Republican Nationalism,” in Nationhood and Nationalism in
France, edited by Robert Tombs, London: Harper Collins Academic, 1991. 195-209. See also Denis M. Provencher.
and Luke L. Eilderts, “The Nation According to Lavisse: Teaching Masculinity and Male Citizenship in Third-Republic
France,” French Cultural Studies 18 31 (2007), 31-57. See also Datta.
Marie-Claire Banquart, a poet and historian of French literature, uses Joan of Arc as a case study for the
relationship between history and Third Republic writers, specifically Maurice Barres, Anatole France, Charles Péguy,
and Leon Bloy. (Each of the four wrote extensively on her, some in fiction and theatre and some biography). These
writers, of course, were oriented to adult audiences. Please see Bancquart, 298.
Isabelle Nieres-Chevrel, “In and Out of History: Jeanne d’Arc by Maurice Boutet de Monvel,” in The
Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature, edited by Ann Lawson Lucas, Westport, CT: (Praeger, 2003), 33-40.
See also Penny Brown, “Reinventing the Maid: Images of Joan of Arc in French and English Children’s Literature,” in
The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature, edited by Ann Lawson Lucas, Westport, CT: (Praeger, 2003), 41-52.
Christian Amalvi, “Les Guerres des manuels autour de l’école primaire en France (1899-1914,)”Revue
Historique, Oct-Dec 1979, 359-398. See also Christian Amalvi, Les Héros de l’Histoire de France : Recherche
iconographique sur le Panthéon scolaire de la troisième République, Paris : (Editions Phot’œil.) See also
Mainguenau and Di Vanna.
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Scholars highlight the replacement of religion and religious education with a civic
religion of patriotism and moral education of the heroic ideal, as taught through history,
philosophy, the French language, and geography. 64 Education was less a linear development
towards “Progress” than a series of experiments to change and develop the French people. 65
Thus, the invention of the public, secularized school – by seeking, struggling, and ultimately
succeeding to replace religious instruction- was integral to creating a new French society, which
the 1905 Separation of Church and State signified.66 The writing and teaching of national
history, and thus national identity, in this context unsurprisingly attracts many historians,
particularly to the figure of Ernest Lavisse.67 Remarkably few have specifically studied how
national history textbooks targeted the changing adolescent male with gendered ideals, while
fewer have studied how national history targeted young people with ideals about their age.68 This
is particularly striking in that the bourgeois lycéen, or young adolescent male, was the
Of those cited below (both published in 1968), see Gerbod for a more intimate look at day to day
experiences and Prost for a large but remarkable survey. Prost’s scholarship is the definitive work in this subfield,
cited by most other works on French education. Albertini’s approach falls somewhere between the two. Pierre
Albertini, L’école en France du XIXe siècle à nos jours : de la maternelle à l’université, Paris : (Hachette, 1992). Paul
Gerbod, La vie quotidienne dans les lycées et les collèges au XIXe siècle, Paris : (Hachette, 1968). Antoine Prost,
Histoire de l’enseignement en France, 2nd édition. Paris: Colin, 1968. Less relevant to my study, but of remarkable
insight into the “experimentation” of the early public school system, is Linda L. Clark, Schooling the daughters of
Marianne: Textbooks and the Socialization of girls in Modern French primary schools, Albany: State University of
New York Press, 1984. See also “L’Ethique héroïque en France, 1870-1914,” 411.
See Zeldin, 139-204. Among the results of these experiments he includes a distortion of politics, the
creation of new social barriers and national/regional contrasts, and alphabetization as a cultural barrier to entry.
Mona Ozouf, L’Ecole, l’Eglise, et la République, Paris: Editions Cana, 1982.
Marie Kok-Escalle, Instaurer une culture par l’enseignement de l’histoire, France 1876-1912: contribution
a une sémiotique de la culture, Paris : (Peter Lang, 1988). See also Dominique Mainguenau, Les livres d’école de la
République 1870-1914 : discours et idéologie, Paris : (Editions le Sycomore, 1979). See also Pascal Ory, « Pierre
Larousse’s Grand Dictionnaire: The Alphabet of the Republic, » in Les Lieux de Memoire, vol. 4, edited by Pierre
Nora, trans. Gayle Levy, Chicago: (University of Chicago Press, 2001), 187-203. For Le tour de France, see Jacques
and Mona Ozouf, “Le Tour de la France par deux enfants: The Little Red Book of the Republic, » in Les Lieux de
Memoire, vol. 4, edited by Pierre Nora, Chicago: (University of Chicago Press, 2001), 125-150. For a more general
examination of history writing and history teaching, see Kok-Escalle and Mainguenau. For a more specialized
examination, see Jacques and Mona Ozouf, Pascal Ory, and the works on Lavisse.
See Provencher and Eilderts.
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quintessential representation of the Third Republic educational experience. 69 In the last half
century, scholars have begun to examine more deeply the ways the French Republic understood
the place of the lycéen and understood childhood, adolescence, and youth more broadly,
prescribing particular qualities to each stage of life and inscribing those stages within the
institutions the young frequented, namely the school. 70 Noting the theatricality of the Third
Republic, historians have identified how spaces outside the classroom presented equally resonant
ways to build national sentiment. The incorporation of lycéens and lycéennes into public
festivities and national “irrational ritual” served a state goal of recruitment, this time by
performance rather than by book learning and drills. 71 A “new spirit” based on action and
performance over inaction and intellectual activity oriented French adolescents, particularly of
the Right, towards clubs and their public demonstrations. 72
While popular venues such as the press, boulevard and theatre, and advertisements,
among others, created opportunities for adult consumption of the heroic ideal, we cannot assume
that children and youths, such as those in the classroom at Lycée Condorcet, imbibed these ideals
Other than already cited works by Kathleen Alaimo, see Jean-Francois Condette, « La crise des lycées de
garcon a la fin du XIXe siècle, » In Lycées, Lycéens, Lycéennes, Paris : (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique,
2005), 427- 441.
Kathleen Alaimo, “Adolescence in the popular milieu in France during the early Third Republic: Efforts to
define and shape a stage of life,” (PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1988). See also Alaimo, “Adolescence,
Gender, and Class in Education Reform in France: The Development of Enseignement Primaire Supérieur, 18801910,” French Historical Studies, (Nov 1994), 1025-1055. While the concept of the tabula rasa and the
Enlightenment – or aufklarung process of enlightening in Kant- was no stranger to the Third Republic devotees of
Voltaire and the like, historians emphasize that new research methods framed these concepts as not just
philosophical but also scientifically justifiable. New understandings of puberty and national concerns over the
falling birth rate framed adolescence as that brief but powerful “crisis” moment when biological and psychological
changes overlapped with changing social responsibilities. This was a crisis because, the French feared, it forged
new adolescent identities that would affect adherence to social norms and to the state; the state responded with
educational offerings for students from 13 to 18, thereby not just expanding the âge scolaire but also defining this
period as adolescence.
See David M. Pomfret, ""A Muse for the Masses": Gender, Age, and Nation in France, Fin de
Siècle. “The American Historical Review. 109 (5) 2004: 1439-74. See also Pomfret, Young People and the European
City: Age Relations in Nottingham and St. Etienne, 1890-1940, Burlington, VT: (Ashgate, 2004). See also Patricia
Tilburg, Colette’s Republic: Work, Gender, and Popular Culture in France, 1870-1914, New York: (Berghahn Books,
Young People and the European City, 249-250.
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the same way or that they were meant to. Scholarship has identified the elaboration of new
theories on the child and the youth in French society at this moment, studies supported not only
by new scientific inquiries in French, German, and Austrian institutions but also needed to
inform the elaborate revanchist and imperialist discourses. The students of Condorcet and of the
many other Parisian institutions active against Thalamas represented ideal young French citizen,
a young man whose instruction sought to teach how to defend France. 73 In this light, and in the
light of contemporary child psychology, it is an illogical assumption that Belle Époque children
in 1904 saw or experienced Joan of Arc in the same way as did adults in 1904. In tracing the
ways the Pucelle spoke to young French citizens from 1875 to 1904, there are consistent threads,
even if each generation of was celebrated as distinct and as special. But each generation had to
be celebrated thus; the lycéens of Condorcet grew up in a political culture of the Republic’s
design, but that repeatedly engaged in efforts of self-defense and self-renewal. We must
consider what visual and moral impact protests by this particular constituency would have had on
the legitimacy of the Republic. Since it features adolescents performing and demonstrating in
opposition to and not in support of a Republican intellectual framework for national history, it
complicates how we view the young participant’s awareness of his performance.
Sometimes, it is simpler to examine the intent and political ends of propaganda than to
assess how those constructed ideas were received and processed. The established historiography
of Third Republic education and propaganda reflects this top-down approach, oriented strongly
towards the politician, pedagogue, teacher, and partisan as the crucial actors. The young person
is more or less the object, rather than actively engaged in the creation of political culture. Rarely,
as in the Thalamas Affair of 1904, do young people’s beliefs, desires, and actions so vocally
Remarkably few among those have specifically studied how national history targeted the changing
adolescent male with certain gendered ideals, and fewer have done the same for national history with youth or
adolescence as the main category of analysis. Please see Provencher and Eilderts.
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respond to and inform that culture. This affair allows us to analyze where student activism could
change the trajectory of historical memory and national history, rather than simply repeat it. A
universally-appropriated figure like Joan of Arc belonged as much to the world of the young as
to the population at large. Regardless how large the students’ agency actually was in the events
of 1904, we must evaluate their roles both in setting the stage for the Thalamas Affair and
naturally in the Affair itself. Thanks to the ideological mirror provided by Joan of Arc, we can
learn much about what it means to be young, to be a student, and to be a citizen in this
transitional moment of the Third Republic.
Let us thus think more innovatively about the Thalamas Affair of 1904. Imagine: a youth
pits himself against the authority of a public school teacher because of their different beliefs,
leading classmates to follow his example and question the teacher, and thus the teacher’s
authority. They discuss this event with their parents, and together bring it to their elected
representative, sparking a ministerial inquiry, a teacher’s replacement, three weeks of protests in
the capital, and a rigorous debate. The youth, the object of the Third Republic’s educational
reforms, could become more than the object of political change and propaganda; he could create
them. It is more than remarkable. The 1904 upheaval, captured in all its glory in the December
session at the Chamber of Deputies, fostered a debate with significant implications for
understandings of the child in the Third Republic, for the legitimacy of the public school system,
for the standardization of national history as taught to children, and for the place of religion in
the secularized classroom. On a more symbolic level, however, the Right used this event to
equate Thalamas with Pierre Cauchon, the judge who condemned Joan of Arc and set these
radical conservative youths as new embodiments of Joan herself. 1904 continued to be invoked
by the Right because of that lineage it constructed between radical conservative youth and the
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Pucelle. While Republicans could fight the opposition’s politics, they had limited power to deny
Joan of Arc’s place in French history. To do so would sacrifice the heroic ideal they had
explicitly constructed in order to legitimate and then perpetuate the State, starting in the eyes of
its first generation of students and continuing into those of the 1904 lycéens.
Among the goals of this work is to take advantage of an event set in the classroom, where
old and young minds meet, to see how an ideological attachment to history leaves the realm of
the history lesson and takes life in political activism. By first examining the political culture’s
celebration of Joan of Arc and celebration of young heroism both outside and inside the
classroom, the Thalamas Affair takes on a new resonance. Chapter One focuses on the various
representations of Joan of Arc as a youth. By exploiting her youthful image during the first
generations of child-rearing under the Third Republic- taken here as 1875 to 1904- the French
created an image of child as actor and as change agent in the political sphere. This the Thalamas
Affair would later expose as a potential threat. Chapter Two will narrow that lens by focusing on
the ways that history curricula exploited Joan, rendering her the textbook example of duty to
nation and country; it will further draw on the discourses of teachers and pedagogues who taught
the young to be modern Joans, rebuilding the nation through their convictions and their actions.
Chapters Three and Four will focus on the Thalamas Affair itself. Chapter Three will use
Thalamas’ own account and the transcript of the 1 December 1904 debate in the Chamber of
Deputies to examine how representatives of the Republic responded to students and youth in the
Affair, and revealed contradicting images of the student-citizen’s proper place in the Republic.
Chapter Four will move the Thalamas Affair out of the classroom and the Chamber of Deputies
and back to the Paris street, analyzing the protests as performances of patriotism that informed
how conservatives encouraged the participation of the young in the project of national
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regeneration. Lastly, I invite you to consider with me how this 1904 moment not only begs us to
reconsider the profound meaning and role Joan of Arc had in forming the lives of young French
people, but also how Belle Époque France – the French Right especially - constructed its sense
of modernity and its hope for the future out of the past. The young were not only integral to
defending Joan of Arc; they tried to be a new embodiment of her for a twentieth century France.
In this way, the scandal of 1904 may be the prologue to 1908 but it is not less interesting. Like
the first act of a drama, it set in motion some of what would define the French Right for the next
twenty years.
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Chapter 1
Jeanne la Jeune: A Protagonist Comes of Age in the
Third Republic
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“[France] is strong only by the love of her children….If Joan is the first of all the French women
and French men, it is because she knew better, much better than anyone, how to give herself, sacrifice
herself, suffer, fight, conquer, and die for her homeland.”74
-Jean Pierre Pagis
The phenomenal narrative of Jeanne la Pucelle d’Orléans has been carved into the French
national identity. In the immediate aftermath of humiliating defeat in the 1870-1871 FrancoPrussian War, she symbolized both territorial integrality (in the form of her recently-lost home
province of Alsace-Lorraine) and the hope for national regeneration. Paradoxically, that ability to
embody the integrality and purity of France made her divisive. As peasant, as a follower of the
King, as a Catholic, and as a girl, she has been a site of contention for the competing values of
French political culture. The lenses of class, politics, religion, and gender have allowed for a
flourishing historiography of Johannic memory. 75 Yet to better understand her role as a catalyst
in the Thalamas Affair, existing categories of analysis do not suffice. To better answer the
questions, “Why were the students offended?” and “Why did she have particular value in the
Thalamas Affair as a way for the Right to connect with the French youth population about
current politics?” we need to consider how they had learned to see her. What did she or what
could she mean to them specifically, and how did it transform their understanding of citizenship?
Unlike the symbol Marianne or other idealized figures of the Third Republic like
Vercingetorix, Charlemagne, or St. Genevieve, Joan of Arc is young. More than that, the legend
of her premature death, made in sacrifice to principle and to nation, makes her eternally youthful
for each new generation who integrates her into their awareness of the French heritage. Youth
and adolescence were conceptualized as distinct phases of life during the Third Republic. As
Jean Pierre Pagis, Jeanne d'Arc en présence des sans Dieu et des sans patrie: panégyrique de la vénérable
prononcé, Paris: (H. Herluision, 1898), 27.
“L’Ethique héroïque en France, 1870-1914,” 414; Girardet, 154-160; see also Provencher and Eilderts;
Datta; Krumeich.
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early as the Enlightenment, intellectuals began to develop a discourse about the stages of life and
about child-rearing. Adolescence, however, began to be scientifically differentiated from
childhood and adulthood in the last half of the nineteenth century. This scientific discourse, with
its new explanations of puberty in particular, seeped into the discourses of social science and
politics. Combined with the general European fears over racial and national degeneration,
sterility, and depopulation, the value of youth evidently rose; the healthy body of a youth became
a metaphor for a healthy body politic and the healthy future of the nation. 76 The future would be
constructed on the back of the youth. All these changes sought to explain, structure, and police
ways youths interacted with society and state. Joan, the daughter who left her immediate family
in Alsace-Lorraine to save her larger family, the French people, offered a model of the young
citizen sacrificing her immediate welfare in service to the country.
This chapter will explore the diverse ways that the Third Republic produced a model of
Joan of Arc as the exemplary young patriotic citizen, a model that reflected the new value
attributed to children and adolescents in the fin-de-siècle political culture. This model forms the
foundation of the significance and consequences of the Thalamas Affair. The solidarity that
adolescents claimed with Joan, and that the conservative Right encouraged among the adolescent
population, was extraordinary in a particular way: young protesters used her to perform
patriotism against a Republican institution. In the particular political atmosphere of 1904, the
patriotism that taught to value the Nation did not default into loyalty to the Republic.
Adolescence as category of analysis is an approach which scholars have not pursued vis-à-vis
Joan of Arc with any great depth. Marina Warner elegantly explains that Joan’s youth could only
have value in a society that valued youth as a separate stage of life, one of the critical
Many scholars have begun to treat the development of adolescence at this juncture. From my
bibliography, please see Alaimo, Brown, Cambor, Clark, Crubellier, Pomfret, and Tilburg.
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developments of the fin de siècle 77. However, she only explored Joan as a virtuous, childlike,
feminine peasant, rather than as an example of militaristic and engaged citizenship. 78 Both
models existed, and the latter promises to be a profound new source of insight for scholars into
the ways the Third Republic handled interior divisions. The telling and retelling of Joan’s story
in the context of an emerging and evolving political culture encouraged discussion about the
ownership, contribution, and agency of the young citizen. Over the generation of the Republic
that preceded the Thalamas Affair, an image of Joan was built such that she stood as the
embodiment and touch point for all young French citizens’ patriotism. From the institutionalized
high art of extra-ordinary patriotism, exemplified in Republican rhetoric, public performance and
festivity, and art, to the obligations and practice of daily patriotism as communicated through
parents, books, and other materials of popular culture, she was a figure as much on the pedestal
as in the adolescent’s hand. The Thalamas Affair’s immediate cause – the supposed harassment
of student sensibilities in a particularly sensitive political atmosphere – illustrated a process of
indoctrination which encouraged the Republic’s youngest citizen to identify with the Republic’s
youngest hero. The Thalamas Affair’s immediate consequences showed how this state
indoctrination could be inverted in a critique of the State. The appropriation of Joan by and for
the young should not be overlooked.
Deputy Joseph Fabre’s proposals in 1884 and 1894 for a holiday in honor of Joan of Arc
fit that paradigm while manifesting a spirit of melodrama critical to this culture of
See the cited works of Alaimo, Crubellier, and Tilburg in particular. It is also worth noting that authors
responsible for major developments in the theory of child-raising at this time also were among Joan of Arc’s
strongest proponents. Bishop
Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: Image of Female Heroism, Berkeley, CA: (University of California Press,
1981), 266.
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performance.79 In 1884, Joseph Fabre published his Procès de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, a
translation from Latin to French of the notes taken at the Pucelle’s 1431 trial.80 A Republican
leader in the Chamber of Deputies, he saw Joan of Arc as a chief representation of French
patriotism, whose universal appeal could mediate the bitter politics of the moment. To this end,
he attached an appendix to his book: a proposal submitted simultaneously to the Chamber of
Deputies for a National Day in honor of Joan of Arc, to fall either on the anniversary of the
liberation of Orleans on May 8 or on the day of her death, May 30.
Fabre had earlier been an
aggregated professor of philosophy in two established Parisian lycées; and from that time he
carried a reputation for devotion to his students and for a commitment to advancing civic
virtue.82 Not only did Joseph Fabre intend for this national holiday of patriotism to compliment
to the “fête de la liberté” on July 14. He intended it to recognize a debt to Joan as the “most
beautiful personification of French patriotism,” with a “solemnity” capable of uniting all
Frenchmen and women “in the same communion of enthusiasm.” 83 He made it the more
important by framing it as rite of initiation to engage and commit new generations of citizens to
See Lehning. He writes, “The interaction of theatrical form and political culture – the melodramatic
thread that this book describes- helped to shape nineteenth and twentieth century France, portraying and
performing the relationship between the state and that civil society as it developed through the public debates and
political upheavals that are such an important part of French history in those centuries… My point is that these
representations [of those supporting a Revolutionary France and those supporting a France of the Old Regime]
employed melodramatic forms when they were performed in the public spaces of Paris… The discourses of French
culture that divided the world into a conflict of good and evil, that sought to rescue threatened virtue, and that
continually hovered on the edge of exposure helped assemble the elements of French political culture into images
of the world, and through them, create the processes of social, economic and political life for French men and
women,” (15-19).
Jules Quicherat had organized and published these notes in Latin in the 1840s.
Joseph Fabre, Procès de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc : Projet d’une fête nationale de Jeanne d’Arc. In
Goyau, Georges. L’Ecole d’Aujourd’hui Série II, Paris : (Perrin, 1910. 282-287). Entire text available in a 1913 edition
Edouard Petit, “Profiles Universitaires: Joseph Fabre,” in L'école moderne, P. Delaplane, Paris: (1892),
307-311. We learn here that the play written by Joseph Fabre in honor of Joan of Arc was not accepted at the
Comédie Française, while the biographical drama by Jules Barbier on the same figure was.
Procès, 282-284.
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civic activity.84 This celebration of Joan of Arc presented the excuse for these youths’ civic
The rhetoric with which Fabre proposed the festival replicated existing formulas for
performances of national pride, which many other historians have identified as critical in the
development of the political culture. 85 French adolescents were intended to figure heavily, indeed
to be the central feature, in the demonstrations of patriotism. 86 He declared, “The day of the
proposed holiday … young men and young women will mix in joyous rounds around a great tree
recalling… the dances so picturesque and graceful of yesterday.” His vision necessitated not
only that these young bodies be consumed by this Republican performance but that the sight of
them be consumed and recognized by elder generations as the torchbearers of France’s future.
Young girls entirely “dressed in white and adorned with flowers will lead the procession with
torches” while “authorities will give medals to parents and their suns under flags and inscribe as
citizens all youths of the fixed age to vote.” 87 Fabre drew an explicit link between the celebration
of Joan of Arc’s patriotic legacy and the initiation of a similar spirit in contemporary youth.
Fabre also assured his audience that each community could and would be encouraged to
diversify and adapt the celebrations according to regional custom. The particular spatial politics
mattered less here than did ritual, which would sanctify public space and use performance to
Procès, 284.
James Lehning has called the political culture of the Third Republic, a “dual project” of creating
institutions “allowing popular participation” but also of creating, “through the transformative powers of the
Republic, the citizens who would participate in those institutions.” Many scholars have emphasized the synthesis
of performance and public life in the Third Republic, including the public performances of loyalty to the nation and
to the Republican state. David Pomfret and Patricia Tilburg’s examinations of public festivals stress the ways that
school children, particularly girls, learned to conflate pride in community with pride in themselves as young French
people. Deputy Joseph Fabre’s proposals in 1884 and 1894 for a holiday in honor of Joan of Arc fit that paradigm
while manifesting a spirit of melodrama critical to this culture of performance. See Lehning, as well as ""A Muse for
the Masses,” and Tilburg.
Procès, 286. He declared that “Patriotism must not over-demonstrate, but it must be demonstrative.”
Ibid, 287.
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assimilate young French bodies into the greater body politic. Joan would be the justification and
conduit for this patriotism.
While Fabre’s project twice failed to construct a national civic ritual around Joan of Arc,
the concept of a national day in her honor was consistently revisited. 88 In 1890, the Republican
Committee for the Civic Festival of Joan of Arc justified its project in response to a particularly
hostile priest:
Where would homage to Joan of Arc be better placed than in the mouth of the young
ones who represent our future, in these schools where we teach her life, where we learn to
never pronounce her name without special recognition? Let the government decide that,
in all the schools of the French Republic, there be held every year a holiday of Joan of
Arc at the anniversary of her glorious martyrdom! 89
That this group so bombastically stressed the symbolic and propagandistic power of the “young
ones who represent our future” reveals the great value attached to this demographic in the
political culture. They saw the young as meriting participation in popular politics and as capable
of appreciating the significance of their participation. Again, Joan of Arc would be the agent of
Opinions were necessarily divided. Many clericals fought against the bill as an appropriation and
laicization, as part of the battle to take and recast French heritage outside the realm of the Church. 88 Literary and
cultural critic, Maurice Spronck – a Deputy of the Seine during the Thalamas Affair of 1904 - voiced strong concern
that such a day would be co-opted to teach Catholic morals in a supposedly neutral State event. He wrote in one
journal, “This is a very delicate situation… there is abundant material for discussion on all sides.”88 Raising “alters
to the liberators of the country… making their glory visible to the crowd” was indeed a priority in turning souls to
the Republic and away from “the old order of things.” 88 At the same time, selective recovery of the Ancien Regime
was preferable to allegory when it came to creating civic holidays: “a historical deed or a person is always worth
more than some philosophical value” like “Virtue, Childhood, Old Age, Frugality, etc…”88 He saw the difficulty of
passing this legislation in 1884 as mediated by only one factor, that of Joan of Arc herself, whose established
popularity and indisputable patriotism made her “one of the happiest choices.”88 Though the Church instructed
their young that “Joan must remind you of the lessons of the Church,” Fabre, as well as Sponck conceived the
potential holiday as a religiously neutral union of tradition, history, and patriotism that might legitimize and
universalize the Third Republic’s appeal.88
Even on the day of the 1 December 1904 interpellation; Minister Chaumié expressed his surprise at the
hatred of certain Radical Republicans towards a “veritable cult of Joan of Arc” given that another bill had recently
appeared before the Chamber with signatures including those “the most respected among the Republican side.”
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés: Débats
Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel).
Robinet, La Revue Occidentale, May 1890, in Goyau, Georges. L’Ecole d’Aujourd’hui Série II, Paris: (Perrin,
1910), 290-291.
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their mobilization. 90 Other proposals suggested the instituting of jours fériés (school holidays) to
guarantee adolescent participation. One in 1891 stipulated that, on such a day off, the Pantheon
be made open exclusively to students, the better for them to absorb its recently completed murals
telling Joan of Arc’s story.
Another, published in 1892, demanded the institutionalization of a
national holiday in all public primary schools, with a “glorification purely scholarly and secular,
destined to students assembled under the direction of their headmasters, in their usual classrooms,
if it is not possible to come to spaces more appropriate for such celebration, such as the Pantheon
in Paris.” 92 Creating opportunities for youth to identify Joan of Arc with a nascent Republican
identity of their own was a goal of the era’s political culture.
A later publication, the Revue Universelle, explains the conception of the Revue occidentale by Auguste
Comte and Pierre Laffitte as “the official organ of the positivist school… “The Revue, said Lafitte, is before all a
body of guidance and teaching [of positivism].” Certain schisms, however, developed among the members of the
positivist school, most notably when Laffitte, appointed as Chair of History at the College de France, in the
aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair became a member of the Ligue de la patrie française, thereby appearing to betray
the politics of the positivist school. Regardless, it remains that this Revue did not belong to the Right. Georges
Moreau, La Revue universelle: recueil universel et illustre. Paris : Larousse, 1903. 62.
Emile Antoine, Amendement au projet du Conseil supérieur de l’instruction publique consacrant un jour
férié a Jeanne d’Arc dans les écoles publiques. Lettre à M. Bourgeois, Ministre de l’Instruction publique, 29 July
1890, in Georges Goyau, L’Ecole d’Aujourd’hui Série II, Paris : (Perrin, 1910, _ 292.
These murals, painted by Jules Eugène Lenepveu from 1886-1890, present four stages in the life of Joan of
Arc: “Joan as shepherdess,” “Joan in armor before Orleans,” “Joan at Rheims for the coronation of Charles VII,”
and “Joan at the stake in Rouen.”
Emile Antoine, Fête annuelle de Jeanne d’Arc dans les écoles primaires. Adjonction aux bibliothèques
scolaires du procès de condamnation de Jeanne d’Arc. Lettre et mémoire à M. Bourgeois, ministre de l’Instruction
publique. Extrait de la Revue occidentale, aout 1892, in Georges Goyau, L’Ecole d’Aujourd’hui Série II, Paris: (Perrin,
1910), 294. The Committee also urged the Minister to purchase copies of Fabre’s texts for all public school
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Fabre and his supporters saw their holiday of Joan of Arc as capable of creating a new
generation of loyal young citizens. This
development would have starkly contrasted
generations of student rebellion in the streets of
Paris, movements centered in the Latin Quarter,
the Sorbonne, and in the Place du Pantheon. The
Pantheon, constructed by Jacques-Germain
Figure 3: La Vie de Jeanne d’Arc au Panthéon, Agence
Meurisse, 1918. Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Soufflot from 1764-1791 as the Eglise St.
Genevieve (Church of St. Genevieve), had acted
as epicenter for included marches, protests and the funerals of major political and cultural
figures.93 It represented one of the most symbolically important stages of political culture. Upon
the death of Victor Hugo in 1885, the space was appropriated and secularized as a monument to
and resting place of the great men of the French Republic. Following the example of the Public
Statuary Program of 1874, the Administration of Fine Arts launched a program to renovate the
former church’s interiors in order to reflect the space’s new Republican character. 94 The
Pantheon acted as the physical, brick and mortar representation of the virtues that structured the
new political culture.
See James Lehning’s discussion of the funeral of Victor Hugo in May 1885, which marked the official
secularization of the Pantheon. Lehning stresses that Victor Hugo, not unlike Joan of Arc in some ways, “could be
claimed by virtually all political creeds, and representatives of these conflicting views all sought to share his legacy.
But his funeral also became controversial because of the aggressive actions of the government in organizing it to
control its meaning and to assert republican mastery of public spaces. This is most apparent in the secularization of
the Pantheon for use in the revolutionary vocation as a monument to the great men of the nation…”
Lehning, To be a Citizen, 80.
See Jane Mayo Roos, “’Faire vrai laisser dire,’ Nationalism, Community, and Manet’s Late Painting, » in
Nationalism and French Visual Culture, 1870-1914,” ed. June Hargrove and Neil McWilliam, New Haven: (Yale
University Press/National Gallery of Art, 2005), 129-151. See also Laura Morowitz, “Medievalism, Classicism, and
Nationalism: The Appropriation of the French Primitifs in Turn-of-the-Century France,” Nationalism and French
Visual Culture, 1870-1914, ed. June Hargrove and Neil McWilliam, New Haven: (Yale University Press/National
Gallery of Art, 2005), 225-241.
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Within this context, from 1886 to 1890, painter Jules Lenepveu produced four murals on
the life of Joan of Arc. 95 This was a remarkable choice, as the Pucelle was categorically not a
great man of the Republic. Rather, the act of commissioning these works constituted an
appropriation, the rewriting of her history as the exemplar of young Republican virtue. Lepevneu
depicted her life in four stages, a common periodization that separated her period of childhood,
Joan the shepherdess, from the three defining moments of her story: Joan armored at the City of
Orleans; Joan at Rheims during the Coronation of Charles VII; and Joan at the Stake in Rouen.
Figure 4: La vie de Jeanne d’Arc, Jules Lenepveu, Panthéon.
While both the coronation and her death had religious overtones, they were also state events;
such depictions were historical, simply representing the reality of Catholicism without
empowering it as the true and ultimate source of Joan’s narrative. Only in the last of the four,
which portrayed Joan clutching a cross in her last moments, did the cross appear. The
institutionalization of her narrative in this way, sanitized of divisive religious content to the
extent possible, embodied the desire to orient popular perceptions of her away from that of a
See Appendix Images 1-2. Lepevneu depicted her life in four stages, a common periodization that
separated her period of childhood, Joan the shepherdess, from the three defining moments of her story: Joan
armored at the City of Orleans; Joan at Rheims during the Coronation of Charles VII; and Joan at the Stake in Rouen.
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saintly girl and loyal monarchist towards that of a Republican Daughter of the nation, who
happened to be Christian. 96 Since Joan was the youngest hero commemorated in the Pantheon,
these murals figuratively and literally inscribed an ideal of young nationalism and patriotism into
the Pantheon’s pantheon of political culture. These murals were not only for the adult citizen’s
eyes. Their value laid in showing them to the uninitiated eyes, to the young. Their value laid in
the story-telling that such a gesture provoked and in the opportunity to remind them of their own
duties to country. The historical contribution of youth to the nation had a place to be seen,
admired, and encouraged among the other contributions of great men.
That Joan of Arc was permanently installed in the French consciousness was a material
reality on the streets of Paris. On these streets, boulevard culture had renegotiated and redefined
the ways behavior would be read in a public space and where the streets formed a stage for daily
melodrama.97 The streets were the sets for the daily performance of citizenship. The period of
“statuomanie républicaine” or Republican statumania, from the Franco-Prussian War to the start
of World War I, saw 170 statues installed across the metropolis in efforts that mixed public
municipal funding with those raised separately by private or arrondissement hands. This 170
compared with 25 installed in the period from 1815-1870. Representing French heroes and
feminized allegories of French values, new statues signified the investment of the State or the
Of note is the fact that the only figures in the Pantheon with a religious association are those whose
religious commitment led to the furthering of the French history. We note Clovis, Charlemagne, St, Louis, St. Denis
and St. Genevieve, as well as Joan of Arc. In 1885, the mural “La mort de Sainte Genevieve” by Jean-Paul Laurens
was added to a series of panels depicting the life of the patron saint of Paris, responsible for building up the city’s
defenses in the event of an attack by the Huns in the Dark Ages. This last painting, however, is explicitly nonreligious; her death is portrayed without crosses or priests present. Instead, it is a naturalist, secular death in which
an old woman is surrounded by mourners.
Venita Datta’s study of Cyrano de Bergerac, Napoleon, and Joan of Arc in the Belle Époque theatre
makes a powerful argument for the transcendence of theatrical behaviors and melodramatic scandal and story
between the halls of power, the press, the boulevard theatre, and the boulevard itself. As she writes: “The
increasingly “spectacular” aspect of modernity only heightened the predilection for the melodramatic mode,
which was grounded in the visual.” Datta, 29. See also Vanessa R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass
Culture in Fin-de-siècle Paris, Berkeley: (University of California Press, 1998) and Lehning, To be a Citizen.
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Parisian arrondissement in tying these figures and values to the Republican system. This is even
more evident given that the two main waves of statuary, the first in 1874 and the next in 1889,
coincided with the birth of the Third Republic and the centennial of the revolution. Eight statues
representing historical women were erected from 1874 to 1900; four portrayed Joan of Arc. Of
the 170, she was necessarily the youngest figure commemorated. 98 The localization of her
memory along major boulevards or at round-abouts reflected more than Parisian traffic in the
Belle Époque. It created liminal public spaces where extra-ordinary patriotism and daily life
could intersect and blend. More open and more visible than the Pantheon, also less formal and
less institutional, they were stages where the ordinary citizen could direct the production of civic
spectacle. Each of these locations became crucial in the demonstrations of the 1904 Thalamas
Affair; today they remain just as relevant, written into Paris’s geography of protest and political
On 20 February 1874, a gleaming bronze Jeanne d’Arc by Emmanuel Fremiet was
installed at the Place des Pyramides, the intersection of the Rue Rivoli and the Rue des
Pyramides. Near the accepted spot of her wounding and capture in 1431, this was the first
equestrian statue financed by the French government after the fall of the Commune. 100 One of the
See Christel Sniter, « La Gloire des femmes célèbres. Métamorphoses et disparités de la statuaire
publique Parisienne de 1870 à nos jours, » Publications de la Sorbonne : Sociétés et Représentations, no. 26, 2008,
153-170. See also Maurice Agulhon, « La ‘statuomanie’ et l’histoire, » Ethnologie Française, 1978, 145-172.
See Yann Rigolet, Yann, “L’homme providentiel est-il une femme? La figure de Jeanne d’Arc de 1789 a
nos jours,” Parlements Revue d’histoire politique no 13 (2010) : 37-50. Police reports from the 1890s through and
past the 1904 and 1908-09 Thalamas Affairs closely noted the marches and other manifestations, nonviolent more
often than not, that led from statue to statue, or from Notre Dame Cathedral to Place des Pyramides. See B.A. 61,
Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris.
Emmanuel Frémiet, Jeanne d’Arc équestre, 1874. See Appendix Images 4-5. This Joan is one of only a
few bronze statues in Paris, the next erected being that of Thomas Paine in 1948 in front of the Cite Universitaire.
Elevated above the heads of passersby, she sits upon a charging horse in complete armor, hoisting a flag. She
dominates the small square, seeming in today’s Paris almost to direct traffic. It is also worth noting that this is the
only statue of a historical young person or of a woman – not an allegory - that is included in many guides to the
city published for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. These statues include international figures, such as Dante,
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few bronze statues in Paris to this day, it not only inspired later images of her in other art forms
but was replicated for other cities across the country. This work was followed in 1891 by the
Figure 5: Jeanne d’Arc Place des Pyramides, Emmanuel
Fremiet, 1874. 4 April 1913. Agence Roi. Bibliothèque nationale
de France.
Jeanne d’Arc libératrice de la France at the
Place St. Marcel on the Left Bank. 101 The
next statue was erected in 1901 in front of the Church Saint Augustin in the Place Saint Augustin,
the center of several major Right Bank arteries. 102 The least imposing is not equestrian, installed
and French notables such as Voltaire and Gambetta. “Guide dans l'Exposition : Paris et ses environs,” Paris :
Delarue, 1889, 184. Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Felix Charpentier, Jeanne d’Arc libératrice de la France, 1887. The City of Paris had purchased from the
1887 Salon des Artistes Français and installed it at this intersection at the request of the residents of the 10 th
arrondissement. The Boulevard Saint Marcel is a major artery on the Left Bank leading to the Gare d’Austerlitz
train station, one of the few such thoroughfares in this area of Paris. See appendix for image. This Joan is not an
equestrian portrayal; rather, she stands in armor upon a pedestal holding her flag, with legs spread apart in an
aggressive, protective pose. See Appendix Images 6-7.
Paul Dubois, Jeanne d’Arc, 1900. This was financed by the Republic with the support of the Parisian city
government, and anchored a then booming consumer area of cafes and theatres. See appendix for image. This
Joan is again an armored equestrian high upon a pedestal; rather than a flag, she hoists a sword into the air, and
while her horse marches forward, it lacks the aggression of the Fremiet. This is the only statue of her in Paris at this
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Figure 6: Carte postale, Statue de Jeanne d’Arc, Boulevard St. Marcel. F. Fleury.
Figure 7: Monument à Jeanne d’Arc Place des Augustins, Paul Dubois, 1900. 4 April 1913. Agence Roi. Bibliothèque
nationale de France.
time that depicts her holding a sword rather than a banner or flag. Holger Wederkinch’s 1958 Jeanne d’Arc on the
Pont Bir-Hakeim will eventually portray the Pucelle with both. See Appendix Image 3.
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in 1891 on the Rue de la Chapelle in front of the Church Saint Denys-de-la-Chapelle – where she
was supposedly taken upon capture- in the north of Paris and presented a humbler image of the
Pucelle.103 It goes without saying that, to be true to the historical record, each statue portrayed a
young and wrinkleless, if somewhat androgynous, armored warrior. Yet in comparison with
other statues installed in this period which either feminized virtues as bare-breasted maidens or
represented the great men of French history (for example Charlemagne, Leon Gambetta, the
Marquis de Lafayette, Victor Hugo, and Napoleon, among many others), these statues offered a
stark contrast.104 While many scholars have identified a gender ambiguity in these statues, that
ambiguity was and is at odds with the unambiguous fact that she was young.105 The initially
proposed inscription on the statue in front of Church Saint Augustin sought to highlight that
unique quality of youth:
Joan of Arc (1412-1431) at the age of 17 took it upon herself to chase the enemies from
France. She lifted the siege of Orleans, destroyed the English army at Patay, led Charles
VII to Reims and had him crowned king. Injured in her attempt to free Paris, she was
taken in front of Compiegne and burned alive by the English at Rouen. She was 19. 106
Although this statue stood in front of a church, therefore giving it a religious resonance, the
proposed inscription had a militaristic and patriotic tone that explicitly celebrated her activism
and sacrifice. The committee responsible ultimately chose the less detailed and slightly less
explosive: “To Joan of Arc/Liberator of France/Born at Domrémy/ January 6, 1412/ Burned alive
Emile Chatrousse, Jeanne d’Arc, 1891. See appendix for the image. This Joan of Arc is the only one not
elevated significantly off the ground. Armored and carrying a flag, she is much more contained. With one foot
gesturing forward as if to step off her low pedestal, she leans slightly backward. Image not included in Appendix.
See Marina Warner, Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form, Berkeley: (University
of California Press, 1985), for greater detail on the statuary of virtue in Paris.
Today’s scholars have debated the various statues’ femininity, masculinity, or androgyny, as captured in
her armor, representations of her body, and whether she holds a “feminine” banner or “masculine” sword. See
Sniter, “La Guerre des Statues: La statuaire publique, un enjeu de violence symbolique : L’exemple des statues de
Jeanne d’Arc à Paris entre 1870 et 1914, » Publications de la Sorbonne : Sociétés et Représentations no. 11, 2001,
Dossier Jeanne d’Arc St. Augustin, Procès-verbal de la séance du comité des inscriptions parisiennes du
1 Aout 1899. Found in Sniter, “La Guerre des Statues. »
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at Rouen/ May 30, 1431.” Even the changed text, however, dramatized her youth by juxtaposing
it with her accomplishments and premature death. Of the other statues, the Pyramides’
inscription provided only her name; the Chapelle offered no inscription; the Saint-Marcel
provided birthdate and date of death. The scope of her life and of her premature death seems to
have obliged little amplification or elaboration in order to make a deep impression within the
context of greater Parisian statuary.
The sight of Joan, as an embodiment of Armed Justice and national defense, thereby
served an instructive purpose. 107 At the start of the twentieth century, once all these statues had
been installed, a newspaper asked its readers what of the various new statues across Paris they
would most like to remain in place. 7,280 readers responded to the Excelsior, ranking Joan
before Louis Pasteur, Napoleon I, Victor Hugo, and Leon Gambetta. 108 While it is not the job of
this paper to analyze in depth these statues, their role as spaces and stages of political culture and
political education cannot be mistaken. As Charles Blanc, a member of the Académie Française
at the period of these installations, wrote, “The indifference of a nation with regard to sculpture
betokens a great fault in public education.” Thus, public space not only acted as a stage but as a
classroom. In this newly framed public space, the processes of initiation and socialization into
French political culture did not depend simply on festivals and ritualization but on a certain
appropriation of heroism that occurs through the familiar, through the daily and banal interaction
with legend. These statues integrated Joan of Arc into the daily fabric of public French life.
Marina Warner’s chapter « The Sword of Justice » in Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the
Female Form identifies the tension of representing so called phallic females. Again, her focus is on the allegorical
feminine. Her methodology and interdisciplinary approach of mythography is, however, a powerful model. See
note 35 for a reference that goes into greater detail about phallic associations in these works.
Found in Sniter, “La Guerre des Statues, » from June Hargrove, La représentation des grands homes
dans les rues et les places de Paris, Paris : (Albin Michel, 1989), 259.
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The representations of Joan of Arc in hand-held material culture rarely lacked some
edifying purpose. Ten thousand books about or related to her were published in France from
1890 to 1920, an average of one per day. 109 These statistics reveal not just her allure and
subsequent commodification but also naturally imply the publications’ wide range of opinions,
forms, and audiences. Naturally, not all these were destined for children, nor were they all
destined for parents. However, I argue that the model of Joan as the ideal French youth was
powerful firstly because it was accepted and reinforced by older generations, if not in the entirety
of this literature, then in significant part. This rhetoric dated to the histories of Michelet and
Quicherat, but took on a greater, more transcendent value at the turn of the century, when the
adolescent was constructed as one of the critical factors for the restoration and redemption of the
nation. That not just the Republicans but the Catholic Right advanced Joan as the model of
young civic virtue underlines the strength and flexibility of the model. In the midst of the culture
wars, her incarnation of youthful loyalty and national unity offered a reconciliation that politics
did not. That parents and their sons together presented a complaint to Georges Berry on 14
November 1904 is not just illustrative of the sons’ identification with Joan of Arc, but of their
parents’ support and encouragement of the same.
One may argue that Joan became a “youth” in the late nineteenth-century sense of the
term through the activism and writings of Monseigneur Felix Dupanloup. 110 The Bishop of
Orleans from 1849 until his death in 1878, he, was the first figure to call for Joan’s canonization.
Olivier Bouzy, Jeanne d’Arc: Mythes et réalités, Paris: (l’Atelier de l’Archer, 1999).
Dupanloup made a distinctive contribution to the study of childrearing, publishing a number of works
on youth and children as well as on education and the future of France. These works include De l’éducation (1850),
De la haute éducation intellectuelle (3 vols, 1866), L’enfant, Ou allons-nous ? (1876), Avertissement à la jeunesse et
aux pères de familles, and L’enfant (5th ed, 1889). Appointed to the Académie Française in 1854 and elected in
1875 as a sénateur inamovible, one of 75 senators-for-life as predicated by the 1875 Constitution of the Third
Republic, Dupanloup – though he only lived a few years in the Third Republic- linked many of its critical
institutions at the most elite levels. He called for Joan’s canonization first in his panegyric of 1849 and then in 1869
–the 420th and 440th anniversaries of the liberation of Orleans.
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He also, however, took an active interest in child-raising, becoming one of the best-regarded
authors on the subject, and this shared interest formed the basis for his contribution to Joan’s
memory. Differentiating himself from the past historians Jules Quicherat and Jules Michelet,
both of whom constructed Joan as a Republican Daughter of the People, he asserted that he could
“reveal a Joan that you do not know yet:” a Saint Joan. Dupanloup constructed an argument for
her sainthood that hinged on her youth and on the impossibility of her accomplishments under
less than divine circumstances: “Allow me to study with you an extraordinary soul, this soul of a
young girl, a soul of only 17; for yes she had no more than 17 years of age when, 440 years ago,
she entered this cathedral…” 111 His insistence on this characteristic allowed him an obvious
continuity with established Republican scholarship, while empowering him to frame it with a
Christian ideal of purity and righteousness. 112 Dupanloup appeared as the primary citation,
alongside Michelet, Quicherat, and Johannic biographer Henri Wallon, in later clerical or
Catholic texts; his speeches and writings themselves circulated in book and pamphlet form into
the twentieth century.
This is not to say, however, that these religious histories did not participate alongside
their Republican countrymen in the exaltation of Joan of Arc as nationalism embodied in French
Felix, Dupanloup. Seconde Panégyrique de Jeanne d’Arc. 8 mai 1869. Paris. Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, 7.
Most clerical texts paid homage to Joan by citing him, including in books of comportment which taught
young women how to emulate Joan of Arc’s virtue. The Catholic portrayal of Joan as a youth also often took a
highly gendered character, stressing her purity, virginity, filial obedience to her parents, piety, and sweetness,
among other characteristics. This is not only reflected in the hagiography and panegyrics of Dupanloup and other
bishops, most notably Stephen Coubé, and titles by the Comtesse Clémentine de Chabannes. It is worth noting the
nuances that differentiate purity or « pureté » and virginity, « virginité»; the former has an androgyny which the
other lacks. Stephen Coubé replaced Dupanloup in the public eye as the greatest spokesperson for Joan of Arc’s
canonization. See SJ Coubé, La double mission de Jeanne d’Arc : Discours prononce le 14 mai 1899 en l’Église Notre
Dame de Paris, Paris : (Victor Retaux, 1899). See also L'âme de Jeanne d'Arc, Paris : Lethellieux, 1910. For
Chabannes, see Clémentine de la Morre Chabannes, La vierge Lorraine Jeanne d'Arc: son histoire au point de vue
de l'héroïsme, de la sainteté et du martyre, 2nd édition, Paris: (E. Plon, Nourrit, 1890). For examples of
comportment books, see Clement, Bibliothèque morale de la jeunesse: Histoire de Jeanne d’Arc, Rouen: Megard et
Compagnie, 1882. Also see Alphonse Bleau, Jeanne d’Arc présentée à la jeunesse, Paris : (Haton) ; and La jeune
fille à l’école de Jeanne d’Arc, Société de St Augustin, Desclée de Brower et Compagnie, 1898.
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youth, capable of “[reuniting] all the sons of France by the homage we owe her.” 113 One author,
who clearly casted Joan as a virtuous young virgin called to fight for France, for her Church, and
for her family, still insisted that she was a “predestined child who would raise up the throne of
lilies and remove France from the hold of the foreigner” for the benefit of all French nationals. 114
Monseigneur Jean-Pierre Pagis insisted on her “miraculous childhood” and “this French heroism
which manifests itself in a child of 12.” 115 Given that his 1898 panegyric is contemporaneous to
the Dreyfus Affair, it is strongly critical of rationalism and the libre-penseurs. Despite his
hostility to the worshippers of the Pantheon, those “Without Faith” and thereby “Without
Country,” Pagis claimed that they redeemed themselves through patriotism and through Joan’s
“[France] is strong only by the love of her children….If Joan is the first of all the French
women and French men, it is because she knew better, much better than anyone, how to
give herself, sacrifice herself, suffer, fight, conquer, and die for her homeland. Eh well
then, when we had the honor and the happiness to be born and to grow up in the
homeland of Joan, in the homeland saved by her heroic sacrifices, I imagine that we
should see it as the first and sweetest of duties to give ourselves also, to work, to fight, to
suffer, and if necessary, to die for France.” 116
Pagis’ commitment to a Catholic Vraie France was matched by a belief that Joan, and more so
the Joan’s example, offered all French citizens, Left and Right, a model of citizenship and
heroism through a filial obligation towards their mother country.
Albert Marie Léon Le Nordez, Jeanne d'Arc, racontée par l'image, d'après les sculpteurs, les graveurs, et
les peintres. Paris: (Hachette & Cie, 1898), iv.
Chabannes,13. One must clarify that her invocation of the « Foreigner » in this circumstance does
belong to any Anti-Dreyfusard discourse, simply because that would be an anachronism. She speaks more to the
hold of Germany on Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, a more pressing concern when her work was first published in 1874 –
the same year as the installation of the Fremiet statue.
Pagis, Jean Pierre. Jeanne d'Arc en présence des sans Dieu et des sans patrie: panégyrique de la
vénérable prononcé. Paris: (H.. Herluision, 1898), 10: “…only the Voice of the Country, resounding every day, inside
her French soul, heroically French, from which she creates a sense of patriotism to such a frenzy and exaltation.
But words like those explain nothing. This voice of the country, this French heroism which manifests itself in a child
of 12, does not seem to me possible other than in some dream… She declared it, the pious child, that her voices
were from Heaven…”
Pagis, 27.
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Other clericals took an even more nuanced perspective. Monseigneur Albert Le Nordez’s
illustrated history of Joan of Arc, published also in 1898, sought to “show her as the ingenuity of
popular sentiment sees her, without contradicting the ideas of those who have carefully studied
her in the clarity of historical research.” 117 Therefore, while no doubt profoundly religious, Le
Nordez negotiated a fine line between laic and clerical. He stressed that this work was not one of
erudition, polemic, or simple discussion; rather he wished for his readers to learn about Joan of
Arc through “the quick impressions which images cause.” 118 Dating from the fifteenth century to
the Third Republic, the illustrations themselves represent an amalgam of secular and Catholic art.
The liberal inclusion of Republican and cathedral statuary, modern photographs and stained glass
windows, and medieval and Romantic and Republican painting, to evoke a few examples,
reflected his objective of reconciliation. 119 But consistent with Pagis, Le Nordez conceptualized
French citizenship as a tie of family obligation, in which Joan played the role of daughter, sister,
and uncorrupted source of unification leading young generations in campaigns for the betterment
of the mère patrie or motherland. In conclusion, he asked readers to:
Remember to love the nation and our fellow citizens the way she loved and served France
and her brothers. Let her example be the school of patriotism….May it be that under her
soft and strong watch, our social, religious and political troubles ease…this pious, valiant,
and sweet girl never saw French blood run without her hair rising. May this eldest sister
of the large French family reunite the brothers who love her, may she calm the world. 120
He expressed hope that a better and stronger young French generation would find solidarity in
the heroism of the young Pucelle, despite their national troubles – likely a reference to the
Albert Marie Léon Le Nordez, Jeanne d'Arc, racontée par l'image, d'après les sculpteurs, les graveurs, et
les peintres, Paris: (Hachette & Cie, 1898), iii. Furthermore, he equates the “voice of the people” with the “voice of
God,” and insisting that Joan worked as much for God as for France. His clerical bias is most clear when, in
comparing St. Genevieve and Joan of Arc, he writes that, “To serve oneself of these figures is to remember our
nation’s glories, it is to strengthen the religious feeling of a nation so that she not perish among her secular
devotions” (263).
Le Nordez, iii.
Ibid, iv.
Ibid, 376-378.
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Dreyfus Affair – thereby absolving the wrongs of their parents. The 1904 third edition of Henri
Debout’s L'histoire admirable de Jeanne d'Arc, Pucelle d'Orléans made an even more explicit
call for youthful intervention. Calling Joan “the heroic child whom God wanted to save our
nation,” he preached that “Certain eras resemble one another… What is important for all, at the
present hour, is to know deeply the true history of Joan of Arc […] true love of country, most of
all of a country in mourning, brings together the hearts of all children; it makes friends of
enemies.”121 Not so unlike the Republicans, the most committed clericals repeatedly endorsed a
particular kind of youth which would save and unify France by taking Joan as its model of
unification and righteousness.
That endorsement by both Left and Right propagated between the generations through
appeals made directly to children, in materials designed for their particular modes of
consumption. Consumption of Joan’s legend by children and adolescents brought the legend to
their own scale, holding Joan in their hands and before their eyes as part of a daily practice of
patriotism.122 I will discuss several of these objects of consumption, the first being books for
children published during this period. While some contextualized Joan of Arc among several
spectacular figures in history, others naturally focused on her alone, while still others used her
legend as the basis for much longer sermons on morals and personal conduct. Examples show
that, regardless of the nuances of the individual texts, writers presented patriotism as an affair of
the young as much as of the old. Parallels between heroine and reader drawn on the basis of
shared youth communicated a moral imperative of service to nation and to fellow citizen.
Equally importantly, these texts universally valorized the elder generations as responsible for
Henri Debout, L'histoire admirable de Jeanne d'Arc, pucelle d'Orléans, 3rd édition. Paris: Maison de la
bonne presse, 1904.
For images of the collectors and commemorative cards, please see the Appendix. Cards found in John
Flower, Joan of Arc: Icon of Modern Culture, Sussex: (Helm Information, 2008), 52-53.
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sharing that imperative with the younger. Works by Pauline Kergomard and Louis-Maurice
Boutet de Monvel, the series La Jeune Fille à l’Ecole de Jeanne d’Arc, and the Musée de
Costume’s hybrid cut-out picture book exemplify the diverse ways this could be achieved.
The flowering of children’s historical literature was due in no small part to the
publication in 1877 of Le Tour de France par deux enfants, which offered its readers history
lessons rooted in the geography of France.123 Written by Augustine Fouillée under the name of G.
Bruno, this work was produced as a school text, and so does not quite fit this discussion.
However, it merits mention here because of the way Bruno incorporated Joan of Arc’s story into
a physical voyage that made France, and the idea of France, the means for two children’s’ selfdiscovery. In Lorraine, an older woman recounts to them and to the reader how this province –
now lost to Germany – has provided France’s greatest defenders. Other nations produce great
leaders too but “no nation has had a heroine who could compare to this humble peasant girl of
Lorraine, to this noble daughter of France.” This story moves the young protagonists first to
silence, then to tears, finally to the declaration: “Oh, how I love this poor Joan, and thank you for
telling us her story!” 124 In the entire work, Joan figured only in this small exchange. However,
this text, which remained in constant use and republication through 1950, set a precedent by
teaching history to children through children. That effort to create a direct relationship between
the young generations and national history is exemplified in the telling of Joan of Arc’s story. By
the conclusion, the two protagonists, aged six years, vow complete loyalty to France from their
knees: “they will forever rest loyal to two great things they have learned to love: Duty and
Country.”125 Bruno’s canonical book, even if a textbook, set the precedent for approaching
G. Bruno, Le Tour de France par deux enfants, 1877.
Bruno, 46.
Ibid, 258.
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young learners on their own terms. 126 Encouraging their identification with Joan of Arc as
another young French citizen would soon follow in even more concentrated forms.
Pauline Kergomard, a leader in the development of early childhood education, published the
Galerie Enfantine des Hommes Illustres with the express goal of providing moral lessons
through history. 127 While the book’s title, A Child’s Gallery of Illustrious Men, suggests the
marriage of the written text and visuals, it contained one picture per figure (using Ingres’s 1854
Jeanne d’Arc for Joan’s chapter.) The collection of twelve biographies, including those of
Charlemagne, Saint Louis, Gutenberg, and Christopher Columbus, was a gallery in that it
showcased different varieties of historical figures. Kergomard offered Joan, always referred to as
the “young girl,” as the token example of youth and femininity; her energy and basic inability to
“moderate her impatience” with the lassitude of Charles VII represented the great clash of
innocence and corrupted age. 128 The people of France, Kergomard insisted “had begun to
believe in her” such that the king felt compelled to action. As the transition to Joan’s trial, the
narrative stepped back to reflect “What rests for me to tell you, children, is one of the most
grievous histories I know. Our enemies showed themselves hypocrites and without pity against
this admirable young girl… Whereas the King of France, his apathy and his cowardice made him
red with shame.” 129 It was the “weak, the indolent, the ungrateful,” but also older, politically
conniving and impure French King that this telling blamed for Joan’s death. Youth and
innocence fell as sacrificial lamb to the irresolute visionless representative of the status quo.
Kergomard concluded, “I hope, children, that you will …see that, no matter what position you
For more, see Jacques and Mona Ozouf, “Le Tour de la France par deux enfants. »
Pauline Kergomard, Galerie enfantine des Hommes Illustres : ouvrage illustre de 12 portraits, Paris :
(Hachette et Compagnie, 1879), 116-144.
Ibid, 127.
Ibid, 138.
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are born in, we can all have the noble ambition to be useful to our fellows, and the hope to
realize this, if we are good of heart, active, devoted, and persevering.” 130 She upheld contribution
to one’s community – by default a French one - as a fundamental measure of one’s Frenchness,
despite the limitations of class, gender, or age. Joan, “a model of modesty, tact, and piety, as well
as abundant patriotism,” exemplified for children overcoming all these constraints. 131
Kergomard’s work and anthologies like it incorporated her as one among many figures to
be taken as models, and distinguished her through juxtaposition. In contrast, other children’s
books, such as Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel‘s 1896 popular picture book Jeanne d’Arc,
focused exclusively on her as a model. 132 That the Fremiet statue at the Place des Pyramides had
inspired the popular and successful writer and illustrator to produce this work demonstrated the
trickle-down of high patriotic art to the individual’s personal experience of nationality more
generally. In Joan of Arc’s specific case, this intertextuality between art forms speaks to the
breadth of her presence in the popular consciousness. His illustrations were themselves works of
art; as Isabelle Nieres-Chevrel remarked, Monvel chose a larger oblong format, 24.8 by 32
centimeters, for this book, that allowed him to prioritize image over language. She also stressed
that his drawings were accessible to children because he had sanitized them, though they
remained simultaneously rigorously constructed and historically detailed.133 As an artist who
admired Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Monvel clearly positioned Jeanne d’Arc within the new
wave of French primitive painting. This movement, which garnered extreme popularity from the
Salon of 1886 to its first exposition in 1904, sought to reproduce the artistic hegemony France
Ibid, 307.
Ibid, 139.
Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: (Plon Nourrit, 1896). See Appendix Images 8-15
for selected pages.
See Nieres-Chevrel. See also, for a more generalist perspective on both French and English books,
Penny Brown.
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held over Europe in the Middle Ages; it was understood as reviving “a dormant national tradition
which heralded the new, even as it embodied the last vestiges of the Middle Ages.” 134
This book, a type of French primitif-primer for children, assimilated an art inspired by the
times of Joan of Arc with a call for immediate acts of patriotism in her name. To start, the oblong
drawing frontispiece shockingly portrayed an equestrian Joan of Arc leading modern fin de
siècle soldiers into battle. The AvantPropos further blurred the boundaries
between the France
of the Hundred Years’ War and the
Belle Époque.135 Monvel evoked a
common fin-de-siècle discourse on
racial and national degeneration when
he wrote of the Hundred Years War,
Figure 7: Cover page, Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, Jeanne d’Arc.
Paris: Plon Nourrit, 1896.
See Laura Morowitz, “Medievalism, Classicism, and Nationalism: The Appropriation of the French
Primitifs in Turn-of-the-Century France,” Nationalism and French Visual Culture, 1870-1914, ed. June Hargrove and
Neil McWilliam, New Haven: (Yale University Press/National Gallery of Art, 2005), 237. Morowitz writes, “…By the
late nineteenth century the primitive artist had come to be a national hero who had captured the glory of France
for eternity…The decidedly nationalist tone of the [1904] exhibition was the culmination, rather than the origin, of
a chauvinistic reclaiming of the Middle Ages…Like the French Gothic Cathedral, the French primitifs became
national symbols whose origins, inspirations, and achievements came to be championed for a variety of political
purposes and from a host of perspective” (225).
Monvel, 4. The preface played to Republican sentiment by citing the insanity and indolence of the
royal family and the egoism and weakness of the nobility for the “ruin of our country.” He emphasized patriotic
compassion as the force behind her accomplishments: “Moved by pity for miseries of the poor French people, she
felt in the bottom of her heart the first movements of patriotism… she redrew the sword of conquered France
and… drew from her energy of her faith the strength to raise again our boundless and to wrest our nation from the
victorious English.” His choice not to capitalize the words “faith” and “saint,” while details, differentiated him from
Catholic contemporaries. Monvel coupled his preface with two images; in one, Joan, clothed as a shepherdess and
holding a sword, stands with an angel behind her guiding her hand. The other shows the peasant girl praying under
a stream of light, crowned with a halo, holding a banner of “Jesus Maria” – having put down her sword – but at the
same time trampling the Lion and roses of England.
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“our race was going to lose its nationality,” drawing clear parallels between the circumstances of
Joan’s youth and those of the turn of the century. Concluding the preface with a direct appeal to
readers, he presented the book as a testament to Joan but more importantly as it a testament to
their future sacrifice:
“Open, my dear children, this book with devotion in memory of this peasant who is the
patron of France, who is the saint of our homeland just as she was a martyr for it. Her
history will tell you that we need faith in victory in order to be victorious. Remember this
on the day that the nation will need all of your courage.” 136
The content itself, a suite of 49 images and short corresponding text, drew attention to
relationships of authority between the young, pre-pubescent Joan and God; between Joan and
Figure 8: Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, Jeanne d’Arc.
Paris: Plon Nourrit, 1896.
secular or political authorities;
and between Joan and the
French People. Using what
Nieres-Chevrel calls “definitive,
immobilizing gestures” to
juxtapose her youthful energy
with the corrupt resignation of
the court and Church elders,
Monvel made Joan a figure of
action and of modernity. 137
Blending image, text, and paratext, Monvel, like Kergomard, constructed the
Ibid, 4. « Peasant » and « patron » are « paysanne » and « patronne » in the original.
The only times she bows her head in a gesture of submission are in moments with religious significance,
such as at the coronation and or at prayer. Otherwise, Monvel portrays her with head high, and arm extended,
often holding a banner or sword hoisted above her head, proving herself before crowds – in urban, castle,
battlefield, or courtroom settings.
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Figure 9 : Selected pages, Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: Plon Nourrit, 1896.
youth’s relationship with Joan of Arc as a reflection of budding character and of emerging
patriotic obligation to return France to a position of hegemony, glory, and youthful energy.
Figure 10: Selected pages, Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: Plon Nourrit, 1896.
Through his blend of simple word and starkly beautiful image, readers learned what a young
person’s journey towards sacrifice for country looked like.
The book series La Jeune Fille à l’Ecole de Jeanne d’Arc, or The Young Girl at the
School of Joan of Arc, was published repeatedly in the 1890s through her beautification in 1909
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by various Catholic institutions and authors. 138 These works differed from the two prior books
discussed in significant ways. First, they sought to teach young girls how to conduct themselves
in a manner befitting Joan of Arc, reflecting feminized virtues of Catholic piety, devotion, and
purity. Their structure did not offer a biography of Joan but rather integrated examples from the
hagiographic version of her life in chapters that each focused on a virtue or a component of
modern life, including education, recommendations for reading, clothing, make-up, and marriage,
among others. These texts offer rich sources for an analysis of the education of the young girl in
particular; what I would like to focus on, however, is their insistence that “Love of country is the
virtue of the greatest souls.” 139 Despite such clear differences with the other texts discussed here,
these works repeated many of the same laic discourses. For instance, the chapter on patriotism in
an 1898 issue claimed that:
Joan understood and taught us true patriotism, the kind which puts the Country above
every human concern, above changing opinions, dynasties which end, appetites which
disappear, feelings which move us, men who die. She is the expert of patriotism as much
as she is the liberator of our Country. 140
The authors from the Société de St. Augustin continued to insist that a good education must
increase the patriotism of young girls. The chapter concluded in a two-fold charge: first, to weep
for the suffering of the nation, and second “To sacrifice yourself - Let us not content ourselves
only to pray, let us act!” 141 The authors primarily recommended nursing as a form of patriotism,
but constructed those acts as modern female replacements for the Pucelle’s warrior patriotism.
Her sacrifice in imitation of Joan of Arc necessarily had a gendered complement, for her duty
included encouraging “our brothers” to “fight as heroes” and if necessary “lead them to sacrifice
La jeune fille à l’école de Jeanne d’Arc, Société de St Augustin, Desclée de Brower, 1898. Centre jeanne
d’Arc. Bretonneau, La jeune fille à l’école de Jeanne d’arc, Tours : Alfred Cattier, 1909, Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
La jeune fille a l’école de Jeanne d’Arc, Société de St Augustin, Desclée de Brower, 1898, 230.
Ibid, 230.
Ibid, 234.
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themselves” for the love of France. 142 The instrumentalization of Joan of Arc as a teaching tool
for female behaviors did not limit itself to books. The 1900 play by Abbé Broussard “Joan of Arc,
protectress of France: small popular drama in two acts and two tableaux for littlest girls and
young girls,” may have ended in a general call for “Joan, our high hope /Come save our France!”
The bulk of the text, however, contrasted the consequences of feminine patriotism – in ordinary
girls – and a more masculine patriotism in the martyred Joan. 143 The gendering of patriotic
behaviors in these documents, a rich subject for inquiry, veers away from adolescence as a main
category of analysis. However, these documents demonstrate how Joan’s characteristics were
selectively appropriated and exploited as models of different types of youth and as models for
many types of young patriotism. The universal model of the virtuous young French person was
easily personalized for targeted demographics.
Other objects of material culture shared with traditional books the quality of a
personalized experience. The book Amazones d’hier et d’aujourd’hui represented an
intermediary between objects of learning and objects of play. Issued by the Musée du Costume,
it proposed young readers a tour of history by showing the variety of amazones or riding habits
worn by women throughout the ages. 144 This work, neither strictly educational nor strictly
commercial, had as its frontispiece a striking color image of Joan of Arc. The artist, cited as
“Job,” dressed Joan entirely in a suit of armor and fleur-de-lys, atop a black stallion leading an
anachronistic cavalcade of historical female riders. Although the text provided a short
Ibid, 236.
Auguste Brossard, Jeanne d'Arc, protectrice de la France; petit drame populaire, en 2 actes et 2 tableaux,
pour fillettes et jeunes filles, Niort : France H. Boulord, 1900. In this play, set in medieval France, the cast of
characters is entirely female, the majority being young girls. Joan is called the « model of Domrémy » (24) but she
is an ambiguous model, appearing in Act II not as a strong warrior but as a captive prisoner in Rouen, fearful for
her life and wishing to return to her parents. When she dies, the chorus sings “In seeing perish in the flames/ this
child who was your savior/Poor France, pour out tears/and groan, groan with sadness!”
Musée de Costume, Amazones d’hier et d’aujourd’hui : série de découpage avec texte d’Aristide Fabre,
Paris : Hachette et Compagnie, 1905, Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
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biographical context for each historical figure and her riding suit, the text did not purport to be a
biography. The main focus lay in its cut-outs for prototype paper dolls or action figures and
explicit instructions about which components of the suit belonged where. Joan’s full suit of
armor featured weaponry as well as a flag. 145 Having already told his readers exactly how to
wear her helmet and ride a horse in such armor, author Aristide Fabre concluded that it was thus
dressed “in warrior’s garb,” that “rose up, in the midst of the roar of battle, this pure figure of
Joan of Arc, in whom was embodied the newly born idea of our nation.” 146
Figure 11: Musée de Costume, Amazones d’hier et d’aujourd’hui : série de découpage avec texte d’Aristide Fabre, Paris :
Hachette et Compagnie, 1905, Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
Ibid, 13.
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Figure 12: Musée de Costume, Amazones d’hier et d’aujourd’hui : série de découpage avec texte d’Aristide Fabre, Paris :
Hachette et Compagnie, 1905, p.13, Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
The reproductions of Joan of Arc’s legend thereby exploited the union of text and image
in multiple forms, offering young French boys and girls multiple points of contact with her.
Many scholars have noted the ways she was commodified in a moment of generally increasing
consumption; as a rule, commercial goods exploited, upheld, or simply perpetuated her legend
while making specific appeals to key consumers. 147 The youth demographic was one such group.
The cut-outs of amazones were simply one form of contact that preserved her as a child’s
memory reinforced through practice and the types of repetitive play that empowered children to
See Michel Winock, “Joan of Arc,” in Les Lieux de Mémoire, edited by Pierre Nora, vol 3, Paris: Editions
Gallimard, 1992. 433-480.
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act out her life voluntarily. Collector’s cards presented drawings of Joan, or actresses dressed in
Figure 13: “Collector’s and commemorative cards,” in John Flower, Joan of Arc: Icon of Modern Culture. Sussex: Helm
Information, 2008, 52-53.
her garb, at her most famous moments. Board games, such as the “Jeu de l’Epopée de Jeanne
d’Arc,” or “The Game of the Epic Life of Joan of Arc,” transformed her legend into an
experience for an afternoon. That the drawings included both renderings of the Pucelle’s life as
well as images of contemporary statues in her honor highlights a desire to make this medieval
tale both immediate and relevant to the fin-de-siècle adolescent.148 Joan’s pedestal was not so
high that she was excluded from children’s daily and mundane performance of patriotic activity.
“Jeu de l’Epopée de Jeanne d’Arc, » in « Jeanne d’Arc : Une image à l’épreuve du temps, » ed. Olivier
Bouzy and Laurent Mazuy, Mairie d’Orléans: CIC Ouest, 2012, 79.
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Figure 14: « Jeu de l’Epopée de Jeanne d’Arc, » in « Jeanne d’Arc : Une image à l’épreuve du Temps, » Ed. Olivier
Bouzy and Laurent Mazuy, Mairie d’Orleans: CIC Ouest, 2012.
The nostalgia she cultivated was thus as individually self-serving, as self-defining, as it was civic,
patriotic, or collective. For the teen in 1904, raised in a culture of child’s play that celebrated
Joan of Arc, she signified the comfort, love, and innocence of that childhood. Not just by
reenacting her life but by creatively building stories and play from the bare materials of her
legend, they “put on” performances of patriotism.
The small, immediate acts of daily patriotism and the high art of public patriotism found
their link in song. The act of singing, so important in Joseph Fabre’s vision of the proposed
national holiday, encouraged the young to take ownership in her story as its storytellers. Whether
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printed in imageries d’Épinal or in anthologies, musical creations translated the wave of
Figure 15: « Série supérieure aux armes d'Epinal. Gloires nationales (hors groupes), N° 1, Jeanne d'Arc, 1410-1431, »
1895, Bibliothèque nationale de France.
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popularity Joan of Arc saw in opera and classical music from the older to the younger generation.
A song in one 1894 woodcut print, titled the “Complainte” or “Lament of Joan of Arc,” offered
her life story as a medieval epic updated for the contemporary singer. 149 That singer was most a
group of children; the thirty four
stanzas of six lines each used
simple end rhyme, while the writer
drew its melody from an old
Christmas tune of Alsace-Lorraine.
The chorus deliberately stressed
the role of the singer: “Let us
celebrate all big and small / the
young Maid of Orleans/ Jeanne
d’Arc who from France/ Began our
deliverance!” By virtue of the back
and forth between the epic story
and the act of telling the epic, the
song made Joan’s memory
contingent on the singing. The
final verses evoked a “France
Figure 16: « Imagerie d'Epinal. N° 79, Complainte sur Jeanne d'Arc : sur
l'air du vieux Noël lorrain, » 1894. Bibliothèque nationale de France.
reconnaissante,” a grateful France
aware of its debt: “For us and for children to come/ her name will stay for very long! For Joan
personifies/ the saintly love of the patrie!” While the origin of the songs in prints was not always
“Imagerie d’Epinal no. 79: Complainte sur Jeanne d’Arc, » Paris : Pellerin, 1894, Bibliothèque nationale
de France. The word « complainte » is a literary term particularly used to describe the solemn songs of the Middle
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clear – whether the prints recorded or created the songs they contained, for instance - popular
print culture made her story cheap to perpetuate and gave her story directly to children to repeat.
Other songs used the scores of well-known operas with lyrics changed specifically for young
singers. While several composers had written pieces inspired by Joan before the Third Republic,
internationally the late nineteenth century saw a remarkable proliferation of such musical
productions.150 One anthology of songs titled “The Child’s Soul” combined lyrics by known
librettist Marc Legrand with music from the popular composer Ernest Reyer for the song “Jeanne
la Bonne Lorraine.” 151 Using the first few bars of Reyer’s
score, the song championed the young Joan, who lived
“At Domrémy, near her good parents,” and “was kind
with an honest heart.” Legrand obscured the religious
aspects of her history: “Wanting to save her country and
her king,” she was a leader whom “soldiers followed into
all combats/and all loved her like their sovereign!” In a
patriotic flourish, the song concluded that “She lives in
the heart of the French/ Jeanne, Jeanne, la bonne
Lorraine!” The art that celebrated Joan in the greatest
opera houses and playhouses, with the greatest artists of
Figure 17: « Jeanne la Bonne Lorraine : Extrait
de L’Ame Enfantin, Paroles de Marc Legrand,
musique de Ernest Reyer, » in John Flower,
Joan of Arc: Icon of Modern Culture, Sussex:
Helm Information, 2008, 232.
the fin de siècle, had been simplified and filtered to a
Giuseppe Verdi was the first to compose on Joan of Arc, with his 1845 opera. He was followed during
the Third Republic by Auguste Mermet’s April 1876 4- act opera that was a commercial success but a critical failure.
In 1873, Charles Gounod composed the score for Jules Barbier’s new play, and went on to write several other
pieces on her, including an 1887 mass A l’honneur de Jeanne d’Arc and the 1894 La prière de Jeanne d’Arc (with
lyrics by Barbier). Peter Tchaikovsky wrote an opera to great acclaim in 1881, and Franz Liszt published two
versions of his opus 293, Jeanne d’Arc au bucher, one in 1845 and another in 1875.
« Jeanne la Bonne Lorraine : Extrait de L’Ame Enfantin, Paroles de Marc Legrand, musique de Ernest
Reyer, » found in Flower, 232.
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scale not only personal but comprehensible. Even more, like Le Tour de France, like the book of
paper dolls, it taught not just history but music and general culture. Her story taught the young
generations their identity and obligations as young French people.
Eric Hobsbawm writes that the nation “is constructed essentially from above… but
cannot be understood unless analyzed from below, that is in terms of the assumptions, hopes,
needs, longings, and interests of ordinary people, which are not necessarily national and still less
nationalist.” 152 The top-down state processes that recycled French history to create and sustain a
new political culture targeted specific demographics of ordinary people. Among those, they
identified the emerging demographic of the child and of the adolescent as necessary for
sustaining and ensuring the legitimacy of the Third Republic. No doubt the youngest citizens of
the Third Republic had varying degrees of awareness of their participation in and indoctrination
to patriotism; no doubt that not every child experienced this phenomenon. No doubt that not
every Republican nor every conservative nor every Catholic held as tightly to the Johannic
legend as did Joseph Fabre. Regardless, the valorization of Joan of Arc was central to that
process of recruitment. The Third Republic constructed her as the embodiment of a patriotic,
energetic, and devoted young citizen, building on the historical work of Quicherat and Michelet
in order to assimilate her with a transcendent ideal of France. The state took the first steps,
proposing laws and holidays in her honor and integrating her legend into the formal physical
structures of the Republic. But in an era of rising consumption, the monopoly on the controls of
political culture disappeared. The extraordinary patriotism of the early Third Republic had
become an ordinary part of life by the turn of the century, and Joan had become accessible and
Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and nationalism since 1780: programme, myth, reality, London: Cambridge
University Press, 1994, 80-100. Found in Michael Orwicz, “Nationalism and Representation in Theory,” in
Nationalism and French Visual Culture, 1870-1914, ed. June Hargrove and Neil McWilliam, New Haven: (Yale
University Press/National Gallery of Art, 2005), 17-33.
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appropriated by everyone for everything. Her legend - and the diverse values she represented multiplied across material culture in books, art, music, toys, and beyond, creating discourses on
patriotism and national obligation that could be as laic as they could be clerical. In the decades
leading to the Thalamas Affair, the youngest members of the Republic had learned her story by
being taught to identify with it. She encouraged their own character as French people and acted
as a mirror for that character, a set of values to take and embody even on the smallest scale. The
political culture fed them a model which Thalamas appeared to have disturbed; the Thalamas
Affair, as we shall explore, effectively, if briefly, illustrated the symbolic power that youth could
have in instigating critiques of the Republic. That model of an empowered youth was due in no
small part to the example they were given and were taught to try to become: the example of “one
of the most pure glories of our country,” Jeanne la Pucelle. 153
Bruno, 46.
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Chapter 2
Stay French! Stay Young! Joan of Arc and the Role
of Youth in the Public School
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“History puts them on the threshold of political life.” 154
- Ernest Lavisse
As we have seen, the Third Republic crafted an image of Joan of Arc that lived, breathed,
and spoke to the young through multiple channels. The omnipresence of her legend in high
political culture, exemplified in proposals for a national holiday, the Pantheon’s murals, and the
statuary program mandated that the youngest citizens literally and metaphorically look up to her
and imagine themselves by her side. At the same time, this high regard was adopted and
transformed through low and daily material culture, in picture books, plays, postcards, dolls,
games, and songs, encouraging little boys and girls to play with her, to play through her, and to
sing her story in their own voices. That process of appropriation, of which the Thalamas Affair
offers proof, depended in significant part on the deliberate choice of adults, men such as Joseph
Fabre, the members of the statuary committees, artists and writers, to transform her into an
everyday didactic tool.
To discuss Joan of Arc as a didactic tool necessarily returns us to the Thalamas Affair of
1904 and the Third Republic lycée, where she had a presence as both a subject of history and as
an instrument of fin-de-siècle expectations. This chapter will focus on the ways in which the
educational system spoke of youth to students, celebrating Joan of Arc in textbooks as it
celebrated the student-citizen in the politicized discourse of leading pedagogues. These
documents are not often put side by side but they provide the fodder for an interesting discussion
about the ways a particular group of individuals - their authors, among the most prominent
writers, intellectuals, and politicians of their day – position youth. They position youth and
youthful vigor as a particular national need and as a particular component of national heroism
that transcends the arc of history by concerning itself with the future.
Ernest Lavisse, Discours à des enfants, 7.
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Based on the Jules Ferry Laws and Camille See Laws of June 1881 and 1882, the new
educational infrastructure under the Third Republic guaranteed a free, mandatory, and secular
education to boys and girls on the sole basis of their French citizenship.155 This reform had its
origins in militarism, as the losers of the Franco-Prussian War saw in their Prussian conquerors a
society stronger because of its stronger and more rigid educational system. That initial act of
creating an obligation of education based on their youth and their French-ness spoke to the new
ways the Third Republic would increasingly link the two, a major subject of study in this chapter.
As the initial laws made instruction obligatory but not instruction in the school or public school
setting, these new establishments competed with the entrenched networks of Catholic instruction,
which included primary and secondary schools, the écoles libres.156 The disintegration of
Church’s historical and national influence in education at the hands of the post-Ancien Regime
state was gradual and uneven from 1789 to 1914. Significant conflict in the 1880s and a quiet in
the early 1890s led to a new fever pitch with the Dreyfus Affair and the early twentieth century
governments of the Left. In 1901, the Waldeck-Rousseau government passed a new set of laws
that regulated the teaching capacity of religious orders, but in July 1904, the government of the
Bloc de Gauches denied Catholic orders the right to teach. 157 This proved a transformative
moment for education in France, as the death-knell of free education by religious orders and as
France, “Loi n° 11 696 du 28 Mars 1882 : Loi qui rend l’Enseignement primaire obligatoire. »
Historically, until the Revolution, the clerics had directed the vast majority of educational institutions,
including the Parisian and urban University system. The 1880s Ferry laws specifically sought to target the Catholic
“free schools,” whose name itself reflected the politics of the moment. Historically, these congréganiste schools
had been gratuits or tuition-less and thus free, a practice which did not change approaching the twentieth century.
Post-Ferry, as the state developed its public and tuition-less school system, the écoles libres were positioned by the
Right mainly as “free” institutions in the sense that the state had limited control over curricula and policy. See
Prost, Histoire de l’enseignement en France, Paris: (Colin, 1981.) See also .Grew and Harrigan.
The law of 1901 distinguished between congregations – which required specific, case-by-case legal
authorization to exist - and their educational establishments- which were approved and overseen by decrees from
the Conseil d’état. As Antoine Prost notes, Emile Combes would lead the closure of some 135 schools whose
salaried employees belonged to religious orders. Another 2,500 schools established before 1901 would be closed
in July-August 1902. These actions had questionable legality given the guaranteed non-retroactivity of the law. See
Histoire de l’enseignement en France, 208-223.
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the eventual saving grace of the public educational system, which had seen enrollment fall for
about a decade. 158 The classroom in this era was thus not simply a four-walled, stone institution,
but a dynamic space of experimentation, where new curricula, pedagogical tools, and approaches
to learning were handed from scholars at the Sorbonne or the Académie de Paris to teachers for
trials on unshaped minds. Not only was such a spirit common; it was the standard. How then, we
should ask, did Joan of Arc - as a figure with such deep roots in Catholicism, as a figure vaunted
as a symbol par excellence of young patriotism and activism in shared public space outside the
classroom - fit into a paradigm of centralized and Republican primary and secondary education?
How can we establish what resonance she had, as a subject of lesson plans, for the students who
learned about her in this very particular setting? What discourses had informed instruction about
Joan of Arc such that what happened in Thalamas’ classroom seemed extraordinary, even
disturbing, to the young lycéen of Lycée Condorcet? What role could the classroom have played
in empowering these young students to patriotic behavior outside these four walls?
The point of origin for any study of pedagogy and history in the Third Republic must be
the figure of Ernest Lavisse (1842-1922). Historians, Pierre Nora most prominently among
others, single out this man’s particular vision of strengthening the institutions of the Republic by
teaching history with particular methods and materials of his making, ultimately to establish its
legitimacy in the eyes of primary and secondary school students. 159 As Nora writes, the 27
volumes of Lavisse’s Histoire de France represented the “national hegemony of history,” a
The 7 July 1904 law also proscribed the closing of all remaining congreganist establishments within ten
years. The result of this dramatic shift was that the enrollment in private, secular, state-sanctioned schools rose
nationally by 695,000 students, whereas before it had been in decline. The enrollment in private congreganist
schools decreased from 1,257,000 in 1901 to 188,000 in 1906. See Histoire de l’enseignement en France, 208-223.
See Pierre Nora, “Ernest Lavisse: son rôle dans la formation du sentiment national,” Revue
historique 228 1 (1962), pp. 73-106 ; Pierre Nora, « Ernest Lavisse’s Histoire de France : Piétas erga Patriam, » in
Les Lieux de Mémoire, ed. Pierre Nora, Paris: (Editions Gallimard, 1992), 329-389 ; Christian Amalvi, « L'exemple
des grands hommes de l'histoire de France à l'école et au foyer (1814-1914), »Romantisme, 1998, 91-103.
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project continued in his 1884 primary school textbook Histoire de France: Cours Elémentaire,
otherwise known as the Petit Lavisse.160 Other studies have applied gender as a category of
analysis to the Petit Lavisse, identifying its embedded lessons on masculinity. Denis M.
Provencher and Luke L. Eilderts wrote of the textbook that “we can read Le Petit Lavisse as a
citizenship manual destined for the citizen-soldier and a training manual for the future defender
of the nation. We can also read it as a gender manual, or a ‘how to’ manual for performing
masculinity.” 161 They see Lavisse’s androgynous Joan of Arc as the single complication in an
otherwise male and masculine system of heroism, redeemed in the text by a death that allowed
French men to live. Again, they take the age of the audience as evidence of their
impressionability, rather than a factor worthy of investigation.
Beyond the figure of Ernest Lavisse, scholarship on nationalism in education system is
abundant, split between propaganda in the centralized curricula and the culture wars launched
over interpreting curricula. 162 Antoine Prost’s survey of post-1789 education insists that:
…the French could only exalt the action of forming a collectivity. The great unifying
force, the only capable of neutralizing ideological and social opposition, was national
sentiment. Regardless of the impact of this Machiavellian thought, the same patriotism
invaded University departments and primary schools, congreganist classes and that of the
Left free thinker. 163
According to Prost, the subsequent creation of a “historical vulgate” by pedagogues and
politicians put “in relief” those figures who offered a semblance of unity, like a sort of “family
album” where Vercingetorix, Charlemagne, Saint Louis, and Joan of Arc cavorted with
Nora, « Ernest Lavisse’s Histoire de France: Pietas erga Patriam, » 329. Nora insists that Lavisse created
new histories in the name of pedagogy and of the nation, and not in pursuit of a purer, cleaner historical method.
This contrasts Lavisse with scholars at the Sorbonne, such as historian Gabriel Monod.
Provencher and Eilderts, 52.
Please see the bibliography’s citations of Kathleen Alaimo, Pierre Albertini, Christian Amalvi, Penny
Bruter, Pierre Caspard, Jean-Noel Luc, and Philippe Savoie, Maurice Crubellier, Raoul Girardet, Paul Gerbod, Evelyn
Hery, Mona Ozouf, and Antoine Prost.
Histoire de l’enseignement en France, 335.
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Napoleon, and Victor Hugo. Clearly Joan was important, but to extend Prost’s metaphor, she was
also the baby of this family. Still, scholarship has not asked how common Third Republic
textbooks represented Joan’s age. Furthermore, no one has written about how we should
understand that characteristic in light of the pedagogue’s rhetorical celebration of youth as a
value and celebration of youth as group. The Thalamas Affair pushes me to ask how discursive
pedagogical emphasis on youth as a social and national value informed Joan of Arc’s
representation in textbooks. While the prior chapter identified the high and low cultural materials
that constructed representations of Joan of Arc as a young citizen in service to the State, the
Republican textbook was an equally essential and equally rich medium for that same message. In
fact, it is a more specific one. Who explained the murals at the Pantheon to children? Did parents
explain her legend before providing their children a Joan of Arc board game, trading cards, or
paper dolls? Questions about the presentation and ultimate interpretation of mass culture can be
challenging to answer; mass culture should, by definition, be universally accessible and easily
experienced, and thus amorphous. Yet, the interaction of the young student with his textbook
was a product of the classroom, a much more controlled environment. Regulated and constructed
in distinct ways, the textbook requires a separate investigation.
I propose that, to understand the ways the students of the Thalamas Affair understood
themselves inside the classroom and to understand how a supposed insult to Joan of Arc
offended the students themselves, we must complement our reading of textbooks with another set
of analyses. Regardless of the lasting influence of the Thalamas Affair on the trajectory of public
education, it depended on and realized the symbolic clout attributed to youth within the
particular context of the classroom, the laboratory for new generations since 1881. We must
focus on rhetoric which the students heard about the education as a whole and about themselves
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and their obligations in the classroom and moving from the classroom to civil society. I argue
that the teaching of national history in the schools of the Third Republic depended integrally on
convincing the ordinary young person to become the extraordinary young hero. Joan of Arc
modeled that transformation; the educational atmosphere constructed by pedagogues sought to
activate that transformation in its students. This side-by-side exploration reveals that process of
activation in all its glory, but also speaks to the conscientiousness of the pedagogues. They saw
themselves as part of a historical moment, a moment of transition; by celebrating rather than
doubting the powers of youth, as some had Joan of Arc, they hoped to finish on the correct side
of history, as the elders and prophets of a French revanche.
The Ministry of Public Instruction, already responsible for streamlined and centralized
aggregation of educators, saw many of its educators move between the realms of teacher,
administrator, bureaucrat, and politician, and textbook writer. Ernest Lavisse (1842-1922),
evoked at the start of this chapter, spent his life in rotation between these realms, empowered to
create a national unity and propaganda through the classroom instruction teaching of history. 164
A historian by training, Lavisse has become known by the moniker “Instituteur National,” the
national schoolteacher. In his career, he published some sixteen separate history textbooks from
1876 to 1913, and another five textbooks on civic duty. His most lasting contribution, the Petit
Lavisse, appeared in its first draft in 1884 under the name La Première année d'histoire de
France: leçons, récits, réflexions. 165 Published by major publishing house Armand Colin, its
description boasted, among its 240 pages, its “95 engravings, 14 maps, multiple choice questions,
I refer you to notes 5, 6, and 7 for bibliographic sources on Lavisse. Please see also Isabel Di Vanna,
Writing History in the Third Republic, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010. As a historian, he
edited three multivolume encyclopedias of French history as well as numerous works on Prussia – a testament to
the influence of the Revanchist political atmosphere on the development of the French history community.
Ernest Lavisse, La Première année d'histoire de France : leçons, récits, réflexions, Paris : (Armand Colin,
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summaries, writing assignments, a general overview and a dictionary of difficult words.” Lavisse
had further clarified that this work was destined “for the use of primary and elementary classes
of lycées and middle schools.” Only the publication in 1912 and 1913 of a rewritten Petit Lavisse,
which subsequently remained in circulation and regular use until 1950, surpassed the first. While
we will later end this chapter by analyzing in some depth his serialized speeches in the months
before the Thalamas Affair, it is with the foundational 1884 and 1912 texts that we discover how
his Joan and his targeting of young readers evolved. That shift merits a discussion.
The 1884 text was republished thirty times until the new Petite Lavisse of 1912 and
1913.166 Divided into five smaller parts that began in Book I with the Gaulois and ended in Book
V with the Third Republic, this first version of his chef d’oeuvre devoted Book II to the “France
of 1328 to 1461: The Hundred Years,” further divided into three chapters with a total of 21 pages.
In the advice to schoolmasters given in the first pages of the text, Lavisse explained the
methodology of this text, which he hoped would be flexible enough for any classroom and for
the needs of any group of students. 167 Each chapter contained preparatory explanations, a
primary text, narrative stories, and final remarks. 168 The letter to the school master used bold to
highlight the ways the text should be used by teacher and student in order to make this
knowledge permanent, whereas Lavisse italicized the different names of each exercise or
component of the text itself. 169 The limited detail of the texts served a particular purpose, which
Lavisse, Colin, 1887.
Ibid, 3:”The programs do not go into any detail and we did that on purpose. They provide a distribution
of subjects, as a framework in which the schoolmaster can move by measuring his teaching to the intelligence and
to the degree of prior learning of his students
Ibid, 3: “Les résumés places à la fin des chapitres et la révision générale qui termine le volume devront
être appris par Coeur mais tout le reste: explications préparatoires, texte, récits, réflexions, devra être l’objet
d’une lecture attentive, plusieurs fois répétées et suivie de questions et d’un dialogue entre maître et élèves. »
Ibid, 3. Words in boldface included : travail personnel, appris par cœur, une lecture attentive, de
questions, un dialogue, parler au cœur de l’écolier, réfléchir, aider, les amener à comprendre, a sentir comme on
sent soi-même. »
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he sought to emphasize by describing the wide variety of teaching methods to which the text was
applicable. Assignments such as small written homework and conversation on these short
chapters would:
…speak to the heart of the student, and we do not speak to the heart by mechanical
processes. We must let students reflect, help them, lead them to understand as we
understand, to feel as we feel, and initiate them together to the knowledge of our history
and to the cult of the patrie.170
This format itself demonstrated a conscious effort to build new pedagogical methods for teaching
history and to engage students in a conversation about history and nation through which, it was
assumed, they would learn to think exactly as did their instructors. Even if the heart does not
learn in a mechanical way, as Lavisse suggested, this text established the mechanism of
repetition, question, answer, and response that defined national history instruction.
The third of the textbook’s parts treated Joan of Arc, but her name figured nowhere in the
Table of Contents, the chapter having been named for Charles VII. 171 In this chapter, whose
subsections were numbered from 207 to 252, Joan of Arc was the subject of 209 to 230, or five
pages of text. These pages included the fifth “récit,” or story for narration, in the chapter. Rather
than treating a particular episode of her life, the récit reinforced the entire arc of her short life,
beginning with her trip to see the Dauphin in Chinon and ending with a reflection on her death.
Though it did not explicitly describe her as a young person, it juxtaposed her enthusiasm and
youthful faith in the nation with the poor faith of the French elders; that only she was right
implied the greater moral power of youth in supporting the patrie. Describing her as “the most
brave of the soldiers,” it made clear that “Joan had no fear.” 172 Lavisse’s récit celebrated
Ibid, 3.
Ibid, 51.
Ibid, 53.
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“eternally the history of this peasant French girl…she believed, said, and repeated that France
would never die!” 173 This Lavisse juxtaposed with the “noble” and “knowing” men who
“believed all was finished” for France and who prepared to “surrender to the king of England.”
The récit, meant to be read aloud, ended on the note that “It was the faith of Joan of Arc in
France which saved France. The history of this heroic peasant girl must end by the cry: Vive la
France!” 174 Such a reading taught that a young person’s faith in the nation, even if considered
innocent and naïve, was righteous and ultimately rewarded by history and by memory.
The text itself introduced Joan by saying in section number 212 and 213 that “A peasant
girl, Jeanne Darc, saved the nation,” a girl who “as a child heard of our misfortunes” and who
“thought of them always.”
Eschewing totally the question of whether Joan interacted with
angels or saints, Lavisse wrote only – and in a matter of two sentences - that she believed “voices
in the heaven” commanded her to fight for her king. 176 This evidence of his Republican politics
repeated in his treatment of the Dauphin and king Charles VII; Joan the peasant girl suffered
“heroically” in death because “the King of France did nothing to save her who had given him his
kingdom.” 177 Joan, set in opposition to the King, was the good servant of the people, a good
Republican hero responsible for a sentiment of French unity. The final remarks, or réflexions, on
Book II reiterated this:
Ibid, 55.
Ibid, 56.
Ibid, 52. Lavisse wrote her name both as Jeanne Darc and Jeanne d’Arc, the prior being the Republican
spelling, the latter the conservative spelling that sought to tie her to a noble lineage in orthography.
Despite this, he also explicitly wrote that “The priests who were at the king’s side took her for a
sorceress, because in that time we believed in them” (53). His Republican and rationalist tendencies are clear in
both instances, but in the one it leads him to simplify, in the other to go beyond the necessary description and step
outside the text with the first person.
Ibid, 55.
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Before this war… everyone had their own little patrie and no one loved, even knew, the
grande patrie… France risked to become English… There was faith in Jeanne Darc, who
had faith in France. For the first time then Frenchmen loved the grande patrie, loved it
above all things and understood that it is glorious to fight and to die for her. 178
The result of this war was “making the country dearer to its children.” In this light, the goal of
this textbook was to also make France dearer to its schoolchildren; it was not meant for deaf ears.
Other components of the text that highlighted the Pucelle included study questions that
emphasized her heroism and her childhood origin: “By whom was the patrie saved? – Where
was Jeanne Darc born? How did she spend her childhood?” 179 Finally, two of the ten essays that
completed Book II, each of which – according to the page’s clear instructions- “have to be of
one and a half pages or more” in order to assure comprehension and depth, asked students to
retell her story and how it led to the modern French nation. In comparison with later textbooks,
Lavisse’s treatment of Joan of Arc and of history in general appears almost stark, even if
streamlined on pedagogical principle. Yet his textbook’s few powerful statements about national
sentiment and about Joan as a peasant, warrior, and hero established her as the icon of truth and
of righteous love of country. Even if he did not explicitly exploit her age in order to connect with
students, the cause-and-effect relationship Lavisse drew between the agency of Joan of Arc and
the rebirth of France neatly aligned love of Joan of Arc with love of the patrie.
Although Lavisse’s 1913 textbook falls outside the chronology of the Thalamas Affair,
the fascinating exercise of comparing this later edition with that of 1887 reveals significant shifts
in how he chose to attack her as a subject. In general, he chose to present history in a more
friendly and “familiar” way to children and thus achieve “the hoped-for results” that history
Ibid, 60.
Ibid, 52.
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teaching had apparently yet to accomplish. 180 Although Joan would have been one of myriad
figures and events to undergo a make-over, the changes from 1887 to the eve of World War I in
how the general political culture understood Joan of Arc make two texts fascinating bookends to
these prewar shifts. While we cannot take the 1913 document as reflective of the atmosphere of
1904, it is nonetheless instructive. By 1913, the teaching of history had evolved such that
pedagogues did not entice the teacher to make history come alive; they would make it come alive,
and they would write to children and for children “an idea of the ways and customs of our
fathers… let them know the greatest personages of our history.” 181 History, even in its most
“elementary elements,” had to be appealing: “That is all, and I believe it is enough.”182
Like his earlier Petit Lavisse, the pedagogue divided the text into four books. 183 In his
Table of Contents, Joan of Arc figured in the title of three chapters, one of only four figures to be
mentioned by name and thus to be used to subdivide French history (the others being Henry IV,
Louis XIII, Louis XIV, and Napoleon). 184 The structure of the text, in terms of its pedagogical
resources, outline, and methodology, did not change significantly, but did offer much more
description. Less was left to the imagination, more direction given to the mind of the child
reading the text. These two dramatic changes served to perpetuate, dramatize, and affirm the
value of heroes and of Joan of Arc above all as child actors on the stage of political culture and
in the setting of the classroom. The text itself introduced the idea of Joan of Arc before it
introduced her, as her name first appeared in Book III Chapter 8 “The Hundred Years War until
Joan of Arc.” While this chapter had nothing to do with her specifically, it chapter introduced the
Ernest Lavisse, Histoire de France : cours élémentaire, Paris : (Armand Colin, 1913), iii.
Ibid, ii.
Ibid, iii.
His « Avant-Propos » explained his methodology, with its italics, paragraphs, questionnaires, and other
subdivisions to make the content easier to instruct.
Ibid, 181.
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idea of a heroic child in its description of Philippe, the “enfant” and son of the King Jean le Bon,
attributing to him “The courage of a child of France.” 185 This was in boldface type on the page.
Lavisse constructed from this pair a moving image of a father and son aligned in battle for
France.186 Young French people, and teaching them to have courage befitting their ancestors,
was a theme brought to a climax in the self-sacrifice of Joan of Arc
When students turned a few pages to Chapter 9, “Joan of Arc,” they met with an
illustration of her childhood home in Domrémy atop the page, and two illustrations of her as a
shepherdess and as a warrior. Lavisse wrote in a two-sentence chapter summary that “The
English were going to take Orleans, when it was saved by Joan of Arc.” 187 In contrast to the
earlier text, Lavisse dwelled on Joan’s life before meeting the Dauphin at Chinon over three
pages, divided into “Her Childhood,” “Joan of Arc at Vaucouleurs,” and “Joan of Arc Goes to
the King.” The first began with her parents, described as poor peasants who loved France; the
image of the small Joan listening to and crying because of the nation’s suffering returns. Rather
than skip the question of her divine inspiration, as he did in the 1887 text, Lavisse used what had
become the standard anticlerical and Republican tactic to avoid the issue, emphasizing that Joan
thought she was inspired. 188 His deliberate reconstruction of these episodes suggests a need to do
so, one that had evolved since 1887 and that reflected the desire to, by describing, define and
limit the possible interpretations of this controversial point in the story. Equally or more
significantly for our purposes, he punctuated this short section of text with the statement, given
as its own paragraph, “She was only thirteen.” Though other textbooks published between 1887
Ibid, 64.
Ibid, 63.
Ibid, 70.
Ibid,70: “she thought she saw a great light… it seemed to her that the voices came from heaven…She
thought the voice belonged to the archangel.”
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and 1913 made points about her youth with equal brevity and equal force, this was exceptional
chez Lavisse. The following pages of Lavisse’s textbook acted to emphasize that love of nation
– not a miracle or the love of God -made all possible, and transformed even this simple poor
peasant girl and inexperienced warrior into the savior of the nation.
Lavisse punctuates the remainder of her story with direct references to her youth, again a
significant change from the 1887 text when implicit juxtapositions made a similar point but in a
weaker way.189 Scholarship has studied in depth the different ways Joan was written. 190 Here, not
only did the representation of her as a young hero attempt to resonate with the spirits of readers,
but Lavisse’s repeated addresses to young readers, using the second person plural, drew them
further into the telling of the story. 191 The reader belonged to the crowd that thronged around her
and that basked in her glorious aura in Orleans, in the cathedrals, and in the Place du Marche at
her death. The illustrations, sometimes etchings of paintings in the Pantheon, sometimes handdrawings, contributed to the emotion and sense of ownership Lavisse was cultivating in the
reader for these events. Images such as Joan entering Orleans, standing beside the King in the
Cathedral of Reims, and at the stake directly complimented the “Vous” address which put them
in the crowd. The pedagogue’s subtle dropping of pronouns came to a more dramatic point with
the two italicized sentences that ended her story in the text: “Joan had saved France, because the
English, a few years after her death, were chased from our country. / All Frenchmen must love
Ibid, 71-76. “When the English attacked Orleans, she was 17,” (71); “The companions of her were afraid.
It was she, the young one, who reassured them” (72); “She came and went thus to give courage to all. And the
soldiers admired this young girl so brave and they obeyed her” (74); “Why did the king, the bishops and the great
lords reunite in the beautiful church? Because Joan, the little peasant girl, conquered the English and drove to
Reims the king who did not dare go there” (76).
See Provencher and Eilderts.
Lavisse offered sentences such as « The people of Orleans ran around her. You would have seen them
take her hands and or hug her knees” (74); when describing the coronation of the Dauphin at Reims, “You would
have seen in the chorus of the church the king on his knees…” upon her death, “You would have seen her, her eyes
raised to the sky, she who commanded armies was there alone…” (78).
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with all their hearts the admirable Joan who died for her king, for France, for us.” 192
Linguistically there exist few alternatives for “our” and “us,” or “nos” and “nous,” but
stylistically, this sentiment of obligation Lavisse might have expressed differently. He might
have invoked the nation or the patrie; he might have continued to use “vous” rather than shift to
the first person. Rather than only describe the vague concept of the nation and rather than target
the audience with the second person, he chose to include the young readers as part of a greater
community which shared its debt to this young heroine. The point of her story was not
necessarily her and her sacrifice, but them and their sacrifice in imitation and in remembrance of
her. Lavisse’s textbook Joan was no longer left open to even the slightest interpretation: she was
the savior responsible for a modern, patriotic, and secular France to which the young readers and
their parents belonged. As we shall see through his public speeches to those same young readers,
Lavisse’s public intellectual profile put the adult on the right side of history by celebrating the
contribution of the youngest French men and women, in the years anticipating that contribution
in World War I.
Just as Ernest Lavisse’s career allowed him to cross between instruction, curriculum,
policy, and administration, many others, including Désiré Blanchet and Jules Pinard, also
experienced this mobility. These two figures and their respective texts demonstrate the spirit of
collaboration in the elaboration of a textbook history. Dwarfed in the annals of history by the
memory of a figure such as Lavisse, their works likely less circulated and less utilized by the
school system, Blanchet and Pinard nonetheless bring us closer to the Thalamas Affair in their
works’ chronology as well as in their relationships with the Affair’s key figures. As such, even if
these documents repeated certain themes found in Lavisse’s 1913 textbook, their nuances
Ibid, 78.
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construct a more coherent view of how historical burdens and historical legacies were introduced
in the context of the classroom.
As the proviseur, headmaster, of Lycée Condorcet from 1899 through and after the
Thalamas Affair of 1904, Désiré Blanchet was heavily implicated in the investigations by the
Minister of Public Instruction. 193 In 1899, he published the seventh edition of his Histoire
Nationale et notions sommaires d’Histoire Générale, depuis les origines jusqu’en 1610.
Although written for the secondary school education of young girls, this “complete course” for
first year students at the lycée level, the pedagogue did not differentiate between education for
girls and education for boys in his introduction to the new edition. He wrote that historical study
was “attached to the essential traits of development of the French nationality.” By this statement,
Blanchet made cultivating an understanding of nationality – not nation, not nationalism, but
nationality – the objective of the text. Nationality as an idea, charged with the pseudo-scientific
theories of race and nation, reflects both physical and political belonging. Blanchet characterized
nationality as a latent genetic trait strengthened, and never undermined, by a particular vision of
history. France, he believed, would be “what Pascal said of humanity, one large being that exists
in perpetuity,” if “an idea of nation, of the duties it imposes, and of the sacrifices she demands”
was as natural to the youngest generations as the biological functions of blood and breathing. 195
Born in 1844, and himself an alumnus of Condorcet, he spent 1889 to 1892 as the registrar of the
institution, before becoming the proviseur at Lycée Fenelon – a school for adolescent girls – and returning to
Condorcet. Blanchet was also, however, an aggregated history teacher who had taught at the Lycées Charlemagne
and Fenelon.
Désiré Blanchet, Histoire Nationale et notions sommaires d’histoire générale depuis les origines jusqu’en
1610, 7th ed. Paris : (Librairie Classique Eugene Belin, 1899). Blanchet also wrote, alongside fellow history
professor Jules Toutain, L’Histoire de France à l’école: Cours élémentaire et moyen that covered from the Gauls to
1919, and entered its 19th edition in 1926.
Blanchet, 5.
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Chapter XV of the textbook treated “Charles VII and Joan of Arc: Patriotism, France
Reconquered, and National Feeling.” 196 Blanchet had structured the textbook with a part for
each of the three academic trimesters, each part divided into about ten lessons, declared
sufficient to last from October to the middle of June. 197 This chapter fell in the second trimester;
as with all chapters, Blanchet offered a summary of the lesson on the first page, followed by
twenty-five subsections and a “Lecture” to be read aloud and copied by students for orthographic
instruction. In the summary of the lesson, Blanchet wrote that “patriotism and religion gave Joan
of Arc to France” and that she “convinced the people she had a divine mission…” 198 Blanchet
deliberately avoided stressing religion over patriotism, following the example of historians Jules
Michelet and Jules Quicherat by insisting that Joan believed in her divine mission, not that it was
necessarily divine. Her desire to crown the Dauphin made him “the true king for the people”; as
a result, her action was for the people. That emphasis on the nation, and of Joan’s contribution to
its people, resonated more palpably later in the chapter. That Blanchet used the word “national”
in the chapter’s title to describe the pre-Modern period was indeed anachronistic, but reflected
how he instrumentalized the Joan of Arc episode, particularly the delivery of Orleans, as “the
awakening of national sentiment.” He wrote that with the siege of Orleans, “The French began to
feel like citizens of the same nation, supporting the same cause, enemies of the same
adversary…We already felt palpitating the heart of a New France, the soul of the patrie.” 199 The
Rise of Joan of Arc was the Rise of France, but the rise also of a common French people – in
Ibid, 274- 288.
The First Trimester covered from Gaul and the Roman invasion through the Merovingians, Carolingiens,
Crusades, and 13th century. The Second Trimester began with the Hundred Years war under Philippe le Bel, and
finished with Europe at the turn of the 16th century. The Third Trimester, correspondingly, covered only from 1500
to 1610.
Blanchet, 274. He set Joan’s story in the context of a life or death situation for the country: “Charles
was going to lose Orleans, the key of the Midi region, until patriotism…” etc.
Ibid, 276.
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contrast with the nobility - capable of saving itself. Invoking the “citoyen” (citizen) here was as
anachronistic as invoking “national feeling.” Yet it was the very collapsing of concepts such as
citizenship and nationalism, so particular to modern and Republican France, with the medieval
heroism of Joan of Arc that had merit. Anachronism acted in the service of a pre-destined,
transcendent historical narrative that gave Joan of Arc ahistorical clout for the young of the
twentieth century.
Within the chapter, seven subsections focused on Joan. The first allowed Blanchet to
position her as the pre-destined savior of her nation, even from her childhood and youth. The
writer portrayed her not as a fighter but as a witness to “her brothers and friends covered with
blood” from fighting the English. 200 Blanchet made this the first step in her initiation to her
patriotic duty. The likelihood of this occurring in Alsace-Lorraine, far from the warring valleys
of the Loire, paled in importance to teaching readers to feel compassion with their countrymen.
Evoking casualties of the Franco-Prussian War, this short passage used fear and pathos to force
textbook readers to see what Joan saw, and to feel the same anger and pathos. Blanchet’s Pucelle,
“Overwhelmed by pity for the kingdom of France and taken bit by bit by a desire to save it,”
would exemplify the journey from witness to avenger that the young readers had to undertake.
This same passage also allowed Blanchet to mitigate the problem of Joan’s “voices,” portraying
her as awakened to duty first by the sacrifices and bloodshed of the people, and then by
otherworldly inspiration. 201 He wrote that, for five years, Joan had heard unidentified “voices”
urging her to save the nation, before disclosing this to her parents. The careful development of an
innocent, young pre-Chinon Joan made the “Inspiration” not an inspiration at all, but a
progressive initiation to duty as a French person to national service.
Ibid, 277.
Ibid, 277.
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Secularizing her vocation, Blanchet still exploited parallels to messianic discourse and
therefore made her the shining hero of the people. Her value to France he defined as a
combination of boundless enthusiasm and boundless sacrifice: years of her youth for the
betterment of the country. The example of grace under pressure, her “pride and naïve simplicity”
confounded both the French elders and English enemies who frustrated her efforts. Her parents
failed to contain “the energetic resistance of this young girl,” when they tried to force her to stay
in Lorraine. Blanchet, though he described her as a “simple pious girl, hardworking, with a big
heart,” did not stress her gender but did stress her youthful spirit of working, sometimes against
the wishes of established authorities, in the greater interests of France. 202 The “heroic young
girl… overcame all dangers” in coming to Chinon and “she astonished the entire world by deeds
that seemed supernatural.” That boldness and enthusiasm won her the love of soldiers (the
symbolic equivalent and fore-runner of the modern French citizens and soldiers), who became
“full of confidence in her, following her everywhere, united and disciplined.” 203 Her service to
nation continued in the “Superior idea of simplicity and boldness!” to crown the king, thereby
“in the eyes of the people, proving his right.” Only when injured “in protecting her retreating
forces” did the Burgundians take her prisoner and did the army lose. While historians of the time
disagreed as to whether or not Joan had been wrong to order this attack – thereby, as some
believed, leading to her own demise – Blanchet made her sacrifice the priority and her “hardiesse”
(boldness) the example. Describing her trial, the writer positioned the English as hoping to
Ibid, 277. The description of her personality, limited to “a simple pious girl, hardworking, with a big
heart,” certainly would have induced a reflection on her gender but was not itself extremely gendered. Of note
further is that the only image offered of her, a drawing of a statue, portrayed the Pucelle in armor, with cut hair,
holding her sword to her breast, her head turned down towards the ground, and one foot off the pedestal. There is
no religious reference in the image.
Ibid, 278.
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“dishonor along with her the cause that she so valiantly defended:” Joan and national interest
appeared one for the English and for the textbook reader.
In his discussion of Joan’s trial and death at the stake in Rouen, the pedagogue provided
an example for the young reader of youth empowered by love of nation to think only of the
nation. The courageous young savior of France, he wrote, “She, who had saved the people and
whom the people abandoned, expressed in her dying moments (what an admirable kindness of
soul!) only a compassion for that people.” 204 Positioning her as a patriotic prophetess, as a
messianic figure announcing the kingdom and nation of France to come, Blanchet appealed to
the religiously oriented without alienating Republicans who saw the people, not God, as the
ultimate voice in society. He negotiated a unifying, anachronistically nationalistic narrative that
avoided the divisive elements of her religious character and presented an exemplary Joan of Arc
whose youthful simplicity, enthusiasm, and sheer boldness made a victory, and ultimately made
France, possible. 205 Her story, falling halfway through the textbook, presented a young person as
responsible for a turning point in the nation’s history, as a tangible example of contributions
young readers were told to make looking towards 1914.
Blanchet’s textbook was not the sole on the market, yet rarely did these other texts
deviate far from his model. Given the elite character of Lycée Condorcet, many of these texts,
and not simply those by Blanchet, were authored by aggregated historians and teachers tied to
the institution. For instance, Jules Pinard, another history teacher at Condorcet, both collaborated
Ibid, 281.
Even to the end, Blanchet danced around the question of whether or not she was a legitimately divinely
inspired figure. The last lines on her in the textbook are given to a distant, clearly imagined third party, the English
king’s secretary, who reports back to his leader saying that “Ten thousand men wept… We are lost, we have
burned a saint!”
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with Blanchet on a few volumes while producing his own.
In his textbook specifically on the
Middle Ages, Chapter VII treated “France and England: Charles VII and Joan of Arc,”
reminding his lycéen readers “Of what abyss France had had to raise herself from! The young
English king had it all going for him” while Charles VII “was gaily losing his kingdom.” 207 He
work exemplified a trend among many of school textbooks: the repetition of specific language
and requirement of homage made through citations of canonical monographs on France. Pinard,
for example, used the exact same language as did Blanchet to introduce Joan of Arc as part of the
birth of a national sentiment among a citizen population in the Middle Ages. While both works
cited Michelet’s Histoire de France for a few specifically-attributed quotations, no other
footnotes suggest that these passages had been excerpted from a larger work and adapted from
there for a younger, school-age audience. Beyond this section, many sentences appeared in one
text exactly as they did in the other. 208 Those repetitions prove the close relationship between
teachers, historians, pedagogues and textbook writers, as well as the existence of a revolving
door between these professions that made their shared messages about history a constant one.
What is more, they reveal Joan of Arc model that, with a hearty dose of anachronistic
Jules Pinard, Histoire du Moyen Age. Bibliothèque de l’Echo de la Sorbonne, Paris: (Librairie de l’Echo de
la Sorbonne). Other works of Pinard’s included Enseignement primaire. Cours élémentaire. Histoire de France.
Entretiens et récits sur les principaux personnages et les grands faits, Paris : Echo de la Sorbonne, 1905.
Collaborations between the two pedagogues included Cours Complet D'Histoire de France, first edition 1890 and
published at least until 1903; Préparation au brevet élémentaire. Cours complet d'histoire de France. (Ancien Cours
supérieur), in its 15th edition in 1907 ; Histoire de France, récits et entretiens: Cours supérieur, 3e année
d'enseignement ; and Premières leçons d'histoire de France : Cours d'histoire à l'usage de l'enseignement primaire,
1914. For running lists of the edited and published texts of both authors from 1901-1908, see the Google Books
collection of the Catalogue général des livres imprimés de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris: (Imprimerie Nationale.
Ibid, 458.
Ibid, 460. The paragraph read, “What counted more was the awakening of national feeling…The French
began to feel as citizens of the same patrie, supporting the same cause, enemies to the same adversary.” The
paragraph changed from there to describe a quarrel between Charles VI and Henri VI over who was the “natural
and sovereign lord of France.” Later, he described that “Joan often saw her brothers and her friends return
covered in blood. She had pity for the kingdom of France, and she was taken by a desire to save it.” Pinard also
wrote that “ she astonished the entire world by deeds that seemed supernatural,” (462); that “She was taken in
protecting her retreating forces by the Bastard of Vendome,” (464); that “the brief and naïve simplicity of her
responses confounded the tribunal,” (465); and the description of her burning repeated almost word by word that
in Blanchet.
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nationalism, tempered the divisive religious question by framing her life as, first and foremost, a
fable of young citizen heroism.
In between the passages his text shared with Blanchet, several paragraphs uniquely
Pinard’s own displayed how a common model still allowed room for particular innovations and
for exploiting certain nuances of the history. One addition to Pinard’s text, the introduction of
Joan of Arc, made the common model of citizen heroism much less subtle than did his
sometimes collaborator. Joan arrived in his text as an apparition, a leader of her nation almost
sprung from the French earth and endowed from birth with a specific goal: “Along came Joan of
Arc. This daughter of the people led the people with her, and she took on the job [entreprit] of
putting the Englishman outside of France.” 209 Pinard married the invocation of certain messianic
language about the Pucelle with the activity, enthusiasm, and spirit captured by the French verb
entreprendre. He repeatedly used forms of this verb, capturing its sense of energy but also risk
for one invested in a “project” of national renewal. 210 As a young girl, a “true shepherd girl, a
real strong girl of the country side,” she shied from her calling to defend the nation: she “found
the enterprise above her powers” until five years later “she decided to act.” Pinard made her the
driver of the progressive actions and physical journey which led her from her parent’s home in
Domrémy to the royal seat in Chinon.
When leading the army, she “took the direction of
Ibid, 460.
Ibid, 464. Blanchet uses the verb once or twice, not to the extent and power that Pinard did.
Some of this text was shared with the Blanchet text; it is more important to note the ways that a
stronger discursive emphasis on one element or another changes the reading of the shared components. Pinard
used versions of entreprendre and entreprise to start several different paragraphs describing her agency, whether
in the rooms at court or in military campaigns. She “opened the project to her father, who declared that he would
sooner drown her by his own hand. She went to see her uncle, who welcomed her and was persuaded. The
Captain Baudricourt, who commanded Vaucouleurs and whom she demanded help, dismissed her… But he was
nonetheless overcome by the energetic insistence of the young girl; the Pucelle had won the people, and all alive
with the great voice of the multitude, she said that she would ruin her legs up to the knees rather than disobey the
instructions of her saints” (462). See Pinard, 460-462.
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affairs, by the right of a soul strong in its ingenuity and serene in its force.” 212 The presentation
of a young girl taking such authority could have lent itself to a reflection on her gender and the
framing of her extraordinary deeds as extraordinary for a girl. Yet Pinard did not engage with the
question of her gender in any significant or explicit way, a trait shared with Blanchet but made
more striking by Pinard’s more directed focus on her agency. Joan’s story was not declared
extraordinary because she was a girl. It was extraordinary because it represented the power of the
young and seemingly unauthoritative to significantly transform the driver, the machine, and the
product of governmental authority. Pinard’s four-hundred seventy page text concluded with
Charles VII, the Dauphin whom Joan raised to king, and so practically the text continued only
five pages beyond her death. That Pinard wrote of Charles, “ungrateful to Joan of Arc,” that with
the help of her and another local hero did “two great deeds: the conquest of the kingdom and the
reform of the government,” emphasized the tangible result of infusing a new, young lifeblood
into a system characterized as unresponsive, “cruel and indecent.”
Pinard varied from Blanchet in another significant way by using rhetorical questions and
asides as transitions between paragraphs. One of these meant to respond to a young reader’s
possible reflection on different medieval reactions to the Pucelle, but by doing so minimized and
otherwise avoided divisive religious or political questions. The author deliberately stepped
outside the narrative to underline those aspects that the collectivity could embrace, a choice more
The full quotation read thus: “… she gained the simple People in Poitiers as in everywhere, she reduced
detractors to silence, the crooked to apologies, the reasoning ones to faith, and took direction of affairs, by the
right of a soul strong in its ingenuity and serene in its force,” (462).
Ibid, 468-9. This part of the text related to Charles was shared with Blanchet. PInard used a different
conclusion to his text with this sentence thematic and streamlined to the point of generality: “The history of the
Middle Ages ended with the reign of Charles VII. From which moment, the power of kings became absolute, the
third estate raised itself by riches to business, national wars led to feudal wars, diplomacy assumed a large part in
the dealings of kings, the discovery of America and of the Cape of Good Hope opened up human activity to a
greater sphere, the Renaissance renewed the arts and letters, the mix of interests, of passions, and of ideas
became more lively and more stressed. The modern age began,” (470).
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informed by the clerical and secular battles of his moment than by the struggles of the Hundred
Years’ War. He wrote:
What explanations did we not give to the calling of Joan of Arc? One declared that this
simple girl of the people had an intuition of the people’s democratic power; another that
she possessed the gift of second sight; another that she was the incarnated spirit of druids.
Let us content ourselves to tell of her deeds, to show that those deeds were like miracles,
and let those who do not believe in miracles throw on this admirable life whatever light
they wish. 214
This teacher and textbook writer, stepping completely outside the text, addressed her religious
significance but left it to others to debate. His purpose, and that of his text, was not to debate her
divine mission or messianic identity but to recount her extraordinary deeds. The indisputable
outcomes, while not eliminating the desire to ask how her deeds were inspired and explained,
weighed more than the disputable explanations. In his list of three explanations for her “calling,”
Pinard invoked several of the major (non-religious) theories proposed in the Third Republic as
reasons as to why anyone would follow her. These explanations assume that faith would not
suffice.215 Pinard dismissed all of these, claiming instead that her example as a Daughter of the
People who served the nation, suffered “assassination,” for it, and helped move France from the
Middle Ages to the modern era, was the more critical take-away.216 The author therefore
Ibid, 468-9.
Dating from the Middle Ages, there is a history of claiming that the tree under which she heard these
voices was actually a fairy tree, and that she did not hear voices of saints at all, but rather was the victim of ancient
magic. This sought to explain why she did not succeed in conquering Paris. This interpretation, among the first to
de-sanctify the Pucelle, eventually evolved into the belief that she had hallucinated, a belief endorsed by Thalamas
and Anatole France. The tradition of calling them “her voices” dated from Jules Michelet and sought to leave the
source of these voices open to interpretation. Rarely, however, is this ambiguity addressed explicitly in texts as
Pinard addressed it.
Ibid, 467. PInard used a different conclusion to his text than did Blanchet, evidently, given that his work
focused exclusively on the Middle Ages. His one-line closing, thematic and streamlined to the point of generality,
offered a reflection on the transformative reorganization of France in the Middle Ages that led closer to the
modern era: “The history of the Middle Ages ended with the reign of Charles VII. From which moment, the power
of kings became absolute, the third estate raised itself by riches to business, national wars led to feudal wars,
diplomacy assumed a large part in the dealings of kings, the discovery of America and of the Cape of Good Hope
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negotiated a Johannic history that made room for alternative ideas and did not offend the
sensibility of a reader. Rather, it remained for the individual to fill the vacuum of historical
ambiguity. By thus eschewing controversy, he empowered the young reader to fill the vacuum
and pick his own vision of history, inspired by “whatever light” he wished. For Joan of Arc to be
a point of unification, the model of the young citizen crafted from her image had to have the
flexibility to encompass any belief system. That writers such as Pinard addressed and dismissed
this question did not, in the end, make it less relevant. Looking forward to the Thalamas Affair,
Pinard’s approach contradicted that which students asserted Thalamas took, that which called for
a “complete demolition of the legend of Joan of Arc.” 217
Both Blanchet and Pinard pulled components of their texts from the great histories of
France, particularly those by Jules Michelet, such as his nineteen-volume Histoire de France
completed in 1867. Michelet as a figure in French history has spawned many studies and inspired
other scholars to engage more seriously and more scientifically with the French past. 218 This
included Jules Quicherat, the archeologist and historian responsible for translating and
publishing the records of Joan of Arc’s trial and later rehabilitation. Blanchet’s textbook offered
a “Lecture” on “The Calling of Joan of Arc” pulled from Michelet. The practice of reading aloud
passages to be copied was part and parcel to the French school experience, used to reinforce the
subject matter while also teaching grammar and spelling. This passage was meant to be
memorized and incorporated seamlessly into the student consciousness.
opened up human activity to a greater sphere, the Renaissance renewed the arts and letters, the mix of interests,
of passions, and of ideas became more lively and more stressed. The modern age began,” (470).
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés:
Débats Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel).
Please see the bibliography’s cited works of Amalvi, Bouzy, Bruter, DiVanna, Garcia, Kedward, Zeldin,
but above all Krumeich for a closer discussion of Michelet and his contribution to Johannic Studies.
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Blanchet chose seven short excerpts, with some ellipses between them, but that treated
only her life as a child in Domrémy. In this light, her childhood had as much (or possibly more)
merit as an instructional tool for the young student as did her heroic exploits. With this selection,
Blanchet suggested, heroism belonged as much to the young and to children as to the enlisted. In
the Michelet passage he chose, the Pucelle was introduced as “the beautiful and brave girl who
had to bear so well the sword of France.” 219 Despite this gesture towards her military feats, the
passage Blanchet chose emphasized instead the contribution that the young could make to the
war effort long before entering the field of battle. During the years of “wars without pity whose
memories will never be erased,” young boys went to the fields with their fathers while Joan
stayed near her mother, learning to sew and learning her catechism. Despite Michelet’s
demarcation of gender roles, he made her gendered occupations reflect a commitment to the war
effort: before her calling, she served Lorraine, France and the people by receiving “the poor
fugitives” of the war, and, “the good girl, she gave them her bed and went to sleep in the
stable.” 220 Blanchet included a sentence which described Joan’s family returning, after fleeing
the enemy, to find the “village sacked, the house devastated, the church burned;” for a young
readership so exposed to representations of a similarly devastated, post 1871, province of
Lorraine, such a phrase – even if written by Michelet before the Franco-Prussian War – would
have had an immediate political resonance. The image of Joan, led by the harsh realities of
military defeat to her future as savior of the nation, found its modern parallel in the political
culture’s positioning of the young of the Third Republic as led through the same atmosphere of
defeat towards the same destiny of national Revanche.
Blanchet, 288.
Ibid, 288.
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The end of the excerpt of Michelet brought the young user of the textbook to the question
of Joan’s calling, humanizing the young figure such that her heroism might seem more
accessible to the reader – and more capable for the reader to embody. Michelet had set a
historiographical precedent by offering many potential explanations for the voices, reminding
readers that she likely believed in “the fairy legends, the daydreams of the common folk.” When
he described the voice of her calling, he exploited ambiguous language, calling its form that of a
“noble figure which seemed to her to have wings, and might have been a wise counselor
[prud’homme].”221 Sexless and faceless, this figure, as captured by Michelet, ordered her to
return the “kingdom of France” to the Dauphin – neither to God nor in the name of any divine
force. The “trembling” girl claimed that she “[would not know] how to ride a horse nor to lead
men at arms” but the voice ignored this, demanding that she seek out the Captain of Vaucouleurs
who would take her, with the saints’ support, to the king. Though the saints Catherine and
Marguerite received mention, God appeared nowhere in this text; the pressing needs of the
French people were more important to highlight. The selection Blanchet chose left the reader
with an image of Joan the young peasant girl “stunned and in tears, as if she had already seen her
entire destiny.” 222 Yet, to tie this ending sentence to the first which Blanchet chose to include,
the point was not that she had already seen her destiny and martyrdom before her. It was that,
having seen it, she went to it in the name of France. The choice of these passages for a “Lecture”
did not simply reveal a further measure that members of the educational establishment took to
single out the Johannic legend in the national history. It revealed how different historians’
versions of her history melded together and added one to another. The historical subject matter,
and the values it stressed, was important but so too was the history of French history; the texts
Ibid 288.
Ibid, 288.
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familiarized readers with the national icon Michelet, and used him as a support to the authors’
views on Joan of Arc. This textbook thus made itself the medium for a transcendent,
authoritative national narrative in which youth and youthful love of nation also had transcendent
Joan stood in history for what the young learners of history stood for in the present: the
promise of a future, the promise of domestic unity against a common enemy. Often minimizing
the divisive components of her history, the textbooks of the public educational system as a whole
followed the suite of the greater political culture. It established her as an exemplar of the young
lycéen’s duty to country and of the hope for France to rebuild herself on the convictions and
actions of the young. The adulatory rhetoric which pedagogues directed towards the lycéens and
lycéennes positioned young students of the Republican school as future saviors of the nation.
They had a duel obligation; represented as the descendants of Joan of Arc, they had a legacy of
young militant nationalism to embody. While works by Ernest Lavisse, Desire Blanchet, and
Jules Pinard from 1884 to the immediate pre-war displayed certain nuances in their approach to
her, they invested in making her a young hero destined for surprising greatness in a particular
moment of national strife. But that particular moment was represented as repeating itself in the
fin de siècle. As the next generation responsible for the Third Republic, the young were given an
as inheritance a political entity to strengthen and to defend. The movement of pedagogues
between the areas textbook writing, teaching, and bureaucratic or politicized occupations led this
discourse to flood the schools, from the institution’s establishment through and after the
Thalamas Affair. The leap from textbooks’ praises of the Pucelle to writings by innovators of
public education and its curricula is one not yet taken, and one that brings rich results. From the
commentaries of authors like Madame Alfred Fouillée and Georges Nouvel, to the speeches and
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tracts of the Republic’s luminaries, such as Paul Bert and others, each uses expressions of
youthful patriotism that align in significant and surprising ways.
One of the most used textbooks in primary education and republished into the twentieth
century, Le Tour de France par deux enfants had been ingrained in the popular culture by the
Thalamas Affair of 1904.223 As an example of pedagogy, its form and content had a lasting
influence on the educational environment and on the way that students were understood as actors
in the greater political culture. The author Madame Alfred Fouillée, under the pen name of
Giordano Bruno, spoke eloquently of the challenge of teaching the young how to embody
national loyalty. Especially true before the 1881 Jules Ferry Laws began to standardize
classrooms and schools, the text itself sought to address that challenge. In the preface, Bruno
addressed the teacher and explained the book’s potential contribution in the movement towards a
new civic and moral instruction. She wrote powerfully that “The knowledge of the nation is the
founding principle of all true civic instruction.” 224 Citing a common complaint that the young
simply did not know their nation well enough, by knowing it better, she asserted, “they would
love it better and thereby serve it better.” Evidently, that love depended on a positive idea of
France in the world and on its own soil, which a text could help impart. Yet the process of
sharing that worldview had no clear outline: “our teachers know how difficult it is to give the
child a clean and neat idea of the nation.” 225 If the patrie remained “for a child, something
abstract which could rest a foreign concept for many years,” the nation implicitly lost a piece of
itself. 226 The voyage across France of two children, initially ignorant of their cultural and
See Jacques and Mona Ozouf, “Le Tour de la France par deux enfants. »
Giordano Bruno, « Préface : Le Tour de France par deux enfants, » Paris : Belin, 1891, in Le
Nationalisme français, 1871-1914, ed. Raoul Girardet, Paris: (Armand Colin, 1966) 73-74.
Ibid, 74.
Ibid, 74.
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geographical landscape, presented young people integrating themselves, body and mind, into that
landscape. The nation became tangible, the student the embodiment of its new lease on life. The
process of learning national history went hand in hand with the process of creating young
citizenship characterized by enduringly youthful, unabashed, active, and engaged love of country,
capable of supporting the worst of bodily pain and sacrifice- values clear in the Joan of Arc story.
The text’s contribution was, however, an ambiguous one, for the book both objectified
young students as reservoirs of patriotic knowledge while empowering them to independently
and autonomously act out their belonging to the patrie. What exactly was the agency of the
children in this journey? The epic journey of learning and self-improvement, one of the oldest
literary genres, called for heroes, a role that the characters André and Julien filled. As young
boys traveling the nation alone, they showed a spirit of activity, of developing virility, of
budding courage. They had agency. Yet the lessons they learned – and that readers learned were a result of their willingness to learn and their capacity to serve as receptacles for the
national spirit. André and Julien were not merely actors. Paradoxically they were also objects,
the tabulae rasae filled by each region’s episodes, vignettes, and trope peasant storytellers. The
journey for the characters vicariously offered those same experiences to the young readers: “In
following the whole of the journey, school children are initiated bit by bit to practical and civil
instruction as well as moral instruction…” 227 History and geography lessons sought to bring out
in the young – both the characters and the readers – their passion for France, “striking the
spirit… [by making] the patrie visible and alive.” 228 In the conclusion, Andre and Julien declare
that they “will forever stay the children of France.” 229 That simple statement is a profound one.
Ibid, 74.
Ibid, 76.
Ibid, 76.
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The citizens of France, whether young like Andre and Julien at the end of the book or old as
these boys would later be, had the familial obligation to serve their mother country with love and
enthusiasm. In contrast with the nation, incomparably more ancient and more valuable than the
individual life, the citizen had to engage himself in a constant defense of that mother country.
For Andre and Julien to declare “we will stay French no matter what pain we must suffer” gave
them the authority to sacrifice themselves, but from their own will to do so.
The consequence
for the young reader receiving this example was necessarily to do the same. Sacrifice in the name
of the nation, evocative of Joan of Arc and the heroes of 1792, forced an uneasy reconciliation of
“youth as political actor” and “youth as political object.” Bruno encouraged young readers to
build a personal understanding of history and patrie that anchored their student-citizen identity in
a contract of love, defense and martyrdom if necessary. This model of young citizenship made
the young generation a permanent stakeholder in the political culture, yet, as the Thalamas Affair
highlighted later, the exercising of that authority did not always find clear or easy expression.
The bildungsroman or livre d’apprentissage approach to teaching history, as pioneered
by Bruno, did not fade away. Le Tour remained in publication but other newer textbooks
emerged using the same formula, but declaring themselves more suited to the “modern spirit.” 231
For example, the 1904 textbook Pierre et Jacques, ou l’Ecole de la Jeunesse sought to highlight
agriculture and industry. The text’s innovation lay, claimed author Georges Nouvel, in that turn
towards the economy which “Our masters of teaching wish… so texts could be in harmony with
Ibid, 76.
Georges Nouvel, Pierre et Jacques, ou L'école de la jeunesse : livre de lectures courantes, Paris: (Delalain
Frères, 1904).
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trends of the modern spirit.” 232 Trying to appease the educational establishment, he wrote that “It
would be the best recompense of our efforts if teachers esteemed this book, inspired from their
own desires, worthy of the title of “School of the Youth.’” 233 Yet this “book for our times”
embraced the same approach as Bruno pioneered decades earlier to creating a personal
connection for students with nation. Organized into three parts, “Enfance,” “Adolescence,” and
“Jeunesse,” “Childhood, Adolescence, and Youth,” with sets of questions attached to many
chapters in those parts, the text equated the process of maturing into jeunesse with that of
maturing into French citizenship. Even the process was the same, with a narrative format in
which young, active adolescent boys realize their potential as citizens by traveling. 234 Nouvel
claimed that he integrated economics to make their appearance “flattering” to readers and create
investment in national development – not unlike how national history would create investment in
the nation.235 At the end, “our two heroes can reap the fruit of their long labor and render
themselves useful to their people.” 236 Personal fulfillment in this particular, proscribed way
reflected awareness of patriotic duty, the hallmark of a good education.
Most of Nouvel’s text focused on the periods of adolescence and youth in André and
Jacques’ lives, but emphasized that wisdom and reason, and thus authority, began even earlier.
For this evidence, return to the first pages of the text, for which Nouvel had chosen a set of four
epigraphs. The first of them cited Voltaire: “What is the age when we know what is just and
Ibid, v. He further wrote that by looking to “amuse,” these lessons would “give to the student the love
of the just and true; inspire in him the desire to do his duty… to make him know, by description and drawing, the
many facets of France, such as its economic riches... this is the object that we have been proposed.”
Ibid, viii.
Nouvel’s book actually ends with these characters as young men married, and thus the length of time
that readers spent with the characters is greater than in Bruno, where the protagonists have aged by a few years.
Ibid, vii.
Ibid, vii.
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what is not? The age when we know that two and two make four.” 237 By introducing his textbook
with this of all quotes, Nouvel made even the child authoritative; age did not limit one’s ability
to tell right from wrong. By giving that power to the young reader, Nouvel necessarily gave him
responsibility. The subsequent quotations therefore each addressed different manifestations of
citizen responsibility, such as solidarity and brotherhood, education, and the relationship between
work and happiness. 238 Whether offered as simple flattery or as genuine feeling, these epigraphs
show the attractiveness of having students as active stakeholders in civil society. Nouvel’s
approach encouraged young readers to cultivate a sense of authority in themselves as young
French people and as representatives of Frenchness. This is significant for several reasons. First,
the lasting influence of Le Tour, as shown in Nouvel’s imitation, made the union of youthfulness
and national identity a lasting concept in pedagogical materials – therefore the young had
inherent value. Yet, as with Le Tour, that authority and value was given to them by adults and
textbook writers. The later significance of the Thalamas Affair lay in the suggestion that that
authority given to students through rhetoric could be taken from the adults of institutionalized
Republican education. The discourses of pedagogical leaders like Bruno and imitators like
Nouvel empowered the student by giving them and reminding them of their authority and
responsibility outside the classroom to the nation in general. It made the transformation from
ordinary young person to extraordinary young person into a matter of national duty. The
investment of the young in the existing system, as the physical bodies who represented the
nation’s future, reflected the stability of that system.
Ibid, iv.
Nouvel, iv. These quotes were attributed to nineteenth century Swiss philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel,
an anonymous source, and seventeenth century French philosopher Jean de la Bruyere, respectively. The Amiel
citation read “The best is he who commits himself the most.” The anonymous read “It is to be a bad citizen if we
do not know all that we have the possibility to learn.” The last, from La Bruyère, read “The idea of having merited
happiness is part of the making of it.”
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The marrying of youth to a new Third Republic French identity was a connection made
immediately by the educational system’s founders. The first Minister of Public Instruction, Paul
Bert, worked closely with Jules Ferry and the Louis Gambetta government in the most violent
period of reform in the 1880s and 1890s. A Republican Deputy representing the Yonne region of
Burgundy, the politician had also been a scholar and a physiologist established at the Sorbonne.
A self-declared rationalist, he was also possessed of a fiery rhetoric and pugnacious wit which he
employed without restraint and in the public relations campaigns necessary to distinguish the
new educational system. Bert, along with many other public officials, saw militarism as the
underpinning of a sustained Republic. However, that militarism had specific bodies attached to it,
the bodies of the young. As a speech given at the award ceremony of the Union Française de la
Jeunesse revealed, the student body had a particular role to play in the body politic. 239
Distinguishing the new educational system, the laboratory for a new type of student and new
type of citizen, meant distinguishing students in their own eyes.
Bert linked the spirit of youth embodied in students to the maintained vigor of the
Republic by focusing on the two fundamental elements of this group’s demographic identity: its
French nationality and its age. “Stay French!” he began; the rest of the speech attempted to
define that nationality for this particular demographic group as a combination of particular traits
with an overwhelming and youthfully enthusiastic love for France. Claiming that “good sense,
clarity, a good spirit, gaiety, [and] health of the soul,” were essential to French identity, he built a
Paul Bert, « A la jeunesse Française ! » Lecture, Union Française de la Jeunesse, 1880, in Le
Nationalisme français, 1871-1914, ed. Raoul Girardet, Paris : (Armand Colin, 1966) 72-74. This organization,
founded in 1875 in Paris as a center of secondary education counted among its early board members and founders
luminaries in pedagogy, academia, and politics, such as Jules Ferry, Louis Pasteur, and Jean Jaures. Such a
ceremony was clearly a public affair, and any speech a reflection of the state. The organization, still functioning,
opened a second location in Lille in 1885, and shut down its Paris branch after World War I.
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set of character norms for the student population. 240 This set of norms, especially once set in a
dichotomy with the norms on “the other side of the Alps,” fell on welcome ears, and notes from
the event show he received significant applause. 241 Yet this part of the speech served simply to
introduce the true directive: the embodiment and maintenance of French exceptionalism via the
pervasiveness of youthful energy. The aspirational character norms Bert presented to them, in
order that they not become like Germans and fall into treachery, were matched by an ideal they
already characterized perfectly as young people.
Thus from his fairly banal affirmation of national pride, he abruptly announced, “Next,
stay young!” 242 With this odd and paradoxical request – how does one stay young? – he made
youth appear as a universal French value. More than a time of life, youth was – in a paradoxical
turn of argument – a spirit of enthusiasm for the past and would last forever “if your hair whitens,
if your hair disappears…” because “the heart has no wrinkles!” 243 Bert rendered the French
person’s soul as a reservoir of the national spirit, capable of keeping the young forever young if
they kept “prudently these treasures of noble sentiments which young people too often throw to
the four winds of the sky… [may that] you would have accumulated and kept them precious deep
inside yourself.” 244 His metaphor positioned the young as reservoirs of youth and French vigor,
resources to the nation needing surveillance, monitoring, and protection in anticipation of a
twentieth century European war. Bert’s speech imparted to the audience the same emphasis on
youth as a necessary quality of citizenship that Bruno made the culminating moral of Le Tour de
Ibid, 72.
Ibid, 72. That purity and enthusiasm of spirit he urged as a requirement of Frenchness, whereas any
restraint in manifesting that enthusiasm made one a traitor, “one who tempers his love and speaks of his nation
coldly.” The charged idea of treachery necessarily led to a dichotomy between these supposedly French norms
with the “cosmopolitanism, whether Red or Black” present on “the other side of the Alps.”
Ibid, 72.
Ibid, 72.
Ibid, 73.
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France. He demanded that student audience convey national vigor from their youth into their old
age, “forever the children of France” just like their literary counterparts. Just as Bruno had her
protagonists Andre and Julien plan to sacrifice themselves for the country, Bert made sacrifice
the requirement of the contract between country and citizen. Their inner vigor, like a natural and
national resource, would be extracted and put on the field of military action “when the hour of
devotion, the hour of fight, the hour of struggle, comes again.” 245 In a brilliant turn of rhetoric,
Bert had first urged the students to have enthusiasm and an energetic love of nation because that
marked them as definitively French. By identifying youth and youthfulness as equally important,
he made the young the examples for all citizens. Youthful, enthusiastically-French spirits were to
be encased in French bodies- whether the bodies were young or not. He deliberately celebrated a
characteristic over which they had no control so that they would feel the responsibility of
embodying the entirety of the Third Republic citizen ideal, thereby supporting the system that
raised and celebrated them. “You will tell me that you are not the masters yet, that old age will
come… I say no!” Bert urged. 246 The dramatic, imperative coupling of “Stay French!” and “Stay
Young!” reflected the urgency that youth and youthful patriotism be integral characteristics of
the still young Republic’s political culture. Youth was rewritten as a way of being French; the
young had the duty to embody it proudly, aggressively, and with political agency. Questions
about how the young student, taught to embody national feeling and vigor by the school, acted
with that authority in and beyond the classroom were central to the Thalamas Affair.
Moving towards the turn of the century, newspapers and intellectuals expressed concern
over how a generation of education à la Jules Ferry had changed the young citizen, sooner than
ever to be responsible for waging any war with the German Empire – remembering that defeat as
Ibid, 73.
Ibid ,72.
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a defeat at the hands of better educated young men. In December, 1905, the newspaper La
Dépêche de Lyon posed itself a monumental task. Noting that across the nation recently had
“multiplied studies on patriotism at school,” it asked, “What do the students of our national
primary schools, the students of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years old, ready to leave school,
think of the nation, of patriotism, of the question of Alsace-Lorraine?”247 Writer Petrus
Sambardier sought to discover the answer to this question by surveying Lyonnais students from
twelve to fourteen years old. Asking 100 children “(1) what is the patrie? (2) What is a patriot?
(3) Must one be a patriot? (4) Why? And (5) what do you think of Alsace-Lorraine?” the survey
hid neither its tilt towards militarism nor its desire that students meet their standards for active
patriotism.248 The newspaper classified only 40 responses as “very good;” 10 as “good;” 10 as
“good enough;” 10 as “passable;” 10 as bad; and 20 as the worst. La Dépêche made clear its fear
that pacifism had been entrenched in the teaching establishment. From a more moderate
perspective, however, the survey illustrates an interest in understanding what the young knew of
patriotism and how they understood their own belonging to the patrie. That the survey was then
incorporated into Georges Goyau’s The School of Today illustrated the interest in using student
voices and student perceptions to develop or change curricula. This two volume critique of the
school system, which the author wanted seen “not as a polemic…but as a contribution to
contemporary history,” drew attention to student voices. 249 Twelve to fourteen year-olds had
Petrus Sambardier, « Une enquête récente sur le patriotisme des Ecoliers, » La Dépêche de Lyon, 11 déc.
1905, in Georges Goyau, L’Ecole d’Aujourd’hui Série II, Paris : Perrin, 1910, 321.
Sambardier, 322-323.
Goyau, v. Goyau’s L’Ecole d’aujourd’hui presented in a unit many diverse articles, speeches, and
studies done by members of the Bloc de Gauche and the Republican establishment to argue that the public school
had been taken over by internationalists and libres penseurs. Goyau’s other published works, such as La Francmaconnerie en France (1898), Autour du Catholicisme social (1897), and L’Allemagne religieuse: Le protestantisme,
indicated his belonging to the right, a partisanship underlined by the Preface of L’Ecole. In the Preface, he wrote
that “We believe to have said… historical truths, which representatives of this doctrine [of liberal Protestantism in
schools] if they seem good, could be interpreted as homages… -While it was not our duty to make the public know
the refutations from which we have suffered, we would have put some style to wanting to reproduce them, as
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authority to influence and inform the evolution of institutions; their voice was considered useful
and informative in constructing arguments to change the school. “Remember,” concluded
Sambardier, “in Germany, Italy, and England, 100 percent of students would have shown
without hesitation all the ardor of an exclusive and undoubting patriotism.” 250 He took it as
obvious that the patriotism of a body politic was directly shown in the patriotism of its student
With the levers of the Third Republic actively reconstructing history for the Republic’s
legitimacy, pedagogues and politicians on the Left constructed the young person as a reservoir of
tradition. In comparison, the more conservative La Dépêche less surprisingly characterized a
good primary and secondary education as one that made patriotism inseparable from national
history. The “poor” student flatly rejected patriotism, remarking “Patriotism, that’s old
history.” 251 That dismissal of patriotism as “historic” assumed that what is historic has no value –
certainly not the accepted perspective in the Third Republic. In contrast, another student made a
speech on the values of France, and the article esteemed this quotation as an “excellent definition
of patriotic duty.” It read, “I love my patrie because I was born there; I love it because my
ancestors lived there; it is there also that those I loved are buried; it is there where my parents
and my brothers live.” 252 The “excellent student” – a young girl – rooted her understanding of
patriotism in a mystical, but somewhat distant, “there,” as though the patrie were not where she
“documents,” revealing a certain state of mind which we, through this book, will try to explain and define” (v-vii).
His conservative perspective, however, was met by an appreciation by the Académie; he had received a prize, the
First Bordin Prize, from the Académie Française for his L’Allemagne religieuse, revealing that he was indeed
supported to some extent by the educational establishment. More important is it to note that he did not assert
that the public school should be disestablished; he wanted it to be reformed.
Sambardier, 328.
Ibid, 324. This response also implied a difference between “old history” and “history” that cannot quite
be explored because the text does not provide enough for significant interpretation. It is fascinating, however, to
conjecture what understanding about “not old history” or the opposite of “la vieille histoire.” Would the student
have offered a definition of it?
Ibid, 329.
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lived but some other world of ancestors and ghosts. Yet, she insisted on the role of that “there” in
sustaining her family history. The patrie existed both as a distant ideal, accessed through history,
and as a reality lived from generation to generation. The dichotomy between patriotism as dead
and “old history” and patriotism as a living, breathing inheritance, is notable and interesting,
indicative of the variety of personal ties that the young cultivated to their national heritage. Yet
more crucial to our investigation is the fact that this study was even conducted that it was then
chosen as reflective of trends in “The School of Today.” The adult authorities of the Third
Republic, by conducting student surveys such as this, gave the student authority as a citizen with
opinions. They sought to know what teenagers thought; they sought to know what the classroom
and the country meant to them at the very moment of the Thalamas Affair. With these students
was shared agency and responsibility in determining the school’s trajectory as a public institution.
Georges Grosjean’s 1906 L’Ecole et la patrie: la leçon de l’Etranger further attested to
worries about the direction of the school and its capacity to teaching young people how to be
young citizens. Grosjean, not unlike La Dépêche, feared that the lessons of the classroom had
been inverted, moving towards pacifism and away from the anti-German Revanche. 253 He
celebrated Paul Bert for transforming the school into a national “nursery of soldiers,” even
Grosjean (1865-1934) is a fascinating historical character. He was recognized as a young genius by his
contemporaries; his philosophical movement from Left to Right, at the time of the Dreyfus Affair, did not
necessarily eliminate his admiration for these founders of the Republican school system. A son of a judge from a
Swiss border region and acknowledged savant, he studied one at a time political science, law, the humanities, and
medicine in Paris. He worked alongside Jules Ferry in creating the National Republican Association, after which
point he gained posts in the ministries of Criminal Affairs and Justice and as a judge in Versailles. During the
Dreyfus Affair, he became an Anti-Dreyfusard and quit his judicial functions in 1900. He moved on to found the
Ligue de la patrie française, one of the farthest right militant organizations. Elected in 1902 and 1904 to the
Chamber of Deputies, at the time of the Thalamas Affair he had fought a losing battle for the rights of clergy to
teach, and in 1905 voted against the Law for the Separation of Church and State. Losing a 1906 election, he
concentrated his efforts on journalism and writing, publishing in several journals and reviews, particularly those of
the right. Grosjean had published several histories and comparative social studies. He was also elected an Officer
of Public Instruction, an honor awarded by the Association des Palmes Académiques to academics and teachers.
His career truly spanned the political spectrum. See the Assemblée Nationale website or the Dictionnaire des
parlementaires français by Jean Jolly for greater detail.
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recalling nostalgically the peculiar partisan alliances – such as between conservative politician
and poet Paul Déroulède and Radical Socialist politician Ferdinand Buisson – that formed out of
a shared commitment to building an active and patriotic class of young citizens. 254 Despite
bipartisan partnership on provisioning schools with materials teaching “the respect and cult of
our national glories,” Grosjean criticized what he perceived as a decline in the school as an
institution of indoctrination. He introduced this, the keystone of his work, by way of a
particularly upset university administrator: “’Fifteen years ago, it truly was, contests Monsieur
Dovinat… that the soul of France was in its School.’ Would the Soul of France quit School
today?” 255 The Soul of France, or the spirit of national regeneration embodied in schoolchildren,
was not being well-served by the classroom in his mind.
The bulk of the text offered a series of studies of the educational systems of other leading
Western or otherwise imperial states. 256 In Grosjean’s conclusion, where he compared France to
these other systems, he waxed nostalgic for the patriotic roots of the French institution. Though
international “human solidarity” was “one of the conditions of all progress,” he refused to accept
an internationalization of French curricula. 257 He did so on the principle that patriotism was the
basis for all education in a democracy, and because education had the precise interest of
perpetuating the nation: “Patriotism is nothing other than the energy, power, and mastery of
oneself, the vital principle of a people who wishes to persist in its being and perpetuate itself.” 258
While French schools should teach their students to appreciate, “visit,” “welcome”, and
“penetrate the soul of other nations through their art and literature,” he believed it “revolting”
Ibid, 2-5.
Ibid, 5.
These specifically included China, Italy, England, Germany, Japan, the United States, and Switzerland.
Ibid, 112. He further stated, “The nation is but one voice in the immense concert of Humanity.”
Ibid, 112.
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that this should happen at the expense of teaching the French past. 259 Listing recent upheavals in
international relations, and pointed towards a future Anglo-German conflict, he stressed that this
their schoolchildren will inherit: “Will we accept to appear in it like a lifeless actor?” 260 To
renew France’s “historic mission,” the armed forces needed an equal partner in education:
We need just as much the accord between wills and desires, the oneness of public spirit, a
common soul. The School is the crucible where our national feeling is created…The
University, the whole of it, shall, without further equivocating and immediately, put itself
back in the way of the truth where Paul Bert, Jules Ferry, and Goblet directed it, and
where, patriotic and Republican, it merited the gratitude of the nation for twenty years. 261
By describing the School both as “nursery of soldiers” and the “crucible” of national feeling,
Grosjean equated the children of France with the “common soul” of France. They, as the
representatives of future, were capable of inspiring an “accord between wills and desires, the
oneness of public spirit” that would calm the political squabbles weakening national unity. While
other writers emphasized the child’s obligation to his parent or his mother country, Grosjean
emphasized the reverse: love of nation could not be disentangled from the love, care, and proper
training of its youngest citizens. They symbolized – they had to symbolize - national feeling in
ways that adults such as Grosjean and the luminaries he listed, all too old to have attended the
Third Republic educational system, could not. That he concluded with reverent references to
those Republican politicians, shocking given his current alliances in 1906 with the Far Right,
underlined his conviction that patriotism had always been and had always to be in the spirit of
Ibid, 113. More precisely, he wrote « But not to learn about other nations but with the purposes of
deforming, denaturing, and losing our native aptitudes… to submerge the French intelligence under Scandinavian
or German ideas, to forget that a patrie is a history and a literature; to disown a part of our past; to renounce a
whole century of French thought- that is a wrongdoing and it revolts us. For, if the secret of victory is to make
oneself capable of impartial judgment to one’s enemies, it is not less essential to know to maintain one’s own
originality intact across from them.”
Ibid, 114-115. Grosjean cited the Chileans destroying Peru; the acquisition of Cuba and the Philippines
by the United States; the Maji Maji Rebellion against the Germans in German East Africa; the conquest of Egypt
and Sudan by Lord Kitchener; the Russo-Japanese War; and the promise that “A formidable duel prepares itself
openly between the Weltpolitik of Germany and the Imperialism of Great Britain.”
Ibid, 117. Fascinating that his conclusion elegantly and conveniently forgot the twenty years of difficult
debates between clericals and Republicans.
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the public school. The investment in creating good young citizens transcended and effaced all
other political conflicts; the battles fought by Bert, Ferry, and Goblet to create the University,
which deserved the “gratitude of the nation for twenty years,” made the possibility of an
international military reprisal a probability What consequences then for the student raised in this
“nursery of soldiers”? Grosjean empowered the young French student-citizen as the product of
that civilization, responsible for perpetuating its vigor and embodying its legitimacy. The
Thalamas Affair, nearly concurrent to the Lyon survey and Grosjean’s text, similarly brought
new attention to the atmosphere of the classroom, and the responsibilities it taught students to
uphold within and beyond its walls.
Ernest Lavisse, already evoked at the start of this chapter, created a program of national
unity out of the teaching of French history in the classroom. 262 While he raised the art of
pedagogy to a new level of visibility, he never locked himself in an ivory tower. Rather, as
figurehead, policy maker, and director of the École Normale Supérieure, but also as a teacher
known to love being in the classroom, he participated actively in the public relations campaigns
of the école laïque. The many public speeches given over the course of a fifty-year career present
a Lavisse who valued interacting with students and who reminded them of their own value. The
spirit of the écoliers or schoolboys was “an instrument to craft, not a shop to fill” and the
teaching establishment had the sole responsibility of determining how to make an instrument that
would rebuild society. 263 From a quick review of 1890’s Etudes et Etudiants and 1907’s
Discours à des enfants, two collections of speeches dating from the mid-1880s through 1905, we
see a pedagogical decision to honor explicitly the young minds that the school united, thereby
I refer you to notes 5, 6, and 7 for bibliographic sources on Lavisse. Please see also Isabel Di Vanna,
Writing History in the Third Republic, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010.
Ernest Lavisse, Etudes et Etudiants, Paris : (Armand Colin, 1890), vi.
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integrating youth as a value essential to the national culture. Though one might be tempted to
dismiss him as a teacher who loved students more than the norm, his clout makes such an
argument negligible. That these books themselves were not for students but for general
consumption speaks directly to his influence as architect of the “classroom experience,” in which
national history as a theme greased the machine of young active patriotism.
In 1886, Lavisse spoke before the Association of the Sorbonne, a speech reproduced in
1890’s Etudes et Etudiants. 264 Although he celebrated the reunion of teachers and students in the
audience as emblematic of a “transformation taking place before your eyes” in the teacherstudent relationship, he equally celebrated a new spirit of student solidarity. 265 He insisted he
would not “make a speech” or “conduct a lesson” but “speak to you of you,” praising them on
several accounts. Lavisse singled out, however, their talent for connecting with one another: “My
good young ones, you can say that you have fought your way to the future, as it is amenable to
youth.” 266 The idea that the future would be constructed in terms of solidarity among “good
young ones” seems banal. Lavisse, however, made it potent by lionizing and making necessary
the translation of that student solidarity from the university setting to the nation at large. Wearing
the insignia of the Faculties of the Universities, each like “a little patrie inside the big” according
to the pedagogue, made it necessary to love one’s countrymen. 267 That the young French students
“constituted [par en bas] from the grassroots a real University,” a universe of nationals, offered
“a happy presage for the future” under the assumption that the “common soul” cultivated in the
educational establishment – to use Georges Grosjean’s words – pervaded all aspects of public
life post-baccalaureate. Their example of solidarity, “if it is thus,” he praised them, “you will be
Etudes et Etudiants.
Ibid, 222.
Ibid, 224.
Ibid, 227.
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able to say, messieurs the young, that that you have made your way to the future, as it suits the
young.”268 Lavisse promised that the spirit of the young French student had a prominent place in
the country’s future, but by making this promise, he gave them the duty to realize it. They had no
choice but to renew the vow of André and Julien to act always as “children of France.”
He further exploited the generational gap between himself and his contemporaries and his
audience, assimilating his generation with an ancient history to be revered. “It is sweet to us” the
old, he declared, “to see the voice of your youth stay loyal to the memory of those men whose
genius was the light of our young days.” 269 He positioned loyalty to nation in direct parallel with
loyalty to history and with loyalty to nostalgic leaders of the Third Republic. As the living link to
textbook history, he empowered himself to explain how this generation’s relationship to history
had distinguished them as French people from the start:
It was natural that the youth of the Schools felt deeply the emotion that the stories of the
war supported by troops to our East made run through the nation…. Before you knew
what France was, you saw France at the foot of the enemy. At the age when we still listen
to marvelous stories, you heard the terrible history of true disasters. 270
He built an argument around this generation’s essential difference because of their childhoods.
The ideal French childhood, they had not known; this group’s actual childhood in a France postFranco-Prussian War built them as a set of citizens with a unique set of challenges… evocative
of later discourse about Joan of Arc’s birth. They, he wanted them to believe, had been marked
for a particular destiny as political actors, of which their generational solidarity was both the
proof and the guarantee, provided that students not isolate themselves from another “true master
of patriotism, the little soldier, the soldier of twenty, your contemporary, your friend.”
Ibid, 224.
Ibid, 228.
Ibid, 229.
Ibid, 229.
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young identity was multifaceted, yet its inherent differences were rendered inconsequential by
creating a community of young patriots: “it is your wisdom, your patriotism, which has made
your success.”272 Positioning student solidarity as representative of solidarity across a generation,
he made their understanding of national history the basis for a shared place in the national
limelight: as he wrote in the preface, knowledge of history and of their role in it “puts them on
the threshold of political life.” 273 Although he gave this speech to University and not primary or
secondary school students, his role in the teaching profession and in educational policy allows us
to take his words as belief or desire that the young embrace their own belonging to a particular
moment of French history. This pedagogue propagated a patriotism that transcended the
boundaries of the classroom and the student demographic. What he empowered them with
transcended political, religious, or social differences, prioritizing the young for the sake of their
youth, and the promise they held for national history.
Some twenty years later, in 1905, Lavisse’s Discours à des enfants combined four
speeches given public school award ceremonies in the Picardy region north of Paris. 274 As with
Etudes et Etudiants, their publication in book form by major publishing house Armand Colin
reflected the political culture’s investment in to his ideology of the student. Whether before
scholars and students of the University setting or the parents, educators, and schoolchildren of
public primary and secondary school, the pedagogue remained an unapologetic Bacchant at the
altar of student-citizen ideal. More importantly for understanding the Thalamas Affair, these
speeches were given and published in the very same moment. As a leader in the educational
establishment, it is impossible to ignore how he painted the public school and history within it.
Ibid, 229.
Ibid, xiii.
Ernest Lavisse, Discours à des enfants, Paris : (Armand Colin, 1907).
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The preface to this work directly addressed, not students, but the buyers of the book: parents,
educators, and a generally adult audience. Lavisse did not deny having discussed subjects such as
nation, state, religion, duty, and patriotism that others told him were too conceptual for the young
mind. Countering this claim, he attributed depth of thought and understanding to the young mind:
“it is necessary to present and to explain to the children of a democracy certain ideas of which
their knowledge will be indispensable to them.” 275 Their age did not lessen their place as
stakeholders or potential actors in the political culture. At the same time, those certain ideas were
indispensable to the political culture that raised the students, invoking the fundamental need of a
democracy to maintain its legitimacy though generations of citizenship educated to appreciate
the existing political system.276
His four speeches centered on the “Secular School,” “History at School,” “The Nation,”
and “Equality of Girls and Boys.” His elaborate speeches about the young person’s debt to
history and existing institutions came from one so involved and invested in changing and
reforming French society. As we have seen, however, also in the anachronistic framing of Joan
of Arc, the perpetuation of a smooth, seemingly pre-destined, historical narrative outweighed the
need for historical detail. Each of Lavisse’s speeches highlighted particular ways in which
national history had necessarily led to the audience’s existence as young people in the Third
Republic. They were the awaited generation, the product of the Republic and also its guarantors.
He made these students the extraordinary products of an extraordinary series of historical events,
empowered and charged with continuing that history.
Discours à des enfants, 7.
By telling the adult readers of this book that certain ideas were necessary for the young, Lavisse
declared them equally so for the adult. Such a publication, clearly designed as a didactic resource, defined
universal behaviors of citizenship to be upheld by all members of the body politic.
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In the first of the four speeches, a defense of the secular school, Lavisse asked the older students
in the audience: “Why is there an École Laïque? What is its function in society?” 277 Rushing
through the history of French Christianity from the Reformation to the present, he declared that
the École Laïque, the “daughter of the Revolution,” today “knows only the best, the young
French citizens, as her students.” 278 Redirecting his attention to the place of the student in the
political matrix, Lavisse identified France’s greatest conflict as an internal “perpetual war
between the past and the future,” strikingly unlike the more international militarism of
Sambardier or Grosjean. 279 Despite a remarkably different emphasis on the challenges facing
turn-of-the-century France, he ended by demanding the same attitude towards the school as did
these other public intellectuals. The School was a home for the “common foundation of the
French soul,” values that included “the uniqueness of a country’s children; the ensemble of
memories and hopes from which love of country springs; it is duty to France.” 280 Rendering the
School the “foundation of the French soul” made the institution as worthy of defense as its
competitor for French souls, the Church. Beyond that, his evocation of an “ensemble of
memories and hopes” tied the institutionalized and standardized national memory to a common
vision of future ambitions. The pedagogue used this language, as poetic as it was practically
suited for the speech, to enforce the profound, even familial obligation that his audience had to
defend the educational system which raised them, and which raised them to know themselves
and their contribution to the betterment of France.
Ibid, 11.
Ibid, 14.
Ibid, 21.
Ibid, 19.
Ibid, 21. Lavisse wrote, in the concluding lines, “At the highest level, we pursue the undefined search of
a truth forever left incomplete; and the light descends towards you, sweet children of our people, measured for
the youth of your eyes by the wisdom of your teachers. The University of Paris is the grandmother of the Schools. I
am here as in a family, as a grandfather”.
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The thematic of a living, breathing national heritage he enforced ever more strongly in
his speech L’histoire à l’école, which he delivered on 14 th August 1904. This fell only three
months before the outburst of the Thalamas Affair. 282 It is impossible to ignore a speech such as
this one in looking at the environment of the Affair; the living, breathing national heritage argued
for to the living breathing young audiences of Picardy. Lavisse could not have insisted more
strongly on the importance of historical study to the vigor and legitimacy of the Republic than he
did here, before an unspecified group of young adolescents. Describing the lives of his elders,
long dead but who remained lasting influences on his adult life, the pedagogue insisted that the
past, and particularly the post-1789 past, was never dead; in fact, it was each generation’s duty to
discover how it was active in their lives and therefore add “several generations to your life…sort
of immortality in reverse” by virtue of learning and respecting “the long chain of mankind.” 283
That chain of mankind, however, had no international character. It had as first priority to link the
French present to the French past. His rather ordinary speech of a sudden took up the relationship
of nation to history with a vibrating passion, but did so with an undeniably political agenda:
Knowledge of history enlightens love of patrie. The patrie, the place of humanity where
we are born, is distinguished from other countries by nature and even more by history,
that is, the ensemble of notions and successive ideas which have built our destiny. You
do not have the right to ignore how France has become one of the greatest of nations. To
be French, it does not suffice to give oneself the bother of being born in France, as are
our poplars and our willows. Finally, it is history, which, teaching us the work done by
our precursors, teaches us the work still to be done. 284
Lavisse made absolutely clear that, in the context of the Third Republic school, education,
history, and politics existed in a secular trinity that allowed the mission of the French nation to
be carried out on this earth. “In order in order to liberate French society, as much as possible, of
Ibid, 25-32.
Ibid, 27.
Ibid, 27-28.
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the miseries and injustices which rest” on the field of social equality, one had to know the
diverse struggles taken generation by generation to come thus far. 285 His call for political action
on a variety of issues, including but not limited to providing care for mistreated children, the
penurious elderly, the sick, and the injured worker, Lavisse constructed as that absolute
reflection of “Law, that is to say the will of the French Nation,” of which the students before him
embodied the next generation of citizens. 286 For the pedagogue and politician, the School had the
singular responsibility of teaching and enforcing student buy-in to a historical, exceptional
mission. He encouraged them to fulfill it, “Go, have confidence, it will go well! Good will come
out of our effort and quicker than we think…” and, to strengthen their commitment, praised these
student-citizens as equal shareholders in determining and directing the good of the nation.
The students of his audience “did not have the right” to reject a historical legacy of activism in
the name of France’s future, nor did they have the right to escape the virtues of history. Lavisse
concluded with one of these virtues, “the most beautiful of all: History teaches us to have
invincible hope.” 288 His speeches, his activism on the behalf of the historical discipline and the
power of history in the public school setting, taught the students to have that same invincible
hope in themselves, as a young, powerful, energized generation with both the capacity and
historical responsibility of bettering and strengthening France. Textbooks offered Joan of Arc as
the model of the young citizen-savior, the youth of whom Lavisse wrote, “In no country do we
find as purely beautiful a history as that of Joan of Arc. All Frenchmen must love and venerate
Ibid, 29.
Ibid, 32.
Ibid, 32.
Ibid, 32.
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the memory of this young girl who so loved France and who died for us.” 289 This relationship of
student-citizen to savior, and student-citizen as savior, sparked the Thalamas Affair.
From the Ferry Laws to the Thalamas Affair, rhetoric constructed around the classroom,
the newest, most dynamic political institution, celebrated youth. Just as critically, it celebrated
the young as the clear embodiment of the Republic’s continued legitimacy. In this process of
recruitment to the political culture, pedagogues gave students an ambiguous role that blended
authority and ownership with an obligation of service to other authorities. The classroom had the
responsibility of making the ordinary young French person an extraordinary young French
person, one capable of saving the nation, whether from herself or from an international menace.
It served as an intermediate space of performance and rehearsal of the Third Republic’s values,
where one learned the expectations of public citizenship. The ways textbooks captured but also
avoided certain characteristics of Joan of Arc’s divisive historical, religious, and political profile
reveal a commitment to highlighting what was undeniable and what had undeniable utility across
the political culture. The universal emphasis on her identity as a Fille du Peuple or Daughter of
the People offered a neatly aligned her with the ideal of the student-citizen, of the miraculous
young savior. The interest of perpetuating “the respect and cult of our national glories,” in
Grosjean’s words, made teaching history imperative; the interest of enforcing on the young
national duty, and “the invincible hope” of the mission of twentieth century French society, made
teaching her story as an example equally imperative. The institutions of the Third Republic
encouraged their young citizens in the classroom to build relationships of trust and respect with
historical figure who could be tied to the Republic. In this case, it was the powerful aura of
young Frenchness and of its requisite duties that were epitomized by Joan of Arc and were
Ernest Lavisse, Histoire de France, cours moyen. Paris : (Armand Colin, 1912).
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pressed upon the student population. The ability for young students, and for the French Right, to
use that aura as a tool against the Republic, was an unexpected consequence of these policies.
Students who claimed to defend her in the Thalamas Affair could also claim to defend their
contribution to national regeneration. As we move to the next chapter, we will see how, under
pressure, the ideal of the lycéen as the simple recipient of these messages fell apart, revealing
diverse and inconclusive perspectives on the political import of this demographic so critical to
the body politic and to that body’s enacting of patriotic unity.
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Chapter 3
The Rights of Student and Citizen: the Ambiguous
Interactions of a Lycéen with the Republic
“It is interesting to ask whether treating the history of Joan of Arc, and conducting a geography
lesson, or a history lesson on some war somewhere that raises no interest, no passion, must be
considered completely different things…”290
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés:
Débats Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel), 924.
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-Joseph Chaumié
In the fall and winter of 1904, the Third Republic rang with the ideological and rhetorical
clashing of culture war. Losing battle after battle against the Radical Republican Bloc des
Gauche conservatives and clericals, as well as their ideological opponents, were swept up in
educational reforms meant to reconsider the addressing the strengths and failures of a system
now twenty years old. In this light, the discourse of text-book writers, pedagogues, politicians,
and administrators and bureaucrats both affirmed and tested the institution of the school, and
how it channeled understandings about other institutions, such as the Republic and the Church,
about national history, and about the student’s contribution to both. Critical to renewing a
commitment to the public school was strengthening the emotional bonds and ideological
connective tissue between the young students and the historical narrative constructed to fortify
the Republic. Up to this point, we have examined how the State spoke to students and gave them
the authority to represent France with the youthful enthusiasm of body and of spirit. In this
chapter, we examine how representatives of the State – the teacher, Deputies of Right and Left,
and the Minister of Public Instruction – understood and responded to student agency in the
Thalamas Affair. The moniker the event earned in the press, the Thalamas Affair disguised the
nature of the conflict. Its real significance lay in provoking a discussion of what the relationship
between the youth and the State could or should be, in the light of how institutions such as the
public school taught students how to grow into citizens.
Historians have identified the fin de siècle and early twentieth century as a spring of new
conservatism among French students, manifested in its various religious and political forms,
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including Bonapartism, monarchism, authoritarianism, racism, and Anti-Semitism.291 JeanFrançois Sirinelli in particular analyzes the conservative movement in the Latin Quarter of the
late 1910s and early 1920s, a rare moment in which the most radical and violent students in the
French capital were not of the Left but of the Right. The Thalamas Affair allows us to examine,
long before the postwar environment, certain concerns in the minds of the Third Republic’s
leadership about the young generations that their public school experiment produced. Nadia
Margolis has conducted the only available scholarly work on Professor Thalamas and his
historical significance, arguing that the ways in which Professor Thalamas and his treatise on
Joan of Arc were received display a unique convergence of particular political, religious,
intellectual, and personal forces, even in the scandal and crisis-ridden Third Republic. 292 She
adds to the work done on the early French Right by offering the career of Thalamas as a viable
testament to the culture war between Republicans and militant conservatives:
The engagement, the objectives, and the fate of this man offer much insight on the
official and unofficial character of the power of Republicans vis-à-vis the role of
reactionary militants in the years from 1895-1910, at least in the domain of teaching
history. In this fickle period, blasphemy according to some could be considered respect to
others, above all when in the process of constructing a national saint. 293
Margolis’ work relied principally on two sources for the documentation of the Affair itself. The
first, the treatise written by Thalamas and published by major publishing house Paclot and
Company in early 1905, offered the Professor’s own justification of his actions in the Preface;
the rest consisted of a “barely innovative” account of the life of Joan of Arc. 294 The second
See in particular Hanna, “Iconology and ideology: images of Joan of Arc in the idiom of the Action
Française, 1908-1931” ; “Laying Siege to the Sorbonne”; Kenward; Margolis, « La chevauchée solitaire du
professeur Thalamus: rationalistes et réactionnaires dans l’historiographie johannique 1904-1945 »; Margolis, “The
‘Joan Phenomenon’ and the French Right,”; Menager, « Nationalists and Bonapartists”; Weber, Action Française;
Winock, Nationalisme, antisémitisme, et fascisme en France.
Margolis, « La chevauchée solitaire du professeur Thalamus, » 7.
Ibid, 7.
Thalamas, Jeanne d’Arc : L’histoire et la légende, Paris : Paclot et Compagnie,
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source, the summary of the Affair as provided in a piece by Sirinelli, itself relied on Eugen
Weber, and a collection of Parisian archives. 295 Yet Thalamas’ own account served mainly as a
source of information, rather than as a document constructed with an agenda and capable of
rendering valuable insights from it. Neither Margolis, Sirinelli nor Weber traced the affair to the
transcripts of the Chamber of Deputies; the circle of scholarship has thus achieved a one-sided
understanding that, even if deep, remains only superficial.
The Third Republic educational system affirmed freedom of conscience for all those of a
Republican bend. It sought to frame all civic lessons and the instruction of national history –
including that of the ambiguous, amorphous figure of Joan of Arc- in a language that emphasized
patriotism and obligation to the Republic, if erasing all traces of religion were impossible. Their
vision of “freedom of conscience,” informed by the intimate relationship between Catholicism
and education, necessitated that religion be stricken from the classroom, and naturally they saw
this as an ultimate good for society. Maintaining and imposing “freedom of conscience” through
tight bureaucratic surveillance, pedagogues and ministers saw themselves as enlightening France
by raising its next generation outside the hold of the clergy. In this moment in 1904, at which
1905. “Barely innovative” is Margolis’ term to describe the work in Margolis, « La chevauchée solitaire du
professor Thalamus, » 7. It should be noted, however, that Thalamas was significantly more deliberate with his
construction of a secular historical study, addressing in the first chapter the failings of recent history to study the
contextual and sociopolitical forces that made Joan of Arc seem a more powerful actor than she was. Rather, he
positions himself as the logical heir and innovator on the trade of history as practiced by Michelet and Quicherat
(Thalamas, 12-15). This is not a man who believed in the miraculous, and little demonstrates this better than his
claim that “The wise man must know that Joan had olfactive, tactile, visual, and auditory hallucinations. But she
was not a vulgar lunatic, at the mercy of impassioned sensations. These voices were nothing but obsessions that
destroyed her own will” (40). While this perspective may not seem revolutionary to contemporary readers, it
would have been positively controversial in its own moment.
Jean-François Sirinelli, “Action française: main basse sur le Quartier Latin,” L’Histoire, Déc. 1982, no. 51,
8. His own sources he described as a compilation of « three archive bases at the National Archives: certain cartons
of police archives; the archives of the Académie of Paris; the career files of certain teachers cited in the article…
The American historian Eugen Weber in his study of the Action Français which makes brief mention of the
Thalamas, Jeze, and Scelle Affairs (Weber, L’Action française,); these affairs are also evoked in the work of Andre
Coutin, Huit siècles de violence au Quartier Latin, Paris, Stock, 1969.” He also cited the 1933 memoire Les Camelots
du Roi by militant conservative activist Maurice Pujo, who was intimately involved in the 1908 Thalamas Affair.
Page 122 of 216
time the first generation of the enlightened generation comes to adolescence, young adulthood,
and active citizenship, the Thalamas Affair of 1904 is remarkable. It displays a new tension
between the government officials confident in their secular system, and students who,
doubtlessly informed by their parents, did not embrace the “freedom of conscience” they had
been given. This rejection is obvious among the upper middle-class conservative student radicals
of the late 1910s and 20s, but it is emerging here, much earlier than existing studies posit. This
chapter uses two underutilized documents to explore how a particular event forced the adult
powerbrokers of that Republic into a discussion of what the relationship between student, teacher,
the public school, and the Third Republic in general could or should be. By examining these
documents for insights into the perceptions of relationships rather than for insight into the facts
which led to the 1908-1909 Thalamas Affair, we can appreciate that the 1908-1909 scandal was
a logical step from 1904 in the process of student radicalization on the Right.
Thalamas’s own treatise and the transcript of the 1 December debate offer four divergent
conceptions of the French jeunesse and the lycéens of Lycée Condorcet in particular. I isolate
these documents because they record these events through the voices and opinions of
representatives of the State, from teacher to deputy to minister. These reveal different constituent
groups of the State grappling with how young French citizens interact with the authority of the
state in the particular institution of the Third Republic school. Thalamas chose to see in these
students of Condorcet the simple puppets of a clerical opposition, incapable of acting
autonomously. Whether or not this was true, something impossible to perceive from the available
documentation, neither Deputy Marcel Sembat, Minister Joseph Chaumié, Deputy Georges
Berry nor Deputy Jean Jaurès repeated this argument before the legislative body. In the heated
debate in the Chamber of Deputies on 1 December 1904, these representatives of the Left, Center,
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Right, and Far Left constructed arguments that emphasized respect for the student and for his
capacities as a French citizen, whether that respect reflected a blend of animosity and sarcasm,
sensitivity to his age, or a belief in particular rights as students and citizens. The diversity of
these perspectives reveals the confusion about the school environment, about the teacher, and
about the student which only such a turbulent moment could put on display. The Thalamas Affair
of 1904 reached no clear reconciliation, a truth only reinforced by the 1908-1909 Thalamas
Wednesdays. It does, however, show one moment of Republican doubt that the public school, the
upper middle and middle-class lycée in particular, was an infallible institution. Tensions latent in
the fabric of the public school, and in its mission of creating and instilling particular Republican
ideals, were brought to light by the ideological conflict between conservatives – represented by
the students and their families – and the State. Students could be agents, even in directing
dialogue on the future of the Republican school and of the more general political culture.
In early 1905, at a date uncertain after the height of the public outcry, Professor Thalamas
established his version of the scandal that took his name in the four-page introduction to Jeanne
d’Arc: l’Histoire et la legende.296 It allows us to see what Thalamas saw, or did not see, in the
students in part responsible for transforming his name into a news-item.
Thalamas. Published through the major Left Bank publishing house Paul Paclot and Company, this small
tract has mostly been cited for its value as one account of certain facts of the case. It has as much to give in the
form of insight into the relationship between the public school student and authorities of the school and of the
state. It is the only account available in the victim’s own voice, as unfortunately the professor’s official seems to
have disappeared from the Archives. Taking also into account that it is the product of the weeks and months after
the scandal, the text requires a different kind of attention than the transcript does. A text of a mere sixty-three
pages, light, and small in size, with a greenish color and bold, vibrant red font streaking diagonally across the cover,
its design clearly meant to attract the eye and facilitate its transportation. Priced and advertised cheaply at sixty
centimes, it seems reasonable to assume that Thalamas hoped it would be highly available for and accessible to a
general public who doubtless knew his name from the Affair and not from his scholarly work, as he would have
hoped. The back cover advertised the other texts of “general history” which Thalamas had authored and which
one might purchase also from the Paclot bookstore at prices ranging from a franc to 1 franc 90 centimes. After his
introduction, five chapters laid out his method and interpretation of the history of Joan of Arc, actively engaging in
the “Sources” chapter with historiography.296 After all, he was a historian, an aspiring Academician for whom the
Page 124 of 216
That responsibility he called into question; he saw these students, not as a worthy enemy in their
own right, not as any young patriotic enthusiast of Joan of Arc and the French nation; he saw in
them the army of an anticlerical establishment. Only the Introduction concerned the Affair, and
Thalamas made clear from the first words of the introduction, “Monday morning 14 November
1904,” that this tract was produced in this specific context. In the space of four pages, the
professor presented a version of events in which his students had little to no agency, and little to
no responsibility. Dismissive as he was of their agency, he did not even name the particular
student “charged by me to do, after the great history of France by Lavisse or that of Michelet, a
short presentation on ‘the person and role of Joan of Arc.’” 297 This student, last name Gallerand,
was identified in the debate as well as in the press; it is interesting to consider why Thalamas left
him as an anonymous “student of the second year of Condorcet.” The professor spent only a
matter of seven sentences describing the events of the classroom. He wrote that the student used
the panegyric of R.P. Coubé as his source material “such that I had to redo the presentation from
top to bottom.” 298 In an effort to correct whatever misunderstandings he perceived as perpetrated,
“I had to remind them that the historian must not concern himself with miracles or with the will
of God, but with describing facts,” from which point he “scientifically” reminded them of the
role of Joan of Arc. “My correction raised no incident in class,” and Thalamas even contented
himself that the student had well received this “great correction.” 299 The morning’s class he
portrayed as a non-event, even as a wonderful example of the good that a professional,
Republican teacher could do to turn young minds away from the notion that “Joan of Arc was a
question of what constituted History, and what constituted the Pucelle’s history, would have resonated most
Ibid, 7.
Ibid, 7.
Ibid, 7.
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religious marvel….come to conquer France for God.” 300 He believed he had won the student to
the rational, not religious, side of history.
Figure 18: François Amédée Thalamas, Jeanne d’Arc : L’histoire et la légende, Paris : Paclot et Compagnie, 1905.
This non-incident, as Thalamas saw it, provoked a “campaign of unprecedented violence”
led by the clerics and nationalists. Evoking the public outcry, Thalamas said that “he did not miss
the hatred, lies, outrages, threats, nor manifestations of all kinds directed against me and mine
from the four corners of France and the foreign world,” a statement that – given the duration of
this public outcry in 1904-1905 – would now appear slightly hyperbolic. Aligning his rhetoric,
Ibid, 7.
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and likely his own genuine sentiments, with those of his partisans and friends in the Chamber of
Deputies, notably Marcel Sembat and Jean Jaures, Thalamas presented himself as the victim of a
culture war against Republican progress. He presented this outcry as evidence of the “danger
more grave than ever before” which clerical propaganda posed in a political culture of progress:
“instead of honestly discussing ideas contrary to its own, [the clerical spirit] prefers to insult
those who hold them.” 301 But to whom did this propaganda pose a danger? Evidently to him and
to the state, yet Thalamas implied that young students, whose hearts and minds the clerics
attempted to take, had not only fallen victim but had been enlisted in the clerical cause.
The professor continued to explain his relationship with these students as that of the
exemplary teacher to ordinary student, referring to the classroom discussion only as “My
correction of this lesson.”302 His explanation of the “administrative affair due to the
denunciations carried” against him described the process of sanctions and legislative inquiry as
an unfair trial, misconducted deliberately by the “enemy jury of informers, including M. Georges
Berry.” Of Berry Thalamas accused the worst. According to the professor, Berry had on the 14th
used the idle gossip of an anonymous racontar, prate, to build a case. On the 19 th, Thalamas
claimed that Berry had actively sought out two student depositions: the first, “after the claim of
its author, was made at the request of Berry, and by a child who, two days before, had declared
to the headmaster to not have heard ‘any word, any term that could be an outrage to the memory
of Joan of Arc.’” 303 The second seemed to have been “made four days after the event by a
student, a friend of the son of Berry.” Insisting on these relationships and on the conspiratorial
nature of these undertakings underlined that the students’ own activity was not properly their
own, but the machinations of a greater anti-clerical, anti-governmental force. Thalamas then
Ibid, 8.
Ibid, 8.
Ibid, 8.
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continued to describe the two investigations led by the Ministry which these students’
depositions spawned: an interview on the 16th with Minister Chaumié who declared the
professor “innocent of all fault,” and a second investigation by two ministry representatives who
spoke only to students:
… according to a method that could warrant criticism, eight days after the event, in the
midst of agitation in the school and in the street, in the absence of the professor who had
been ordered to stay home and had been asked to not respond to any press attacks. 304
He faulted the Ministry, rather than the students, for his trials, condemning the Minister for a
final sanction of “having lacked tact and measure’ (without my knowing in what) and blaming
and moving me” to Lycée Charlemagne. 305 That this professor so clearly delineated the
interactions between teacher and student as ones of utmost professionalism, and of utmost
respect for the rationalist and scientific version of French history, reflected his own need to
portray himself as an exemplary teacher of history, and as an exemplary member of the French
University. By shifting blame from the student to the Ministry and to the government officials
involved, Thalamas also removed any sense of the student’s responsibility and authority in the
classroom or in the greater political culture.
As one of the scandal’s primary actors, Thalamas and his account have received priority
in the historiography. Yet comparison with the other established records of the case reveals it to
have a remarkably different perspective on the agency of the students involved. That Thalamas
held to a version of these events in which students themselves had little to no responsibility, even
if they were complicit, reflects to some extent his animosity against the conservative and clerical
Right. Unsurprisingly, given his existing and lasting political affiliation with the Bloc de
Gauches, Thalamas attributed his sufferings to the machinations of the far Right through students,
Ibid, 8-9.
Ibid, 9.
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swiftly minimizing their role to that of puppet. 306 This perspective on the lycéen found no
resonance in the transcript of the debate in the Chamber of Deputies on 1 December 1904. The
document offers a dynamic kaleidoscope of views on the events that transpired the morning of
14 November 1904 in the halls of Lycée Condorcet and over the following days, revealing
vibrantly the nuanced perspectives that the government brought to understanding the event’s
place within the greater political culture. 307
Even with just a superficial reading of the document, it becomes clear that the Thalamas
Affair brought to light a diversity of opinion hidden in the seeming banality of Thalamas’ final
sanction. That diversity speaks to the power of a singular event to shock into being certain
reevaluations. The influences of natural transformations from child to adult at the lycéen age, of
the new Republic’s expectations for this group of students as future citizens, and of the
institution of the family - these were all critical to wrapping one’s mind around this scandal.
Marcel Sembat, Joseph Chaumié, Georges Berry, and Jean Jaurès each provided a distinct
framework for understanding the student’s role. Berry insisted on the respect owed a student as a
part of the family unit, reminding the Chamber that the family was the underpinning of the
French state. In contrast, both Chaumié and Sembat insisted that the young citizen’s emerging
independence should garner him respect as an individual member of the body politic. That need
for respect, however, took two different forms for each of these adversaries. Chaumié believed
respect for the lycéen had to be manifested in a tactful awareness of a young person’s
sensitivities as well as his developing and maturing strengths: the future French hero was still a
work in progress. In contrast, Marcel Sembat built a defense for his friend Thalamas and for the
We must remember that from 1910 to 1914 he served in the Chamber of Deputies as a Radical
Republican representing the arrondissement of Versailles. The transcript of the debate also highlighted the
intimate relationships between Thalamas and several of those on the Left.
Weber’s own account depended on a few press sources.
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cause of the Left by representing the fourteen year old students of Condorcet as men, minds and
spirits dishonored by anything less than “the truth” of history. While Thalamas as a historian
consecrated the bulk of his small tract to what constituted the historical truth of Joan of Arc, the
bureaucrats and elected officials of the 1904 government danced around a more interesting and
ultimately more politically significant question: what authority – as a symbol and as an actor- did
a student have in the practical, not theoretical or rhetorical, living of Belle Époque political
culture? Where had that authority been integrated into the authority of holding other identities
roles of that age group, such as that of a young adult, a child, or a citizen, and where was it
discrete? What were the duties, obligations, and consequences of the Third Republic’s asking
students to learn French history, and embody French values?
In the afternoon sitting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate on 1 December, 1904,
Deputy Marcel Sembat called for an interview with Minister Chaumié on subject of the measures
taken against Thalamas. 308 Although the Chamber consisted of several hundreds of officials,
Sembat lead the charge among the Radical Republicans assembled there to describe the
“saddening surprise” to have learned the day prior of the blame assigned to the professor, which
he saw as “an indication of a ministerial threat to Republicans” and of a threat to the University.
Thence leading the charge against the actions of the Minister as well as against the students of
Condorcet, Sembat constructed an argument that affirmed the independence of young students,
and their need to act as responsible French citizens, while also portraying them as necessarily
subject to the authority of the teacher. Claiming that this case took “the good name of Joan of
Arc as a pretext” to undermine the teaching establishment and the establishment of historical
(therefore secular) truth in schools, he jested – with a serious question behind the jest – what “all
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés:
Débats Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel).
Page 130 of 216
the friends of Daddy’s kid” could do “tomorrow to Danton, Robespierre… all historical
figures.” 309 For this deputy, and for the state more generally, these figures were the sacrosanct
reminders – the original secular saints - of the Republican legacy, a legacy rooted in the
unfulfilled promises of 1789, the fulfilling of which undergirded every Bloc de Gauches policy.
By raising their specters here, Sembat made the field of French history a battle between Joan of
Arc and the 1789 heroes. The contemporary political environment’s influence on the
interpretation of history could not have been more blatantly affirmed. Not content to leave the
discussion here, Sembat wondered in a rhetorical flourish whether the “liberty of the professor
and the dignity of his teaching” would now end, requiring him to “know and manage all the
opinions of all the families of his students:” “has the Republican University learned now that
professors are under the surveillance of their students?” 310 Already, even in his hyperbole, he
expresses a certain tension: on the one hand, the students act as extensions of the opinions of
their families. On the other, the students, and their parents - to the extent students report back to
them- have the power of surveillance, a power which Sembat seems to fear would not just be
employed in an extraordinary case but as a regular course of affairs. While the educational
system was built and maintained by surveillance and hierarchy, it was the surveillance of the
outsider, the citizen of the Republic who might not be Republican, which he feared.
Sembat’s defense of Thalamas initially resembled that of the professor by highlighting
the role of the family, particularly of Georges Berry’s family, in making this Affair an affair. 311
Nevertheless, as his speech continued, he gave students power as actors with a level of
independence from their parents. When a nationalist Republican, and therefore a moderate
France, 943.
Ibid, 943.
Indeed, throughout this initial section, Georges Berry tries to no avail to interrupt, claiming before the
Chamber that “There is not a word of truth” in Sembat’s accusation that Berry orchestrated the event.
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Republican, protested that these students were “children of only fourteen,” Sembat fought back
with a rousing description of the ways even fourteen year old boys were integrated into political
life and political culture. It was an elaborate series of images that received the applause of the
Left and that vividly painted the life of a typical Parisian fourteen year old:
Oh let us not exaggerate, I ask you, Monsieur Congy! These children of fourteen years
are young Parisians; every evening they cross the streets of Paris; they read the
newspaper; they buy La Patrie, La Presse, they bring about political events [ils causent
politique]. We can imagine that their spirit is less docile than it is in spirit with the
opposition. (Bravo! Very good! From the left of the Chamber). 312
Although earlier he had portrayed these students as the victims of their families’ opinions, he
fought a stereotype of them as docile, young, impressionable innocents using everyday examples
of this age group’s seamless integration into a niche of Parisian political life. These bands of
young French citizens are a source of politics: they must have not only a stake in political life but
a hand in it. This hand he saw as moving from its ordinary place “on the benches of school,
confined to conversations between co-disciples” beyond the playground, making these fourteen
year olds “censors and severe judges of their professors” in more than jest. 313 Can playground
anger or frustrations be taken as a true judge of a public school atmosphere? Sembat says no, and
saying that “I believe that among the students of Condorcet there must be several whose hearts
are well-enough placed to regret” what Thalamas suffered. 314 The Deputy progresses to cite the
Minister’s sanctioning of the professor, which “declared that the professor had lacked tact,
lacked measure, and… gravely offended [froisser] the feelings of a number of his students.” 315
Shortly thereafter, Sembat and conservative deputy Lucien Millevoye entered a violent back and
forth, blaming one another and one another’s parties for the disintegration of French society. The
Ibid, 943.
Ibid, 943-44.
Ibid, 944.
Ibid, 944.
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mutual accusations that each one was a délateur, a spy, traitor, or informant, widened the debate
to a large historical scale in which the Paris Commune, the failures and denunciations during the
Waldeck-Rousseau government, and other scandals offered Sembat and Millevoye the material
for insults and condemnations. 316
This short excerpt reveals ambiguities about the ways adolescent lycéens should be
permitted to speak as individuals within the public school. It goes farther than that, revealing the
great extent to which treason, past political failures, and social and political instability
undergirded the relevance of the Thalamas Affair to the deputies pondering it in that moment.
While Sembat left students the right to express themselves outside the constraints of the
classroom, he denied them any right to use that voice in an authoritative way against the teacher.
By labeling them “young Parisians,” he made clear that they were integral parts of the French
body politic and the political culture. Shortly thereafter, however, Sembat implicitly compared
them to those délateurs, including those in the parliamentary chamber, who acted – in his view –
to weaken the foundations of the Republic from within it. He suggested, in sarcasm, that “Every
time a professor has an opinion which students dislike, there must be protests of students on the
model of Condorcet and in the same way…” 317 Even jesting about this possibility reveals it to
have grounding in a real fear. In all seriousness, however, Sembat twice underlined that the
supposed events behind the Thalamas Affair had relevance only in this particular political
climate: “If the Thalamas Incident had happened in a period of calm, it would not have raised
Ibid, 944. This portion of the debate is remarkable and dramatic; Sembat raises a prior scandal
regarding an anarchist journalist Laurent Talhade and shouts to the conservatives “You were all traitors! You took
up cause against him, you denounced him!” Immediately, “hostage” situations, “massacres,” the Commune, and
violence and treachery in the Waldeck-Rousseau government monopolize the conversation. Sembat finishes with:
From all sides, from everywhere denunciations [delations], anonymous letters, and denunciations!” (944).
Ibid, 944.
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the emotion or led to the consequences which have taken place.” 318 He sought finally to
minimize the importance of the Thalamas Affair in the greater spectrum of French history, but in
doing so revealed a certain respect for students and particularly the disorder that they could
prompt – whether as symbolic puppets or as agents- in this particularly volatile environment.
Refusing to characterize them as docile innocents, he treated them as the opposition.
Sembat proceeded with his defense of Thalamas in such a way as to establish this
professor as the hero, as the martyr to freedom of thought and as a sacrifice made to the clerics in
the same way as Joan of Arc was. 319 Laughing, he wondered aloud whether Republicans and
free-thinkers could be the enemies of Joan of Arc, and asked his audience of conservative
deputies: “Recognize… that it is in vain or like a piece of theatre to make yourselves the
defenders of Joan of Arc… The professor expressed ideas that are not yours, but he had the right
to express them.”320 When the Count of Lanjuinais retorted “not in middle school,” Sembat
launched a counterargument that insisted that the French public school student did not have the
right to reject historical truth. In the exchange which followed, Sembat put these students of
Condorcet, as Lavisse expressed it, on the threshold of adult life, and therefore as deserving what
he or what the Republican school teacher perceived as historical truth.
Comte: Not in middle school.
Sembat: Yes in middle school! There it is perfectly reasonable to say to students – and
that is why Thalamas corrected the work of the student – “As a historian I cannot admit
room for miracles… I can only occupy myself with historical events.”… Even if he said
“The life of Joan of Arc in the camps makes us second-guess her virginity…
(Exclamations to the right; applause to the left).
Dansette: We do not say that to children.
Sembat: Look, M. Dansette, at that age we know enough that that would not have
astonished us! What false modesty!
Ibid, 944.
Ibid, 945. “I remind you that a number of historical figures have suffered also harsh criticism; I remind
you that these same attacks that you reproach Thalamas, the clergy of the time made formally against Joan of Arc.”
Ibid, 945.
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… You have students of the second grade who, at each day’s end, examine carefully the
drawings at street kiosques; they dream… in front of illustrated post cards; and you say
“Take care! Don’t offend their modesty!” Certainly this is not about corrupting their
young souls – they do so by themselves – but all the same you cannot, under this pretext,
forbid the professor, in this language so dignified… you cannot forbid him from putting
students in front of historical truths of all kinds.
Benoist: But [what Thalamas said] is not one. 321
In the midst of this heated exchange, both sides came to agree implicitly that the student
deserved historical truth as a fundamental underpinning of their education. For some in the
Chamber, that vision of the historical truth on Joan of Arc, a question directly tied to the political
atmosphere of the moment, was a question of equal if not greater merit. More importantly here,
Sembat reminded his fellow deputies that these children were not simply children. They were
fourteen-year-old, nearly young men, as capable of absorbing pornography on the city streets as
of absorbing a secular and rational version of history. He highlighted the selective and
hypocritical moralizing of the conservatives, who would not prevent students from sexual
knowledge but would prevent them from realizing their Republican (virile) identity through
historical truth. Though Sembat spoke for his friend Thalamas, in comparison to the relatively
simplistic image of student as puppet which the professor painted, the Radical Republican
deputy’s vision of the student was not only highly nuanced but contradictory. These two sources,
one a deliberately structured and carefully written published work, the other a live and lively
debate, reflect common opinions about the need of a professor to teach freely and without
scrutiny, according to what he knew to be truth. Both agreed that the Minister’s primary duty, to
support the professor, had not been accomplished here. 322 However, in their arguments about
Ibid, 945.
Ibid, 946. Sembat: “We have made ourselves a different idea of the role of the Minister of Public
Instruction…We thought that when a Republican professor is attacked by adversaries of the Republic, he has a
natural defender, his Minister…No matter what his opinions are, so far that he is not proven incorrect, the Minister
must defend him!”
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how age, authority, and maturity of students on the brink of adulthood could shape the
environment of the Republican public school, the two close friends responsible for these
arguments did not offer a united front. 323
When Minister Chaumié finally spoke, he had already suffered the verbal beatings of
Sembat and a few other deputies, who named him – even as a Minister in the Bloc de Gauchesas responsible for encouraging “a campaign led against the Republic and against the University,”
and faulted him for holding the professor “at first glance as suspect,” rather than “[supporting
and assuring him] all the possible guarantees of impartial justice.” 324 Chaumié established and
walked a fine line between the two party coalitions, neither of which was satisfied with his
handling of the Affair. 325 This man assumed all responsibility for whatever faults each group
ascertained in him, going so far as to describe for them how he saw himself and his position at
work in this debate. 326 Chaumié’s detailed explanation of events as he saw them – the same
events which Thalamas described and against which Sembat railed –reflected the stance of a
maker and administrator of policy. 327 Rather than clearing Thalamas of any sanction, the end
sought by Sembat and the Radical Republicans, Chaumié fell to the side of the student. He
Sembat publically stated later, in trying to underline Thalamas’s good character, that “Many among us,
many members of this Chamber, know M. Thalamas. You can hear all those of our colleges who know him
personally, all will testify to his reserve and the measure of his spirit” (945). Charles Dumont, a deputy from 1898
to 1924 of the Jura region of France, then added that “He was at Lycée Henri IV what he is as a professor: a spirit as
in shape and judicious as possible.”
Ibid, 946.
He stated “I protested against the abuse that a certain party wanted to make… There was a desire for
agitation in the streets. M. Thalamas was violently injured and threatened; he wrote to me to let me know; I
responded that those who threatened this notice, who sent him threats were people much more besotted with
scandal than with truth.
“Right now, this is about what is the basis of this affair. We must go to the bottom of the debate itself;
we must know what was said and what the professor had the right to say. We must know finally that which the
Minister of Public Instruction had the duty to decide” (946).
Chaumié said of the classroom on 14 November: “The young student chosen gave the conference on
the 14. He insisted on the exclusive view of the supernatural and divine nature of the mission of Joan of Arc. The
professor, I admit, complimented the student first on the structuring of the lesson and the elegance of his speech
and gave him a good grade in that regard. Then he began the critique, soon followed by an exchange of questions
and responses between the teacher and his students. It was in this critique and this discussion that there would
have been given, by Thalamas, the propositions that provoked the emotion of a number of the students” (945).
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represented the classroom setting as a space of growth, maturity, and enlightenment for lycéens,
an incubator of adulthood that respected the student’s individuality while initiating him to and
cultivating in him a love for the French nation and the Republic.
Chaumié established a strict opposition between teacher and student by trying to define
the rights of each in the classroom. The fiery support that Sembat had rallied in the name of a
teacher’s freedom of teaching, la liberté de l’enseignement, found a powerful enemy in the
Minister, who believed in a model of teaching that made a student’s seamless educational
progress the greater priority: “We have supported [in this debate] the idea that professors have
the right to say everything in front of their students. I am not of this opinion. A reserve must
impose itself on them.” 328 Reciting back to the Radical Republicans quotations of their own
newspapers and of one of their recent heroes, Léon Gambetta, he made clear that his priorities
reflected not the needs of the teacher to expound historical truth but the student’s needs to have a
successful learning experience.
Part of that successful learning experience was not being
offended. Bringing moderates to their feet and causing interruptions to the right of the Chamber,
the Minister testified that:
The professor addresses himself to intellects of children, something that we can never
treat too delicately…because students belong to families of different social situations,
political opinions and religious opinions, he must try not to offend any feelings… 330
In his opinion, the young student deserved respect as a representative of the constituencies and
opinions in the whole of the nation and the body politic, of which the institution of the family
Ibid, 946.
Ibid, 947. He reminded the Radical Republican opposition that their own partisans believed strongly,
regarding religious neutrality in schools, that “It is not just the freedom of thought of the families at stake… it is
also that of the child, of whom the State does not have the right to make the disciple of Christ nor a sectarian of
Holbach.” He then cited Leon Gambetta: “I do not recognize in the rights of the state the right to choose between
two methods for the origin of the world, the end of beings.” Leon Gambetta, a prominent statesman at the time of
the Franco-Prussian War and into the early years of the Third Republic, was intimately involved with many
campaigns against ultramontane and other Catholic sects.
Ibid, 948.
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was a critical unit. Although the Extreme Left made violent disruptions in the Chamber at this
point, the Minister continued to argue using their own secular heroes’ discourse, citing “from
memory… a pamphlet of Jules Ferry” in which the esteemed pedagogue “ended with the words:
‘If you believe that a lesson should offend the conscience of even just one of your students, I say
of just one, then you must abstain from it.” 331 Chaumié respected the minds and spirits of young
students of the public school, particularly the upper middle class lycée, because of their particular
youthful sensitivity, a sensitivity that made them a barometer for the popular opinions of their
families. He expressed that belief clearly held by other leading figures in Third Republic
pedagogy, with rhetoric closer to that of Ernest Lavisse than Lavisse’s partisan friends used.
As the debate progressed, and while Chaumié continued to stress the “tact and delicacy
necessary for teachers worthy of the name,” the question of the debate came to center on the
Pucelle. Chaumié attempted to justify the opinions of religious students to a Republican
opposition convinced that, under the Minister’s watch, “They would start teaching legends
instead of history.” 332 In that process, he invoked the honor and love that Republicans claimed to
have for Joan of Arc, directly citing the works of Michelet in particular – quotations recognized
by the audience. He said to the hostile and increasingly uncomfortable Left: “If some believe
profoundly in the divine mission of Joan of Arc, others, rejecting all supernatural invention,
admiring in her all the same one of the most beautiful and shining pages of our common history”
(Applause to the center and the right; diverse movements from the far left.) 333 The question of
her history quickly moved into a squabble between several deputies as to whether the clericals or
the English burned Joan of Arc, and whether “there are still Cauchons [traitors] in this nation.”
Citing the bipartisan project of Joseph Fabre to create a national holiday for the Pucelle,
Ibid, 947.
Ibid, 947.
Ibid, 947.
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Chaumié repeated certain propaganda and rhetorical formulas found in materials on Joan of Arc
across the political culture. He did so to ask why a student’s respect for and love of this figure, “a
figure for whom the national sentiment, of right and left, professes rightly a veritable cult,”
should foster such condemnation. As tempers flared and Sembat wondered why they concerned
themselves with this “diversion,” the Minister resumed his position vis-à-vis the student, the
professor, and the subject matter in a powerful few sentences. His statement drew attention to
what the Left had skipped over – the relationship of the student to, and his investment in to the
subject matter, rather than just of the professor to a standard of truth:
It seems to me that the lesson was about Joan of Arc. We have now thus looked at, in
treating this subject, whether M. Thalamas lacked tact and measure, or if to the contrary,
he acted in the fullness of his rights. It is interesting to ask whether treating the history of
Joan of Arc, and conducting a geography lesson, or a history lesson on some war
somewhere that raises no interest, no passion, must be considered completely different
If I have searched out the depth and the extent of national feelings on Joan of Arc, it is in
order to see with you if one could not more carefully avoid offending someone’s
He essentially asked whether it were possible to conduct a history lesson on a figure as popular
and as controversial as Joan of Arc without needing to add a level of sensitivity that another
dryer historical topic would not require. In that, Chaumié endowed the student of the second
grade with that impressionability and sensitivity, something exaggerated in them but normal for
anyone on a controversial issue or question.
When called to recount the case itself, Chaumié described it with a few notable points not
found or mentioned by Thalamas or Sembat, points which went to the heart of his commitment
to the student welfare in the classroom. He described how forty students were interviewed by
two inspectors, and defended his choice not to “confront the students with the professor” because
Ibid, 947.
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such a confrontation would not elicit a truthful or unpressured response. Chaumié further
described how Thalamas had been permitted to see the depositions of the students, and spent
“two to three days to examine the file and write his observations,” upon which point he wrote
and submitted his own account. 335 In the comparison of these two documents, which he did full
aware of the “deformation” that happens “bit by bit” in the writing of memories, he came to his
conclusion. “It resulted from this examination, for me, the conviction that certain of the
propositions which Thalamas was reproached for…,” he said carefully, interrupted by the cries
of the Left, “were not made intentionally … but there was at least, in what cannot be contested,
the impression in the ensemble that the professor might have offended the conscience of the
children… Offend their consciences, this might not be worth anything to you, Messieurs, but for
me it is the worst possibility.” 336 The Minister’s speech, languishing in vague language and the
conditional verb tense, nevertheless definitively fell on the side of the offended student and made
that offense of the student’s sensibilities the worst part of this case. In a careful reading of his
more careful words, the reader can easily imagine the hostility he felt and apprehension with
which he pronounced this statement. From one side of the chamber came shouts of “[At the
extreme left]: these are nationalist consciences!” while from the other side reverberated “They
are worth the same as all the others!” 337 In an attempt to calm the fury, Minister Chaumié said
from his pedestal that, even if he could not know whether these students have nationalist
conservative of republican consciences, “it is a conscience of a child, which consequently must
Ibid, 948.
Ibid, 947-948. “Il en est résulté pour moi la conviction que, si certains des propos qui avaient été
reprochés à M. Thalamas… [A l’extrême gauche : Lesquels ?] … n’avaient pas été tenus avec l’intention peut-être
qu’on leur reproche – ou que, si tout au moins, la preuve ne m’en était pas exactement rapportée – il y avait tout
au moins dans ce qui ne pouvait être contestée, dans l’impression d’ensemble qui s’en dégageait, la preuve que le
professeur avait pu froisser la conscience des enfants (Rumeurs à l’extrême gauche.)
Ibid, 949.
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be respected! [Applause on a large number of the benches.]” 338 He defined the best interest of
the student as that which would teach him to think carefully about his beliefs without rudely
calling into question those beliefs. He showed a care for the adolescent as a developing being, to
be nurtured and encouraged and not undermined, which neither the teacher nor Deputy Sembat
The Minister moved on, trying to defend himself against an onslaught of interruptions,
exclamations, and applause from the large crowd before him. The only trace we have of the
depositions themselves came from this passage in the transcript of the debate, in which Chaumié
integrated direct quotations into his self-defense. These details formed no part of Thalamas’ own
record of what transpired inside the classroom. They were indeed shocking to the Chamber when
they were heard: the first, that Thalamas said in a fit of rage to his students, “I do not believe in
your God, and I don’t believe in his agents;” the second, which Chaumié said “reproduced the
sentiment that the students must have felt,” that Thalamas replied to one student “Now let me
just finish demolishing the legend of Joan of Arc!” 339 Finally, the Minister had made known the
supposed offensive comments, comments whose words and far-reaching implications not only
contradicted a history of the national figure built into the syllabuses of the public school
curriculum. They would have called into question some of the fundamental ways that the
political culture had taught students to love their nation and love their nation’s history. He
accepted responsibility for displacing and sanctioning Thalamas, as it was the least he could do
given the uncertainties of the testimony: “if I believed completely in the accuracy of these
reports, the incident would have had much more gravity… What I can say is that I had the
Ibid, 949.
Ibid, 949.
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impression that Thalamas was indeed somewhere out of line.” 340 To this, Sembat responded
vehemently “Thalamas did not lack a disrespect of youth!” and that “The greatest respect that we
can give children is the truth!” Yet the Minister had given voice to the students’ testimony,
pointedly raising multiple questions about “truth.” The Minister’s testimony put into question the
historical truths constructed by the Left about November 14 th, giving the incidents in the
classroom an importance that only a violent contestation of any fact provides.
What the Minister offered to the Chamber by means of his testimony, nothing less than
an affirmation of the student’s voice above that of the professor, delineated to where he felt his
responsibilities lay. They lay in the support of the student, the student whom the school sought to
shape and grow to become a patriotic, nationalistic, enthusiastic young Frenchman. His loyalty
did not necessarily belong to the teaching establishment. The classroom had to be as freeing and
as encouraging to learning for students as it offered freedom of teaching to the professor. “Free
in their teaching, they must know the limits of their liberties. The University is as proud of its
duties as of its rights, and I do not expect it to neglect one or sacrifice the other.” Chaumié
recognized and made a point of showing that Joan of Arc had a special resonance for the young
students, a relationship that the Third Republic’s educational establishment had sought to
cultivate between students and the state, with Joan as its proxy. Arguments lanced at Chaumié
continued to accuse him of poorly defending his employees and opening professors to
denunciations of all kinds, “Of which the daily manifestations and letters in the newspapers are
the proof.”341 In face of this uproar, Chaumié remained committed to a vision of students that
gave them, as those whom the public school was meant to serve, the benefit of the doubt.
Supporting the student, and helping ensuring that students maintained a friendly image of the
Ibid, 949.
Ibid, 950.
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public school, was as much a fundamental principle of Republican education in his mind as was
teaching “the truth.” Although a Minister of the Bloc de Gauches, and thereby in theory part of
the Left, forced by the paradigm of opposition between libre-penseur teacher and conservative
student which Sembat had established, the Minister defaulted to a greater trust and respect for the
student’s experiences. He cared for the legitimacy of the Republican school as much as Sembat,
but these cares oriented themselves in dramatically different ways.
One of the last to speak in the debate was Deputy Georges Berry, he whom others had
accused of manufacturing this scandal through the friends of his son. As a father, a père de
famille, and as the elected official for the Parisian arrondissement where Lycée Condorcet was
located, he added to this discussion of the case a particular perspective based in the family
structure. He reminded the Chamber that the student was one part of a family, and that the family
– whether Republican or conservative – formed the basis of the legitimacy of the state and of the
University. Fighting against both Sembat and Jean Jaures to finally speak without interruption,
he insisted that “This incident is not about a plot against the Government or against the
University; it is about families astonished by the ways that their children were taught by M.
Thalamas.” 342 Berry added further details to the chronology of 14 November, details which
highlighted the role of pères de famille in bringing these events to his attention. He testified that
two fathers with their sons came to his office the afternoon of the 14 th, all very disturbed by what
had happened in class; he asked them to make a written statement. He insisted, contrary to the
accusation of Sembat, “that I sought out no student to act as my own witness,” but that he passed
all documents given to him directly to the Ministry of Public Instruction. Despite this, he
admitted having asked for and received the file on M. Thalamas from Lycée Michelet in Amiens,
where the professor had previously taught, for this file contained several letters of pères de
Ibid, 950. On several occasions, the president had to ask Jaures and Sembat to let Berry speak clearly.
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famille “who had protested against the way that the professor lead his courses.” 343 These too he
claimed to have passed along, and here Berry declared his direct role in the affair closed. Even
within his presentation of the facts of the case, this deputy revealed a remarkably different idea
of the agency of these students. Neither were they the simple instruments of their parents, nor
completely independent and somewhat threatening young French citizens. They belonged to a
family unit, and respect for the family unit necessitated that for its children.
Other than the depositions of students and the file of the professor, Berry described
receiving letters from families and parents of the 9 th Arrondissement in the weeks since the 14 th.
Just as Thalamas saw himself as responsible to history, Sembat as responsible to the Left and the
teaching establishment, and the Minister to the children of the public school system, Berry’s
place as an elected official and his more conservative politics made him responsible and
responsive to the family unit, the foundation of the voting population and the taxpayers. He
Didn’t I have the right to protect students against a professor who violated the neutrality
of school? (Rumblings at the Far left). I have received complaints of several pères de
famille in the arrondissement where Lycée Condorcet is; I responded to their
reclamations, it was my duty…. I have a considerable number of letters. 344
He read aloud the letter of a Madame Boer, which he had chosen because “it was very explicit;”
she claimed that her son, a student in Thalamas’ class, had returned from school “put out and
completely overwhelmed [indigné et révolté] by the things that he heard.” 345 Berry did not
describe any specific letters written to him by students; if these letters existed, they were not his
priority to share in this context. The deputy clearly saw himself as beholden to their parents
instead. Countering anew the interruptions of Sembat, Berry insisted that he did not wish for the
Ibid, 951.
Ibid, 950.
Ibid, 950. She appears to have thanked her deputy for taking the matter into his own hands, since she
could not - “the protest of a woman would have little weight.”
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head of M. Thalamas, but wondered “if he were not better suited for the Sorbonne, where we can
debate historical events more freely, and as he does not have the temperament of a secondary
school educator.” 346 That statement identified something particular about the public secondary
school that did not suit the University setting, and vice-versa. The maturity of students and the
depth of historical inquiry were the material of that difference.
Amidst cries of “liar!” Berry concluded by expressing confidence that he had
accomplished “a great service to the University (exclamations at the Far Left) yes a service,
where families send their children, assured that these institutions will give them an instruction…
perfect in all ways.” With no small degree of satisfaction, Berry declared that the legitimacy of
the University and of public education in general, both so fundamental to the Republican
program, was reestablished in the minds of French families via the “defending of our national
treasure.” 347 Was this national treasure the student, as Lavisse might have had students believe
themselves? Was it Joan of Arc? Was it a reference to defending the educational establishment
itself from the influence of a rogue professor? The arc of his rhetoric made all three possible
interpretations. What differentiates his contribution from the other speakers in this longwinded
debate over history, teaching, and political culture is his insistence on the family and on the
family’s important place in the life and development of the next generation of French citizens.
By constantly referring back to the letters of various pères de famille and by insisting that the
outcome of the Thalamas Affair strengthened rather than weakened the legitimacy of the school
in the eyes of parents, Berry presented the student as having authority as the next generation nor
just of the French body politic but of a family tree. Neither Thalamas nor Sembat evidently
trusted the student as much as Berry did; in that way, Chaumié and Berry’s perspectives are
As 1908 shows us, Thalamas did indeed find himself at the Sorbonne and for the bulk of his career in
Ibid, 951.
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much more similar. Yet Thalamas saw the opinionated and activist student as the puppet of a
dominating family, not as a natural result of a family with an investment in the politics and
political culture of France; this distinction, while small, produces two wildly dissimilar notions
of how the French youth saw himself and acted within the greater institutions of government,
school, and family. In contrast to Sembat, who relied heavily on a portrayal of the student
population as independent, wild, and fully manipulative of the situation, Berry made no comment
as to the independence of the students. They existed for him as part of families, families who
constituted the basis of the legitimacy of his power and his duties as a deputy and the basis of the
Republic as a whole.
The debate continued on along the Quai d’Orsay with the speech of M. Jean Jaurès,
whose fame as a critical leader of French socialism and as a victim of assassination in the weeks
before the outbreak of the First World War far surpassed his contribution to this discussion of the
Thalamas Affair. Although many in the Chamber clamored for cloture, he took the opportunity
to rehabilitate the negative image of the professor-student relationship as Sembat, Chaumié, and
Berry had depicted it. Putting himself in a position to reconcile the professor to the Ministry,
Jaurès depicted the ideal Republican professor as a liberator of students, endowed with the right
and duty to teach the young generations “the critical spirit, animated by both modern science and
by democracy, which had rehabilitated and recaptured the great figure of Joan of Arc, obscured
as well by the prejudices of the Middle Ages as by the frivolity of eighteenth-century ideas.” 348
While his description of the events of the case varied little from what the parade of other
speakers had heretofore presented, this final representation of the Affair presented the student as
an amorphous being between a child and a young man, old enough to have his own ideas, old
enough to have them challenged, and old enough to “denature and deform” the ideas of their
Ibid, 952.
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teacher. The echoes of Chaumié’s own earlier words pervaded Jaurès’ opinion, though he also
supported what Sembat saw as an independent spirit inherent to this age group (and, in Sembat’s
opinion, dangerous.) Jaurès’s speech, through these attempts at reconciliation, re-centered the
question around one of Republican rights: “The professor owes the young students respect,
absolutely, but he owes them also the virile education of liberty and of wit.” 349 The student who
“risks, who goes on adventures, with that spirit simple and whole of his age,” could not grow as
an intelligent and intellectual French citizen without the public school teacher who “obliges him
precisely to develop all his personal thought, to present him with theses contrary to his thought.”
In this light, trying to defend his friend Thalamas, Jaurès made a bold statement:
If Thalamas was stricken, if he was threatened, it was for having tried, with the liberty of
free critique, to make his students know, and most of all the passionately catholic student
who had given the presentation, that it is possible that Joan of Arc, whose figure today
appears so pure, so heroic, and so incontestable, was yet misunderstood by a large part of
the society of her time… 350
While we cannot dwell on the subsequent flood of words and sentiments over who had burned
and condemned the Pucelle, the spirit in which Deputies of the Right contested Jaurès - and
Jaurès’s and Thalamas’s belief that the Church was responsible for her death, and that students
must know this – makes it not at all unreasonable for this same spirit of debate, confusion, and
anger to have occurred in the classroom setting. Jaurès’s speech awoke many voices in the
Chamber which had not yet participated in the debate, deputies of conservative, Catholic, or
noble background who came to the defense of their vision of the French heroine. 351 The famous
socialist himself ended with an appeal to the Minister to remember his employees, the professors
Ibid, 953.
Ibid, 953.
Ibid, 954-956. These include de Baudry d’Asson, Abbé Gayraud, the Baron Amédée Beille, the count of
Lanjuinais, and several other prominent conservatives heretofore silent. They interrupted him with shouts like
“Burned by the English!” “The rehabilitation was already made by the Church!” “How would you have judged
Joan?” and “Long live Joan of Arc!”
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and Republican bureaucrats “to whom he owed a confidence which the Government should not
hesitate to assure them.” 352 What he had contributed did not concern so much the student as the
professor. While falling squarely on the side of increasing rather than defining teacher’s liberties,
he offered a final and powerful image of partnership between teacher and student. This
partnership he defined as the legacy of Republicanism, of the Declaration of the Rights of Man
and Citizen, a tradition of free thinking which he claimed Joan of Arc died for.
Thus, in a surprising turn, Jaurès of all the speakers waxed poetic on the value of the
Pucelle in the French political culture: “It is thus that she shines, this young girl, shocking men
of battle by the tranquility of her courage, and shocking the subtle doctors of theology by
creating a subtle language of laïcité, a French subtleness.” 353 Although his argument offered only
a short explanation of his view of the student and of the French youth in the public school, that
he re-oriented the debate towards the question of what Joan of Arc could and did represent spoke
volumes. Notably, Georges Berry had taken the same rhetorical strategy, ending his time at the
podium by affirming his vision of the Pucelle, the “soul of France, the soul of victory… a lay
saint, a saint for all parties; we owe her a great page in our history, and let us not rip that page, as
we have so few.”354 No matter how she had exploited and discussed in this debate, whether
directly or indirectly, the leading figures of both parties saw and used Joan of Arc as a rhetorical
device as capable of generating goodwill as of linking the individual speaker to the great history
of men who had studied and found something of value in this figure.
Ibid, 955.
Ibid, 955: “She was obliged, before her judges, to debate with terrible difficulty; she, a believe, she
Catholic, and wanting however to maintain the value of her supernatural voices above the judgment of the Church
and of the sentencing of the pope, she was obliged at all moments to search out a reconciliation marvelously
subtle between the orthodoxy she pretended to and her free faith individual in what she heard from her voices…
Therefore shines this incomparable prodigy, prodigy not only of conscience but of thought, the prodigy of Joan of
Arc who lifted herself to all the heights of moral inspiration… “
Ibid, 951.
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In citing her illustrious story, and in integrating versions of it into their testimony,
speakers in the Chamber of Deputies clearly deviated from the question initially posed by
Sembat, that of whether Thalamas had earned his treatment from the Minister. These adults had
an investment in this historical figure. That the debate transcript is sprinkled with the violent
back-and-forth of arguments on history reveals the same of the Chamber in general, a room full
of some five hundred men who – regardless of party affiliation - believed fundamentally in the
power of the Republican school experience to strengthen or undermine the legitimacy of the
State. Even if they did not in principle support the Republican public school, conservatives
admitted its influence by fighting to make its curricula get the Johannic story right. The
document preserves an image of a group that sincerely cared about how this history of Joan of
Arc would be taught. They cared about how the public school taught history not just in theory,
but in practice; they cared about what the individual agents of the Republic, such as Thalamas,
had to say about it and how and what the consumers of these lessons, the students, took away
from it. They cared in a way that is difficult to comprehend or appreciate without reading what
they affirmed with their own words, in their own voices, and in the face of their often hostile
colleagues. This debate is lengthy, profound, nuanced, and incapable of being fully exploring in
this one examination, but the separate voices heard in it make it clear that the student, as a
consumer of history and of Republican education, as a future citizen of France, as the key to
sustaining a successful nation and state, was not an empty vessel for a certain pre-defined
curricula. The student, as an ambiguous but critical actor in the Thalamas Affair, was an
organism maturing alongside the institution of the public school and within the greater space that
the political culture created for him. Sembat, Chaumié, Berry, and Jaurès found little to agree
upon as a whole, except perhaps that the young citizens, the vanguard of France, were owed
Page 149 of 216
respect, regardless of what their political opinions were, but simply because they would, could,
and did hold them. That these notions of respect found a type of expression through a discussion
over Joan of Arc, her place in history, and her place in the political culture. This is not merely
ironic but, in many ways, only appropriate.
The Thalamas Affair offered a challenge to the accepted ways in which a standardized
Third Republic, laïc, educational system saw its students, posing the question of how they
responded to that system and its teachings, and what influence that might create in the political
culture moving forward. From the limited agency that the Professor Thalamas assigned students
in his official account of events, to Sembat’s view of their agency as a burgeoning and riotous
opposition, Chaumié’s of young and sensitive developing minds, Berry’s of students as
representatives of the family, or Jaures’ of students as French citizens to be endowed with virile
reason, no one could rightfully assert in these tense few weeks that the lycéen population of Paris
were simple receptacles of knowledge. The call to the young to strengthen and embody a
remade France - a call made through the materials and environments of daily life, through history
textbooks, and through the discourse of their teachers and administrators, and in the retelling of
Joan of Arc’s story – had proved itself in November and December 1904 less than innocuous.
The sequence of the Thalamas Affair, from the initial classroom disruption to the last of the
street manifestations a month later in mid-December, revealed the potential for students to do
more than absorb the ideas the Third Republic gave them. It revealed the potential for young
French citizens to respond to those heroic ideals and affirm them actively, publically, and
riotously in ways surprisingly consistent with the language of nationalism and patriotism they
were provided but also threatening. These strikingly different perspectives on how the teenage
student and young French citizen should participate in the greater political culture offer a
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unanticipated window into what the Thalamas Affair meant in its moment and in the movement
towards World War I and the rise of a student Right. As necessary for that rise, however, is the
treatment of the Thalamas Affair outside the boundaries of the public school or the Republican
halls of government: from the Quai d’Orsay to the statues of Joan of Arc and the meeting rooms
of the Action Française, we now return to the great political stage of the Third Republic, the
streets of Paris.
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Chapter 4
Performing Student Protests: The Boulevard Theatre
of the Thalamas Affair
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“Let us express first our gratitude to these brave children. In giving us this proof of their ardent and pure
patriotism, they comfort us in the present and give us confidence and hope in the future!” (Bravos! Very
François Coppée
Many of the speakers in the Chamber of Deputies on 1 December 1904 expressed doubt
that the students protesting in the streets of Paris did so genuinely as part of their identity as
students and young French citizens. The possibility that they were acting not on their own behalf,
but on that of their bourgeois conservative parents, that they had taken upon themselves to play
at being offended young Republicans in order to serve the interests of a clerical, Catholic Right
inherently against the values of the Bloc de Gauches; these questions actively circulated in an
atmosphere in which a loyal opposition did not exist. Others nuanced this perspective, insisting
that their acting out was not about an insult to the honor of the Pucelle, but of behaving younger
and more innocent than the typical lycéens Parisiens. The question of appearances versus reality
was not just reinforced by the conflicting ideologies of French politics revealed by this debate. It
stood alongside the question posed in and by the debate about the role of the young, not yet
enfranchised, French citizen on the national scene.
The reason this issue came before the Chamber on the Quai d’Orsay was the social unrest
and political protests it had led to in the streets of the French capital. When Sembat first urged
the examination of Minister Chaumié’s involvement in the Thalamas Affair, he interrupted
weeks of debate on a yet-to-be-finalized state budget for the coming year. Describing what
would have ordinarily been reluctance to bring any other matter forward for discussion, Sembat
insisted that this Affair was enough a matter of state importance and security to put the budget
Contre les insulteurs de Jeanne d’arc : Meeting nationaliste du 5 décembre 1904. Paris : Action Française,
1904. Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
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issue aside for the moment. 356 In its way, the Thalamas Affair was a matter of state security, as
protesters of all sizes and parties had taken to the streets since mid-November to express their
particular reactions to the “insult to Joan of Arc” or to the unfair punishing of a loyal Republican
teacher. Although the Chamber’s discussion itself ended more or less in a draw, and thus on the
side of the status quo, firm lines had been drawn between those adults performing their vision of
what loyalty to France resembled. 357
Many scholars have described the theatrical component to French, and specifically
Parisian, life in the fin-de-siècle. As we explored in the first chapter, the Ministry of Beaux-Arts
and other public institutions at the municipal and national level invested in the creation of
physical and material space that would predispose all citizens to the ideals of the Republic
simply by living their daily lives. 358 In return, that simple daily living could provide
opportunities for public performance of those virtues. T.J. Clark offers a useful framework for
reading and interpreting the place of spectacle, performance, and representation (re-presentation)
in ordering Belle Époque Parisian society. His link to and explanation of Marx’s “social practice”
is key to my understanding of what influence the sight of students protesting in the Thalamas
Affair had in the greater political culture:
Society is a battlefield of representations, on which the limit and coherence of any given
set are constantly being fought for and regularly spoilt… it makes sense to say that
representations are continually subject to the test of a reality more basic than themselves
France, Assemblée nationale (1871-1942), Chambre des députés, Annales De La Chambre Des Députés:
Débats Parlementaires, v.74 pt.2, 1904. Paris: (Imprimerie du Journal Officiel), 924.
As Deputy Jean Jaurès’s “impassioned speech” neared a close, the ancient and respected Deputy
Renault-Morliere called for a vote in the Chamber as to the body’s support or rejection of Minister Chaumié’s
actions. This elderly Republican did not see any further debate as useful to solving or resolving a conflict so simple
and yet so complexly representative of the nation’s growing pains. Three votes, a split vote 268/264,
See Agulhon, « La ‘statuomanie’ et l’histoire » ; Lehning, Melodramatic Thread; Pomfret, ""A Muse for
the Masses,"; Sniter, « La Gloire des femmes célèbres, »; Sniter, “La Guerre des Statues. »
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– the test of social practice…. It is the overlap and interference of representations; it is
their rearrangement in use. 359
As a result, the actions taken by discrete individuals or groups in the space of the public sphere
have a deep semiotic value that informs the political culture and changes it, just as the actions’
own meaning is changed through practice. The public sphere, “which mediates between society
and state, [and] in which the public organizes itself as the bearer of public opinion,” conditions
the lasting meaning and lasting memory of the behaviors and actions organized within it. 360 In
this way, the act of performance allowed everyday French-ness to become extraordinary, what
Vanessa Schwartz has deemed a “spectacular reality.” 361 The creation of types for the new
French political culture allowed not only a kind of performance, but a kind of systematic
replacement of religious or noble classes with the doctor, lawyer, and priest. Students, children,
and the bourgeois lycéen acted as much within this framework as did their parents and
grandparents. They had a part to play, and were as stereotyped as much as the adult types
frequenting music halls, boulevard theatres, and cafes.
Venita Datta writes of heroism and performance that “In addition to heroes of the past,
the French in a democratic age looked to heroes in everyday life, whose actions were amplified
not only in books and magazines but also and especially by the mass press.” 362 Her discussion of
heroic presentation and re-presentation in the theatre, including Sarah Bernhardt’s 1890 and
1910 portrayals of Joan of Arc, asserts that “there was an effort by contemporaries, on both the
left and right, to include women as heroes who would form part of a national consensus.” 363 It is
useful, and necessary, in understanding the significance of the Thalamas Affair protests on the
T. J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the art of Manet and his followers, New York: Knopf,
Craig J. Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere, Cambridge, Mass: (MIT Press, 1992), 290.
See Schwartz, Spectacular Realities.
Datta, 14.
Ibid, 15.
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national scene to apply this idea but with age, rather than gender, as the type or role to be played.
Many scholars, including Datta, have explored the consequences of the Pucelle’s gender
ambiguity.364 I argue that this makes her age an even more important, and more transcendent,
category. Joan of Arc was the young hero through which the crafters of the Third Republic’s
heroic ethic key integrated the young citizen, the young student of the Republic, into public
performance of civic virtue. That performance transcended the public and private realms in the
art, rhetoric, and daily materials that informed a young French person’s developing sense of
identity within the Republic. Their developing sense of identity took place through a
conversation between the top-down policy makers and directors of political culture and those
young citizens who lived it and redefined it through their performance.
We know from the transcript of the debate on December 1, 1904, that the responses of
different representatives of the Republic were as varied and nuanced as these individuals’
political profiles were. They struggled with determining what different influences led students to
appear to lead a wave of collective agitation against the State. These institutions had been created
in order to raise these students – the first generation to pass through the Republican school
system – to maintain the legitimacy of the State, emphasizing military prowess, and adherence to
both the legacy of 1789 and an ancient national history read through the lens of 1789’s values.
Regardless of what or who influenced the students to partake in these protests, the symbolic
value of these young French citizens protesting cannot be underestimated. It certainly was not
underestimated by the conservative Right and the Action Française. This chapter combines
previously unexamined press sources, various types of police reports, and the published minutes
of the December 5, 1904 conference at the Action Française to consider how students, by taking
See cited works of Bouzy, Datta, Flower, Freeman, Krumeich, Provencher and Eilderts, Warner and
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responsibility and appearing as agents in the protests of the Thalamas Affair and assuming the
role of citizen, contributed to the dialogue around French political and national identity. The
sources pose certain challenges. The majority of the media I cite are clippings kept by the
Préfecture de la Police. Therefore, they wonderfully illustrate what those responsible for
maintaining the peace of the Third Republic considered critical knowledge in the moment.
Comparisons of press and police reports reveal certain discrepancies in the historical record that
illuminate the agenda of each. While the abundant Belle Époque media is necessarily subjective,
police reports have their own problems of subjectivity. Though made more official as a
government document, each report depends on the individual agent wrote from what he saw; the
individual agent’s eye saw only what he could as a result of where his superiors told him to go.
Accepting these limitations, a sensitive analysis appreciates the kaleidoscopic image they form.
It engenders an appreciation for the symbolic value that the young students actively possessed
and could actively manipulate – or have manipulated- in the political hierarchy.
The 1904 Thalamas Affair, as short as a drama as it proved to be and as untouched in
scholarship as it remains, raised the curtain on tensions latent in an educational system. The
system at once professed freedom of thought while enforcing a rigid ideological consistency and
maintaining a close surveillance over headmaster, teacher, and student in the lycée environment.
Through this scandal and its protests, students and young people found particular ways to act
within the established precedents of political culture while also speaking against it. They asserted
their voice as independent citizens of a Republic, endowed with a vote and a mind – just as the
Republican pedagogues had taught them to behave. Yet they asserted that voice with words and
with a message that ultimately threatened to undermine the institutions which empowered them.
Their voices echoed in the physical spaces of the Parisian city; in the very spaces which the
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Republic sanitized and sanctified precisely in order to honor French heroes; in geographies
attached in the popular and historical psyche to the great protests of French history and to the
inheritance of 1789. Just as these spaces were symbolic, so too were they as actors on that stage.
While the initial link remains imprecise between the Condorcet classroom and the Left Bank Rue
du Bac headquarters of this still relatively young organization, the group’s embrace of the
Thalamas Affair made it part of its founding myth. Between 1904 and 1908, Thalamas, the event
and the man, became integral to the idiom of the conservative Right, as key to defining them
against certain Republican values as Joan of Arc became key to defining them for others.
For just over three weeks, from 24 November to 12 December 1904, the Police
maintained a constant guard over some of the most-trafficked regions of Paris and the
arrondissement of Versailles, and their archives reveal a Paris taken over by a surprising
groundswell of high school students and young people, les jeunes Parisiens. As the
representatives of the future of France, they performed their patriotism and their nationalism in
opposition to – or at least, in critique of - the Third Republic. They stood as a reminder that they
too could be actors on the stage of political culture, changing and re-interpreting the script even
under the oversight of the director. In the public sphere, the public identity of citizen-stakeholder
and one’s private identity conflict. The individual body becomes part of the body politic, a sign
for the values of the world in which he lives. It is, in this light, that the act of protesting during
the Thalamas Affair deserves a separate investigation, an investigation conscious of the fact that
police reports have a built in selection process. What is captured in these documents is not
complete, nor do they reflect the ordinary goings-on of a Parisian existence. By their nature, they
reflect the attention paid both by the police as a directed governmental unit and by the police as
individuals to what seemed extraordinary and possibly threatening to public calm. Similarly,
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clippings from newspapers found amongst the police reports speak to the interest taken by the
police in these particular publications and in the influence of those perspectives on their work to
maintain the peace. Cognizant of these limitations, we can recognize that they are also strengths,
providing us sets of basic data points from the perspective of those responsible for public safety
and for protecting the citizens and the physical institutions and infrastructure of the Third
Republic. They allow us to create a surprisingly complex representation of the tradition of Joan
of Arc demonstrations and the points of continuity and disturbance which the Thalamas Affair
had with that tradition.
Peaceful marches and other demonstrations in the name of Joan of Arc had popular
support and political legitimacy by 1904; a short analysis of these many earlier events will later
make it clear how truly exemplary the Thalamas Affair was. Demonstrations typically were
limited to the month of May, when France remembered both the liberation of Orléans and her
death in Rouen. In 1878, in a moment of unfriendly historical happenstance for a sensitive and
young Third Republic, the centennial of the death of Voltaire and the 450 th anniversary of the
Siege of Orleans coincided. 365 The government in its infancy faced a brutal public test of national
identity and of national ideology; public opinion and public protest divided in a confused way,
but one that anticipated later anti-clerical-Republican cleavages in the political culture. As we
have seen, since then, conscious efforts by different branches of the new state, and by multiple
individuals responsible for that state’s intersection with daily forms of citizenship, integrated
Joan of Arc into the material of Republican ideology. She could not, as she did in 1878, stand in
such direct opposition to a figure like Voltaire, the intellectual and spiritual father of the
Revolution of 1789 and the grandfather of the Third Republic. From 1878 on, celebrating her in
For more detail on this particular moment, each of these works discusses it in greater length. See cited
works of Gildea, Jennings, Krumeich, Margolis, Warner, and Winock for deeper discussion.
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the month of May offered the Right, and particularly the Catholic Right, a distinct opportunity to
assert themselves on the political stage; their celebration was peaceful, however, justified not
only from the pulpit but by Republican rhetoric. 366 Police reports on surveillance of these May
fêtes from 1899 to 1904 revealed a fairly typical pattern: church-goers, particularly attending
memorial masses at Notre Dame de Paris, left service and walked from Ile de la Cité to the statue
of Joan of Arc at the Place des Pyramides, sometimes as far as Place des Augustins. 367 There,
these groups deposited flowers and bouquets at the foot of the statues. Frenchmen and women
attended mass at Notre Dame de Paris
in the thousands, according to the
surveillance of officers. The presence
and activity of student groups such as
the Jeunesse Monarchiste de Paris and
the Jeunesse Catholique de Paris were
commonplace. On a few occasions,
student groups from the Left, such as
the Society de Libre Pensée, Society
for Free Thought, or the Union des
Figure 19: « Woman depositing flowers at the Fremiet, » April 19,
1909, Le Petit Journal, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris,
Libres Penseurs Internationaux,
Union of International Free Thinkers,
organized protests and counter-demonstrations. Yet the police records listed no great numbers of
For sermons, see, for instance, Coubé, L'âme de Jeanne d'Arc, Paris : Lethellieux, 1910. Coubé, La
double mission de Jeanne d’Arc : Discours prononce le 14 mai 1899 en l’église Notre Dame de Paris, Paris : Victor
Retaux, 1899. Felix Dupanloup, Sermon, 8 May 1869, in Flower, John. Joan of Arc: Icon of Modern Culture. Sussex:
Helm Information, 2008. Jean Pierre Pagis, Jeanne d'Arc en présence des sans Dieu et des sans patrie: panégyrique
de la vénérable prononcé, Paris : (H. Herluision, 1898).
367 a
B 61. Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
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students arrested from either side. The only arrests listed in May 1904 were individual arrests for
refusal to move along or otherwise blocking traffic, captured in the documents as refus de
circuler. Police officers made only two arrests in May 1904 that were connected to Joan of Arc
demonstrations. This offers a remarkable contrast to what the Thalamas Affair entailed only
seven months later.
Across the thirty years before the Thalamas Affair, if we measure unrest by the number
of arrests, these demonstrations were thus rarely the source of such disorder. More often, police
officers noted the presence of groups of jeunes, “young people,” in numbers of 20-30, depositing
bouquets at the statues and moving along if asked, but more often “with no incident,” aucun
incident a décrire. That the police sent both officers and gardiens de la paix, Keepers of the
Peace, to conduct surveillance in the 1 st, 2 nd, 4th, 8th, and 9th arrondissements in particular
revealed their awareness of possibility for violent conflict, or the possibility for a need of police
intervention, yet none was necessary. The Préfecture de la Police’s stockpile of documents
related to “Demonstrations in Honor of Joan of Arc” from 1899 to 1904 further contained
newspaper articles from such conservative mouthpieces as Autorité, Patrie, Libre Parole, La
Lanterne, and L’Action. In these newspapers, demonstrations were announced, panegyrics of
Joan of Arc reprinted, concerts in Joan of Arc’s honor advertised, meetings of student groups and
other political clubs summarized. The remarkable attention given to these increasingly
mainstream Right groups reflected the ideological tensions of the moment, and the ever present
fear and threat of disorder. Yet the demonstrations shared very little with the protests and arrests
in November and December.
The first note of Thalamas-related protests appeared in the Police Archives in a three
page report dated November 24. This fell ten days after the supposed classroom incident, and
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five days after the official sanction of the Minister of Public Instruction transferred Thalamas
from his Lycée Condorcet post to Lycée Charlemagne. Police watching the Rue Rivoli in the
area of the Place des Pyramides noted at midday a crown of roses deposited at the Joan of Arc
statue; later that afternoon (3:00 p.m.), an officer made the fascinating note that there “were only
a few lycéens, more adults,” and that the Municipal Council had been alerted. The police were
obviously attentive to the possibility that students would come to the Place des Pyramides, even
in the middle of the school day. No police records indicated arrests made, though the far-right
journal Libre Parole decried the “unmerited arrests” of four young men. 368 The writer “protested”
against this arrest, writing that “The cry of ‘Long live Joan of Arc!’ and the fact of being
connected to the students of Condorcet, in order to avenge the hateful indecencies done to the
heroine, did not merit arrest.” The major daily Le Temps – a newspaper unattached to the Rightreported on the 25th in a short story titled “The Thalamas Affair” that the “Certain students of
Lycée Condorcet” had planned yesterday to “give homage to the Pucelle of Orléans and [hoped]
that students of many institutions would join them.” 369 The article continued to explain that two
groups of students, around 2:30 p.m., had arranged themselves near the entrances to the Place
des Pyramides, but that “a line of police agents surrounded the statue,” preventing their access.
Ultimately, “no delegation of lycéens or undergraduates came forward” by the appointed time of
3:30 p.m., but what lacked in students grew in the crowd: “The number of curious bystanders
grew minute by minute.” Police archives did not enumerate the presence of their agents not did
they present any image of a pressing crowd of students or bystanders. A report from 3:15 p.m.
wrote simply, “Very few lycéens, more adults. The Conseiller municipal of the quarter is
« A la Statue de Jeanne d’Arc, » Libre Parole, 25 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la
Police, Paris, France.
« L’Affaire Thalamas, » Le Temps, 25 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris,
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present.” This terse description portrayed only relative calm, though the presence of a city
council leader seemed to this officer a notable anomaly. The crowd presence, though confirmed
by the media and by the officer, is not at all conveyed consistently as it regarded their number.
Yet that very presence of a crowd makes clear the great and growing popular interest, and thus
popular investment, in seeing this boulevard drama. One may assume that the city council leader
attended on purpose in order to gage firsthand the public interest. He too clearly was seen, and
necessarily not simply by the police officer; his presence – whether purposeful or coincidental –
would have added gravitas to the unfolding production. These gaps in the sources testify to the
dramatic tension of the moment. They attest also to the investment of these multiple stakeholders
in creating particular records of these demonstrations.
Manifestations and protests picked up considerably over the next few days. The stories
that lay beneath the police reports suggested a steadily increasing investment by their agents in
school areas and to the populations of students. A report submitted on Saturday the 26 th, and
signed by the Commissioner of Police, described the new level of surveillance needed in the
“general surroundings” of Lycée Condorcet; the primary concern was for the 11:30 a.m. and 4:00
p.m. exit of students from the building. They had reason to worry. A meeting on the evening of
the 25th held by the “Republican Patriot Anti-collectivist Youth of the 4 th Arrondissement” –
very possibly college students – announced that they and a group of lycéens were planning a
protest for Sunday the 27 th at 3:00 p.m. that would reunite young people at the Place des
Pyramides and Strasbourg Joan of Arc statues. While the police officer – who had received this
information through his pressuring an attendee – joked that they hoped “some ten to fifteen
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hundred people” would attend, if the organizers truly hoped for that number, it spoke to the
sincerity and seriousness of this project. 370
French teenagers made that investment perfectly clear on the street and not simply in the
rented Gratte audience rooms. On the 26 th at 11:30 a.m., some sixty young men, identified by the
police officer as Sorbonne students, left their classes shouting “Down with Thalamas and long
live Joan of Arc!” The officer noted that they advanced towards the Seine on Boulevard St.
Michel, and seemed to have the intention to cross towards the Right Bank. 11:30 a.m. and 4:00
to 5:00 p.m. were indeed the witching hours. Later that day at 5:00 p.m., after the end of school,
an officer followed a group of 30 students of Lycée Condorcet from their school along the
Avenue Trudaine up to the College Rollin. After this twenty-minute walk along some of the
Right Bank’s most peopled avenues, the group was sent in separate directions “without
When the 27th arrived, events escalated to a fever-pitch in multiple locations across the
capital. Tracking these incidents chronologically is the closest we can get to a picture of the
movement of students and across the city; while we cannot assume that these groups intersected,
or in some cases were one and the same, it would not be problematic to assume some cross-over.
A minimum of fifteen police reports remained for this single day in the Police Archives, a
number far greater and reflecting far greater detail than for any previous day. At 12:40 a.m., 50
students, accompanied by two ladies, disrupted the calm of the 1 st arrondissement, and one
individual was retained. During the late morning, police officers arrested several suspicious
26 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
26 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
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individuals in the Place Rivoli for refus de circuler. This did not compare to the mass that
Figure 20: Police Report detailing arrests for refus de circuler and seditious cries, 27 November 1904, B a 61, Archives de la
Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
descended on the Place des Pyramides mid-afternoon, listening to the speech of poet Francois
Coppée. He himself laid several bouquets at the Statue de Jeanne d’Arc, before leaving for the
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quais “accompanied by several hundred young protestors.” Shouts of “Long live Coppée! Long
live Joan of Arc! Liberty! Long live the army!” resounded through the square, and “several
young carried Coppée on their shoulders.” Guillaume commented in his report that this group
“set themselves running” across the bridges to the Latin Quarter, where he followed them. While
Guillaume mentioned no arrests out of the several hundred in the 1 st arrondissement early that
afternoon, another report listed twelve arrests between the hours of 3:15 and 4:30 at the Place de
la Concorde: “The boys [all in the ages of 15-19] were driven to the gates of the Champs Elysees
and of the Madeleine” before the arrests became necessary. 4:30 p.m. saw a reunion of “100 or
so young people, coming from the quais manifesting” moved in the direction of the Tuileries
Gardens. One unnamed individual the police arrested for the seditious cry of “Down with
Combes!” At 5:00 p.m., some 200 “young people shouting ‘Long live Joan of Arc!’” came to the
Place des Pyramides from the direction of the Place de la Concorde along the Rue Rivoli before
being redirected by officers. The ten young men arrested at 6:00 p.m. ranged in age from 15 to
19 years old, the bulk of them being 17 or 18, for having shouted “Down with the casseroles
[derogatory term for the Left]! Down with Thalamas!” Around the same time, police at the
Jeanne d’Arc statue in the Place St. Augustin broke up a group of anywhere from two to three
hundred protestors who arrived in the 2nd from the direction of the Tuileries Gardens. At 5:30, a
similar number shouting “Thalamas to Charenton!” – referring to the long-established Charenton
asylum – advanced to the Opéra Garnier along the Avenue de l’Opéra. One police officer made
the following table to tally the arrests of the day:
Par les Gardiens
Par les Inspecteurs
1e arrondissement
2e arrondissement
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8e arrondissement
9e arrondissement
The 8th and 9th arrondissements, the immediate environs of the Lycée Condorcet, unsurprisingly
had the most. Although the numbers of students involved on the Right Bank seem to pale in
comparison with the sheer mass of individuals whom the police observed gathering in the Latin
Quarter at the same time, the Right Bank saw far more arrests and far more pockets of unrest.
Meanwhile, on the Left bank, a police report by gardien de la paix Fauvel described in
three pages the progress of some seven hundred students from the Quai des Grands Augustins to
the Sorbonne along Boulevards St. Michel and St. Germain, then the Rue St. Jacques. The
gardien noted cries like “Down with the Government!” Guillaume’s report reinforced this
attention to the “seditious cries” of the crowd, which brought one of them to be arrested. Despite
this overwhelming presence of conservative young people, which Fauvel claimed climbed to
about 2,000, contre-manifestants made their presence noted, shouting “Vive Loubet!”372 The
group eventually changed direction, as the poet Francois Coppée mounted in a small car and
urged them towards the Senate, in the opposite direction parallel to the Seine. A twenty-minute
walk to the Eglise St. Sulpice and the crowd “fled” the police presence; 1 individual was arrested.
Fauvel noted that the Quartier remained “agitated” until about 7:00 that evening.
The Police maintained several lists of arrestees, each uniquely valuable. One, a five-page
document, named all the students arrested in the 9 th arrondissement in the midst of protests on
Emile Loubet was the President of the French Republic from 1899-1906, and had been integral earlier in
his career to the consolidation of a secular and free educational system. An adamant supporter of Jules Ferry, and
a strong proponent of imperialism, he was known to be a moderate Republican with strong militarist tendencies.
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the 27th. This list of 55 individuals boasted students as young as 14 and as old as 28, with the
vast majority falling in the 16 to 20 year old range. The police collected their occupations and
home addresses as well, some more legible than others; alongside the “écolier” and “étudiant”
were the “gardener” and “employee.” 373 The 9th was the quarter of Lycée Condorcet, as well as
within a quick walk from two of the central Joan of Arc statues. The arresting officers kept note
of what led these young Frenchmen to earn the police’s attention; the relatively more innocuous
cries of “Down with Thalamas!” seemed to have been met by the more seditious “Down with
Combes!” and – even more politically charged – “Down with Jews!” If half brought attention to
themselves verbally, the other half simply had blocked traffic, charged with the nebulous refus
de circuler. Another list of 20 arrests made in the 9 th, a list which did not repeat any of the 55,
made note of “Berry, Jean, son of the deputy, 15 years old, student,” as well as “xxxx [illegible],
Emile, grandson of the senator, 15 years old,” and ‘Real, Maxime, 16 years old, student.” 374
These three were the youngest of a group that – with the exception of one 25-year-old, ranged
from 15 to 20. Yet, more than the youngest, the first two in particular reflected the buy-in of
upper middle-class (and politically connected) lycéens into this movement; that the police
officers noted their parentage reinforced it. The words and fears of Sembat and other deputies on
the Left, when they evoked the personal relationship of Georges Berry with some of the
protestors, come into focus.
This report bears further discussion for two reasons, the first of which being its citation of
Anti-Semitic shouts and discourse. Representing these shouts as reflective of a particular element
unique to the Thalamas Affair belies the political atmosphere in general. Almost any critique of
Rapport Spécial : Etat des arrestations opérées sur le 9e arrondissement au cours des manifestations du
27 Novembre 1904, 28 Novembre 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
27 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 168 of 216
the Republic or of the state within the context of and immediately after the Dreyfus Affair
activated such language. This watershed scandal of the Belle Époque began in earnest in 1896
and was finally “officially” resolved in 1906, setting elite, Republican intellectuals, supportive of
Dreyfus and the Bloc de Gauches, against an older conservative guard supported by army,
Church, and various lobbies of the Right. 375 These young protestors came to understand what
protest meant in a moment when public vilification of Jews was only barely distinguishable from
condemnation of Republican principles. The synonymous nature of this vocabulary was a
national phenomenon. Yet, for Parisians born in the 1890s and maturing in the midst of protests
constantly expressing political principles with Anti-Semitic language, some of the hateful power
of that language was likely dulled. Shouts of “Down with Jews!” and “Down with the kippah!”
were recorded by police on several occasions, even emanating from Thalamistes who had also
sung the International. 376 That what we perceive as such hateful language did pervade opposed
political spectrums attests to its formulaic use within a well-practiced culture of protesting. It is
difficult to ascertain what impact if any, this discourse had in the Thalamas Affair protests, on
the protestors, or on the police. What is certain is that Anti-Semitic language acted as a signifier
of opposition to the Republic and also of belonging to traditions of public protest.
Many of the names taken by the police fade back into the crowd, but the arrest of a
certain young man, Maxime Real, bears discussion; his arrest and presence affirms the Thalamas
Affair as a type of first testing ground for the new conservative generation. Later known as
Maxime Real del Sarte, he was not of the same thoroughbred upper middle class milieu as the
other two students. Despite this, he is significantly more integral to the lifetime of Thalamas
See the bibliography for cited monographs of Atkin, Brown, Cambor, Ford, Gildea, Girardet, Kedward,
Tombs, and Weber for varied discussions of the Dreyfus Affair.
28 Novembre 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 169 of 216
protests and the conservative Right. From a family of established visual artists, Sarte gave no
description of himself to the police other than his age and his occupation as a high school student.
It hid the deep and profound influence that one must imagine it had on the life of the future
founder and first President of the Camelots du Roi, the most active and most militant of the
conservative student groups in the Latin Quarter. 377 No scholars of the Thalamas Affair of 19081909 recognize his participation and arrest in this earlier scandal; it is a note not to be missed,
though much is left unknown by this document. He was not a student of Lycée Condorcet, and
though he was the same age as Jean Berry, we cannot establish any direct link between the two
other than this particular coincidence. If one assumes Sarte had no relationship to the students of
Condorcet, then our perception of the influence of the Thalamas Affair necessarily changes.
What for some might have been a flash in the pan of political activism, this scandal, which began
with a supposed insult to Joan of Arc’s divine mission, may have been Sarte’s call to action. 378
Some of the protesters came to be more clearly identified. On Monday the 28 th both
college and high school students made the Paris streets their stage. At 10:00 a.m., an officer
named Millet noted, a nineteen-year-old law student “at the head of a group of 200 protesters,”
led the group through the streets banging casserole dishes and shouting “Casserole! Casserole!”
This slang term made clear their opinion of Thalamas as a traitor to the nation. In the afternoon,
in the 9th, near the Lycée Condorcet and the Statue of the Place St. Augustin, 20 students from
the College Chaptal amassed in front of Lycée Condorcet to shout “Down with Thalamas!” One
As a twenty-year old fine arts student in 1908, Sartre made a name for himself as the most radical of
the radicals, spending ten months in the Santé prison. See cited works of Hanna, Krumeich, Margolis, Sirinelli,
Weber, and Winock for greater detail, particularly Weber, Action Française, 40-45.
Sarte sculpted some four or five statues of Joan of Arc in his lifetime; one is in Buenos Aires, Argentina;
the other on the campus of the Université de Montreal, Canada; another is inside the Église Saint-Philippe-duRoule in Paris’s 9th; the last in the 18th arrondissement in the Basilique Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc. He reportedly declared
to his patron and friend, the Baron of Tupigny, that « I will always be [Joan of Arc’s] servant”, “Je fus toujours son
serviteur ». L’Œuvre de Maxime Real del Sarte, préface du Baron Meurgey de Tupigny, conservateur aux Archives
nationales, Plon, 1956
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student was arrested; Pierre Pitre was 14 ½ years old, from the 7 th Arrondissement. The others
students, the officer noted, were successfully sent away. 379 That students from another Parisian
high school acted against Thalamas on the city streets is one of the most significant signs of how
this small scandal at a single school could influence the legitimacy of the public school as a
political institution. Even if these students protested not purely of their own accord, but under the
pressure of their parents, it remained that they made an impression on the police, and
undoubtedly on the casual visitor on the street. We cannot tell how many such students
participated in the larger protests that led the police to send reinforcements that afternoon to the
Place St. Augustin, Place de la Concorde, and Place des Pyramides. Officer Mulnier reported
seeing 600 protestors move from the Place de la Concorde towards the grand boulevards of the
8th and 9th; he indicated some 21 arrests in the Tuileries Gardens, 2 outside the Opéra Garnier
from a band of some 200, and some 13 arrests outside the office of the far Right newspaper La
Libre Parole. Of the total of 36 arrests, the police released 34 of them by 8:00 p.m., and peace
had returned to the quarter by 9:00 p.m.
The next day, the police’s overwhelming concern was for the unspecified (but seemingly
considerable) number of bouquets still left at the statue at 9:30 a.m.; by 12:30 p.m., they had
been removed, a move which sparked a scandal of its own in the right-wing press of the Libre
Parole and Éclair. “A true sacrilege… we have less the right to remove crowns and bouquets
from her statue than we do to remove the dresses of the interred… what right do we have to this
criminal action?” wrote the Éclair. 380 If the police simply could not count the number of
bouquets because of their number, and if we take the officers at their word that the bouquets
blocked traffic, then we can assume that the ordinary practice of paying homage in this way had
28 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Javary, La Libre Parole, 29 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 171 of 216
had a significant influence on the ability of Paris to function normally. Heaps of bouquets in
front of these statues, located at some of the city’s busiest intersections, would have visually
signified protest even if the particular area of the city had seen none. They stood as physical
obstacles to the established flow of life, and as visual cues for the obvious disorder elsewhere.
Whether or not the increasing number of bouquets represented a tactical shift for the protestors,
the controversy around removing the flowers reflects a type of accord between police and the
conservative press. The flowers were the props of protestors as well as their silent placeholders.
Trying to divert attention from this issue, the police again concentrated their attention in
the university hotbed of the Left Bank and the more symbolic squares and locations on the
Right.381 While up to this point, the protests on the Right Bank seemed to have a character of
youth, the police provided clear incidences in which that case fell apart. At 11:30 a.m., the end of
the morning school day, some three hundred students and young people crowded the Rue Rivoli,
marching towards the statue at the Place des Pyramides. Of the 15 arrested, several were not
students but 37, 40, and 42 year old men, found guilty of shouting “Down with Combes!”
alongside cries of “Down with Thalamas!” 382 While the presence of François Coppée in the
protests suggested that this crowd of “young people” was not just a crowd of young people, these
men made it clear. The question then raised is why the press, most especially the conservative
press, and police reports continually represented these protests as made up of high school and
university students. With police reports indicating more and more students participating in
protests over the days to come, we remain obliged to ask this question.
From 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, forces maintained strict watch over and around the School of Law, from
which students grouped to march from the Pantheon to Luxembourg Gardens, shouting “Down with Thalamas,
hou hou!”
29 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 172 of 216
The series of police reports dated November 30 th depicted the increasing diversity of the
protest movement, both geographically and among different political and demographic groups.
One report indicated that the conservative protests found opposition among Communist or
Socialist students, but seeming support among the general population. The report discussed a
“manifesto inviting students to return on Thursday to the statue of Joan of Arc” that had been
circulated throughout the Lycée Condorcet, where an “order for a service of police has been
made for each evening.” 383 This manifesto urged “Let’s put an end to this!” and asked
participants to meet at the Place de la Concorde and march together towards the Pyramides statue.
The statues themselves, “Parisians continue to go deposit bouquets at the foot of Joan of Arc…
the bottom of the statue of Fremiet is literally covered by hundreds of bouquets of violets and
orange blossoms.” On the other hand; the police officer had learned that “internationalist
students organize a counter-protest.” That day, about 50 students from the École Jean Baptiste
Say, located in the elite sixteenth arrondissement on the Right Bank, marched in protest against
Thalamas before the police dissolved the group. 384 On the first of December, the divisions
became even more profound. The Jardin des Tuileries hosted a protest of some 300 antiThalamistes who, at 4:30 p.m., faced the “Down with Drumont and Berry! Long love Thalamas!”
of several hundred Thalamistes who had assembled at the Place Pigalle and marched two plus
kilometers to the 1st arrondissement. 385 The police had followed many who, at 3:30, went to
Lycée Condorcet en route to (what the police officer assumed was) the Place de la Concorde,
stopping to shout “Long live Thalamas! Down with Berry!” 386 It is of some significance that
Condorcet, a public school, received on several occasions the honor of being a site of protest.
30 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
30 November 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
1 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
1 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
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While the Place du Panthéon, the Boulevard St. Germain, the Rue Rivoli, and the many public
squares and statue locations across the Right Bank had been sanctified by protest in the past, now
a public school received that distinction. The public school was already philosophically and
ideologically a site of culture war. Now it was a battlefield, where the vocal forces of the Right
and Left sought to manifest, represent, and perform their values as French citizens. For young
students, in any number, to thus participate served to incorporate them into the body politic as
agents of political culture. The “several young ones” who, when school let out at 11:30 a.m.,
“came to deposit at the statue of Joan of Arc a crown of white flowers, with a tricolor ribbon”
which stated “from the students of Lycée Buffon” did homage not just to Joan of Arc but to a
legacy of public demonstrations of patriotism, nationalism, and political belonging. 387
The last few days of the protests required even more surveillance on the part of the police.
The police force of Versailles requested the support and additional manpower of their neighbors
in Paris in order to protect Thalamas’ home from feared home invasion; as the nationalist lobbies
began planning “seminars” in the town of Versailles, the teacher and his wife feared for their
family. 388 Police reports further indicated that the Jeunesse Républicaine Plébiscitaire de France,
the youth group of the Ligue des Patriotes, had been planning meetings in Versailles, with plans
for protests to be made. Indeed, the newspaper clippings of Le Soleil, Le Gaulois, and Autorité
on the 1st and 2 nd of December announced meetings to be held later that week, just as the Société
de Libres Penseurs and an unspecified Republican amicale society spread word of their own
collaboration and counter-protest rendezvous at the Place St. Michel. In order to encourage later
protests against Thalamas, the Gaulois newspaper described on the 2 nd in a column entitled “In
Honor of Joan of Arc” that
1 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
2 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 174 of 216
The Parisian population once more displayed its anger against the insulters of Joan of Arc,
against the young Internationalists who have fallen in line with Thalamas and who
decided to take up a scandalous protest… The counter protesters descended via the Rue
des Martyrs, passed in front of Lycée Condorcet, and …finally arrived at the Tuileries
Gardens. The terrace of the Orangerie was filled by a crowd which did not stop shouting
“Long Live Joan of Arc!” Cries of “Down with Thalamas and Long live the Pucelle!”
lasted half an hour… 389
The newspaper cited the crown offered by the students of Lycée Bouffon, which police reports
independently mentioned, describing the statue of the heroine as “rained on” by bouquets of
violets and crowned by “a beautiful crown of flowers, decorated with a tricolor ribbon; it was a
token offered to the national heroine
by the students of Lycée Bouffon.” 390
One should further note that the
practice of honoring public figures
with bouquets, garlands, and crowns
was not extraordinary. This visual
tribute to Joan of Arc clearly
commonly included lilies in honor of
French royalty and Christianity,
Figure 21: Police report of 1 December 1904, reporting the depositing
of a garland at the Pyramides statue of Joan of Arc from “The students
of Lycée Buffon.” Ba 61, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris,
chrysanthemums in honor of her
death, as well as violets for memory
and devotion. Yet the inclusion of the tricolor ribbon, the visual sign of the Republic and the
values of 1789, on these bouquets represented an appropriation and inversion of those values as
part of a strong, dramatic, and public critique of 1789’s institutional heir. The marriage of
flowers symbolizing a conservative French legacy and the flag of the Republic never went
Gaulois, 2 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 175 of 216
unnoticed; police and press took care to discuss the layering and removing of flowers. They
became the most powerful prop of this production, a prop and symbol of ambiguous meaning.
Over the following days, the school locations became more important as nexuses for
activity. On the 2 nd, the police required additional troops for surveillance around the Sorbonne
Faculté de Droit from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the Left Bank, while on the Right, from 5:30 to
6:45 p.m., Lycée Charlemagne was under strict control of the police. This was in order to allow
Thalamas to leave school safely; the reporting officer shared this news with the Ministerial
government, an indication of rising interest in this social unrest. Condorcet and Charlemagne
now functioned as sites of performance for a kind of symbolic warfare; who held the public
school represented who – representatives of the Third Republic order or those of the opposition –
could direct its curriculum and the vision of France contained therein. An article of Le Soleil
described the “police brutality… all of which suggests that the violence will reach Lycée
Charlemagne itself.” 391 The writer ascribed an anti-Thalamiste position to the students of the
School of Dentistry, and celebrated “two gamins of 12 years old” for facing up to a police force
(supposedly) ordered by M. Combes himself to permit all to the Thalamiste protestors but not to
the patriots: “The eglantinards, always encouraged by a benevolent police, brought their protests
all the way to Lycée Condorcet, where they shouted praise for Thalamas… A barrage of police
was installed there… Evidently M. Combes had given his orders.” 392 The Gaulois continued to
describe a supposed “invasion” of Charlemagne by the anti-Thalamistes; the document presented
this affair in a hyper-real dramatic style. One of the protesters said to the concierge, “We are here
in a building that belongs to the State and we demand to speak to the administrator” but the
Le Soleil, 3 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France. This police
brutality was later described in the article as aimed at 500 patriots who reunited in the Latin Quarter: «We are
witness to revolting scenes.”
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police arrived as the response and pushed them out; the writer insisted that these protests would
not stop “until Chaumié decides to punish Thalamas.” Clearly, the official sanction did not
suffice for this political lobby. The article ended with an excerpt of a letter Professor Thalamas
wrote and had published in the Temps newspaper, in which he asked what tact he lacked and
How can I reconcile my duties as an educator, which oblige me to correct the errors of
judgment of my students, with the obligation that I have now been given not to insult not
only the convictions of families, but even the feelings of children, which are often
prejudiced …
The writer responded wondering if this “pawn expelled from Condorcet” would be allowed by
the students of Charlemagne to expose them to the “internationalist way;” he expanded the
ideological battle performed in the act of protesting to a battle between France and international
communism. The lycéens of Charlemagne were responsible, in his mind, for stopping this wave.
They would be the first line of defense, a self-fulfilling prophecy. On Saturday December 3 rd ,
while the police noted little regarding the arrival and departure of students at Condorcet in the
morning, protestors outside Thalamas’ classroom in Charlemagne clamored all morning, to such
a volume that “Thalamas found it impossible to hold class” and cancelled his courses for the
following Monday. One arrest, of 15 year old Gaston Gardu, had been made as students arrived
in the morning for class, and four arrests of students made – for “refus de circuler” and
denigrating Thalamas - from a group of 60 leaving the building at the end of the school day. Two
hundred some protestors camped outside the building. 393
This number paled in comparison to the 700 anti-Thalamistes that police noted on the
Place de la Concorde around 4:00 p.m. The ordinary police force called in the Brigade Mobile to
3 December1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 177 of 216
control the crowd, but “200 arrests were made and another 50 at the Statue of Joan of Arc” by
this special unit. 394 Crowns were continually deposited at statues, not only at Pyramides but at
the statues across Paris. At 10:15 a.m., peacefully “Twenty young people each put bouquets of
lilies” at the Statue of Place St. Augustin; in the 16 th arrondissement, “several hundreds of young
students, small and older, from the Lycée Janson de Seuilly, tried to protest by starting to shout
‘Down with Thalamas!’” but the police dispersed them “as soon as possible” and without making
an arrest.395 The police noted the activity of young people and students in particular around the
Pyramides statue, where reports describe several waves of teenagers depositing chrysanthemums,
lilacs, and crowns of flowers. 396 Out of these different waves of students, 59 were arrested on
unnamed charges. The tricolor ribbons these bouquets and crowns donned illustrated the support
of the “Students of Lycée Henri IV” and the “Students of Lycée Jean Baptiste Say;” that the
police found this important to include in their reports should not be overlooked. It reflects the
officers’ interest in knowing these groups; it reflects a respect for what the students’ public
actions entailed for maintaining the security of the capital and of the Republic.
The concept of these events happening in the public eye undergirded the need to restrain
any such attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the Third Republic. The police reports
provided a record from their own perspective as actors and agents in the maintaining of order,
but ultimately, the audience of this performance was the casual onlooker. On the 5 th, a further
police report relayed the satisfaction expressed in a nationalists’ meeting by the “spirit that the
school youth have brought in the manifestations in the public eye” and that they did not expect
Rapport spécial, 4 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
3 December1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
3 December1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France Two youths put down
chrysanthemum bouquets with ribbons saying « Long live the Pucelle! »
Page 178 of 216
this “beautiful fire” to go out so soon. 397 The police officer thus concluded that “New protests of
lycéens and undergrads are thus very likely,” and that at a meeting to be held that evening, the
nationalists will “overexcite their troops.” “Troops” became a more and more appropriate term.
Mounting concern among the police is made clear in a request made on December 4 th for an
additional 100 guards “to send to diverse locations” and 25 cavaliers “to keep available.” 398As
we have seen, although students had been organizing against Thalamas, they did so school-byschool. Now the mainstream newspaper Le Petit Journal reported that the “students of Lycée
Charlemagne had invited their comrades of lycées and middle schools of Paris to come protest
with them, the morning of the 6 th, in front of the statue of Joan of Arc.” 399 The article reported
that the abundance of police officers and the “brigade hidden under the arcades of the Rue Rivoli”
probably dissuaded the students, who never showed, but “six children” brought a sash of
artificial flowers with the label “Homage to Joan of Arc, from the students of a boarding school.”
Even if students had been unable to come in the large group as planned initially, the writer
described a “parade” of students from Lycée Henri IV, with their flowers. In addition, when a
hundred or so protestors finally clashed police lines “on their way to Lycée Charlemagne,” a
light fight broke out on the Place du Parvis in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The article
concluded on a fascinating note: given the overabundance of police agents, “instead of protestors,
the onlookers could contemplate the agents of authority [police] which were many.” Although
we have some indication of the scope of the police’s efforts to survey and maintain peace among
6 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France. « On se montrait hier soir
chez les nationalistes très satisfait de l’esprit de suite que la jeunesse des écoles apporte dans ses manifestations
sur la voie public ; et, d’après les renseignements que les uns et les autres apportaient a « La Libre Parole, a
« L’intransigeant, » et au « Gaulois », on s’attend à ce que ce beau feu ne s’éteigne pas tout de suite….De nouvelles
manifestations de lycéens et d’étudiants sont donc très probable. On en reparlera d’ailleurs ce soir à la salle de la
Société d’Horticulture, ou les chefs nationalistes vont un peu surexciter leurs troupes. »
On that Sunday December 4th, one protest was held at the Place de la Bastille by 100 undergraduates.
There were no incidents and no arrests made.
“A Propos de Jeanne d’Arc, » Le Petit Journal, 6 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la
Police, Paris, France.
Page 179 of 216
the protests, we have little evidence from the police reports available how many agents were
indeed made available. This comment stresses the extent to which the performance of citizenship
by students, the performance of adherence to True France in a battle with a less true France - this
was only possible if there were an opposition. The police, as agents of state authority, held
responsibility for the maintaining its immediate wellbeing and security. Even if the random
onlooker could not determine a hero and a villain from the protesters and the police, any
enactment of a war – including a culture war- needed two sides.
All protests came to an end by December 8 th, though until the 12 th the police maintained a
heightened surveillance over the Place des Pyramides and continued to take note of Thalamas’s
comings and goings at Charlemagne, as well as the environs of Condorcet. 400 Newspapers like
La Libre Parole highlighted supposed cries to protest by the students of Lycée Charlemagne,
Lycée Condorcet, and also students from the city of Reims; only one of these protests was
confirmed in police records. 401 Between the police reports and the press articles and editorials,
we need a healthy dose of skepticism to evaluate where between the dry and the sensational
historical fact lay. Both sources reflect the behavior and performance of students without
privileging their specific voices. Perhaps, in the eye of the police officer and reporterpropagandist, the actions of students spoke enough for themselves. A thorough analysis of press
coverage of these nearly three weeks of scandal, beyond that coverage which drew the attention
of the diligent Parisian police force, has yet to be done. However, this new chronology of police
records of and responses to protest in the different public spaces of Paris allows us to think more
coherently about the ways that the public eye could be a source of power for the French student
population. It is easy to say that several hundred protesters converged on a scene or a street
12 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
La Libre Parole, 12 December 1904, Ba 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France.
Page 180 of 216
corner to demonstrate sharp criticism or strong support for a governmental institution. It requires
a step beyond that to imagine what it meant for the Parisian in this tumultuous moment to see, or
to learn through hearsay and newspapers, that young students were joining the politicallyagitated populations of Paris to protest against the representative of a public institution. By the
facts of the Affair, “students” and lycéens were the assumed opposition. Even if they were not
the entirety of protesters, a statistic factually disproved by the police reports, these records make
it clear that high school students were prominent as symbols and as actors. Whether or not their
part represented a durable or profound political opinion is impossible to judge, but such a
judgment would have been equally difficult for the public eye and their opposition. Their
homage to Joan of Arc was a public performance; in the case of individuals like Maxime Real
Del Sarte, this performance was more than a representation but likely also a ceremonial initiation
to a French legacy of popular protest, a legacy written into the French Right’s militancy.
Although the December 5, 1904, meeting of the Action Française took place towards the
end of the protest movement, it represented the definitive appropriation of this Affair for the
Right. For several days before the meeting, the Parisian police had listened carefully to the
organization’s rumblings and collected clippings from various newspapers advertising this
“nationalist meeting…Against the Insulters of Joan of Arc.” 402 The conservative mouthpiece
newspapers such as the Catholic Éclair, and Edouard Drumont’s Libre Parole, La Patrie, and
Autorité ran identical columns urging their readership to attend.403 Held at the Société de
Horticulture at 84 Rue de Grenelle, a mere six minute or so walk from AF headquarters on the
Contre les insulteurs de Jeanne d’arc : Meeting nationaliste du 5 décembre 1904. Paris : Action Française,
1904. Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
403 a
B 62, Archives de la Préfecture de la Police, Paris, France. As an organ in its own right, the Action
Française (AF) had its own self-titled newspaper at a subscription cost of 12 francs per year, and printed at the Left
Bank office on the Rue du Bac.
Page 181 of 216
Left Bank, the meeting effectuated a shift in the framing of the Thalamas Affair simply by virtue
of this change of geography. This great assembly would take place in the heart of Paris’ Latin
Quarter, the source and inspiration for radicalism and revolutions for centuries.
The program for the evening, which cost a mere ten centimes, shouted in simple bold
lettering on the cover the many conservative luminaries and radicals of the Right who took part.
The presence of those such as François Coppée,
Jules Lemaitre, Edouard Drumont, Léon Daudet,
Louis Dimier, and Copin-Albancelli – several of
them poets, professors, and also editors and
writers from Paris’ most anti-Semitic, antimasonic publications – had been advertised in
anticipation of the event. Now they were as
much the key to selling the organization’s
takeaways from the Thalamas Affair as was Joan
of Arc, whose name dominated the cover. One
must note, however, that nowhere on this cover,
Figure 22: Contre les insulteurs de Jeanne d’arc : Meeting
nationaliste du 5 décembre 1904, Paris : Action Française,
1904. Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
nor on the inside flap or the inside frontispiece,
did “Thalamas” or “Condorcet” appear. The
specific disappeared under the generic battle call, “Against the Insulters of Joan of Arc.” This
document, as a compilation published either that month or in January 1905, is a complicated
manifesto constructed as a simple presentation of the meeting’s ideological content. It
necessarily nuances our understanding of how the Thalamas Affair encouraged or perpetuated
particular ideas of the lycéen. It reveals the an active lobby of the conservative Right laying the
Page 182 of 216
ideological framework through which celebrated student populations as heroes, both at the high
school and university level, and to which this generation flocked in greater and greater numbers
into the 1910s and 1920s. 404
The program first presented the speech of the poet François Coppée, one of the most
prolific poets of the early twentieth century, but also renowned for his conservative politics. The
police and the press reported him as incredibly active in the “Anti-Thalamiste” movements
across the city, as we have seen. Here, he stood as “acting President” of the meeting, but also as
the chief rhetorician, a duty which he accomplished with unadulterated praise of the student.
Even if the document made no clear mention of Thalamas on its cover, the teacher was clearly an
overriding presence here. This speech simplified the issue into a clear battle between a
“Professor sitting on his high chair” and the “very young people” before whom he committed
this “abominable act” of insulting Joan of Arc’s memory. 405 Minister Chaumié, Coppée believed,
was “on our side” but because of “ordinary parliamentary procedure” now “trembled before a
majority ready to accept all infamy.” The poet did not dwell on the question of Joan, as other
speeches by historians did later; it sufficed for him to call her “the ideal personification of the
French patrie (Prolonged applause.)”406 His greater interest, rhetorically and politically, lay in
celebrating the young students of Condorcet.
His celebration of the young French student and activist had many parallels with those of
the pedagogues and textbook writers which urged their young readers to take up the sword for
love of France. “When the scandal of Condorcet broke,” he proceeded, “when the students of
Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’Histoire; Krumeich, « Joan of Arc between Right and Left, » In
Nationhood and Nationalism in France), 63-73.
Contre les insulteurs, 3.
Ibid, 4.
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lycées and their families spread the word that a professor, charged to teach them history, had
made such ignoble claims about the good Lorraine, the national conscience was violated and
outraged.” 407 It was thus a fundamental crime against France against which the “generous youth
of our schools has not ceased to protest energetically in the streets, in front of the statue of Joan
of Arc.” If any audience members had not understood the link he drew between the violence
done to the Pucelle and the defense mounted by youth in the protests, he made it even more clear,
calling these teenagers “the interpreter of a country made indignant by this sacrilege and this
profanity.” That the poet named them as “interprète,” alternatively translatable as spokesman or
performer, illustrated his own understanding that these protests were performances; whether
genuine or put on, this was a performance of honor, duty, and belonging within the political
culture. He urged his audience to express “before all, our gratitude to these brave children,” for
they offer to their elders “proof of their pure and ardent patriotism” and “comfort us in the
present and give us confidence and hope in the future.” 408 Protest and activism was that proof of
patriotism, the visual evidence written into the public memory; Coppée made that militancy in
the interest of “True France” the requirement of both young French people and of French patriots.
This language does not much differ from the discourses of Ernest Lavisse, Georges Grosjean, or
the other writers and public intellectuals urging school-age adolescents to take up the mantle of
French honor and patriotism. To be entrusted by their elders with the reins of the nation, they had
to prove themselves.
Coppée continued to provide a definition to that duty by defining nationalism and the
nationalist duty. Nationalism, he held, was a “spirit, a feeling of revolt that manifests itself every
Ibid, 4.
Ibid, 4.
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day against the current regime of tyrants, persecutors, and rats.”409 He introduced the “men
around me,” those speaking that evening, by praising their unique and collective efforts to fight
this government. They “have tried to deliver this country form the many and diverse teams of
ministerial wrongdoers,” and yet, as Coppée noted, they continue to fight a battle against a
government poor in faith and rich in scandal. 410 As passionate and committed as he painted his
comrades, the sense of generational failure with which he ended was indeed the crux of his
speech. For built into that acknowledgement that “The nationalists have tried…They are always
open to new efforts…but they are no longer young” was the encouragement of the next
generation to continue and resolve this fight, and reunite the nation. These elders “doubt that
they will be able to attend the national deliverance;” the weight of this language would not have
been lost on this audience. Painting the present as “the pages of contemporary history,” he made
the modern age into a textbook yet to be written. On this epic scale, he endowed the next
generation with forging and writing the epic of national regeneration.
In closing, Francois Coppée reoriented his discourse from high and vague ideas to the
concrete but fully emotive experience of being in the crowd amidst the Thalamas protesters. This
too, however, depended on acknowledging the failure necessary for a brilliant return to glory. He
became even less subtle, transforming high school students and young agitators of November
24th up to that point into the modern day equivalent of Joan of Arc – what the Republicans had in
their own way urged all along:
When this youth of our schools surrounded me, vibrating with patriotic enthusiasm, I had
the foreknowledge that the end of our sadness and our shame was near. I said to myself,
Ibid, 4.
Coppée specifically mentioned the Panama Affair, in which funds for the Panama Canal were possibly
misused, and the Gabriel Syveton Affair, also known as the Affair des Fiches, in which it was revealed that Emile
Combes and War Minister General Louis André were actively preventing the promotion of Catholics in the army.
Page 185 of 216
with joy, that there was still the French youth… I remembered that France, who has
suffered such terrible ordeals, was the country of sudden awakenings and strong
comebacks, that she was the patrie of Joan of Arc, and that it had only needed the
inspiration of a child of 19 years old, of a humble peasant girl, to deliver her…and at the
moment when France was about to disappear. 411
Undoubtedly, Coppée and his partners saw their France on the verge of disappearing; even if we
faulted their motives and their methods, their beliefs and enthusiasm for the regeneration of their
France were not a disingenuous performance but a true show of how they loved their nation. The
protests of students, as he claimed, were an inspirational performance of French-ness in his and
his generation’s eyes, a performance he sought to make clear in the eyes of all potential and
current supporters of the nationalist cause. If Joan of Arc could have saved the nation, why could
these patriotic throngs supposedly representing her interests do the same? “From the bottom of
my heart… I await the day and hour of deliverance… That day, we will all raise ourselves up,
the young with the old,” and, urged on to sacrifice by the martyr, to “combat and victory” by the
victorious warrior, Coppée’s nationalists would take back the country. The poet unequivocally
called his partisans at this meeting, future readers of this printed program, and the next
generation to action and to obligation, with that generation assuming the role of a modern
The remaining speeches exploited to a widely varying extent the connection between
youth activism, nation, and historical memory; each speaker spoke to a specific sub-group to
which the Action Française had allegiance or with which it had forged an alliance. The lineup
truly reflected a diverse and fascinating cross-section of the moderate to extreme Right, and
many would not have agreed with one another. Jules Lemaitre, Edouard Drumont, Monsieur
Longnon, Léon Daudet, Antoine Baumann, Louis Dimier, Léon de Montesquiou, and Copin-
Ibid, 5.
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Albancelli spoke or had submitted letters to be read. Of them all, Jules Lemaitre deserves our
attention. The former professor of literature, literary critic, and member of the Académie spoke
in a surprisingly non-academic way, emphasizing the personal ways that he came to understand
the mission of Joan of Arc. In doing so, he offered his own experience as a model for teaching
students how to love this figure and love the nation in particular. 412 As a native of Orleans now
in his sixties, his moving recollections of connecting with her -“she was no more than a humble
country girl like I was a humble country boy” –romanticized, if not falsified, his own upbringing,
a childhood and youth already worlds different from that of the lycéens of Condorcet. Yet, by
stressing the principle that someone neither “a great lady nor a great thinker” did great things
“only by believing and by loving,” Lemaitre appealed to a grassroots, peasant, but also
Republican tradition of patriotism. Joan of Arc was “obviously a daughter of the people…
condemned by a Catholic tribunal: if the Free-masons seek to reject her [as a model], who will
they propose better to take her place for students and children to admire?” 413 In the closest he
came to a direct discussion of the Thalamas Affair, Lemaitre concluded on the happy note that:
Luckily, the young generation seems well-disposed to defend itself against these
poisoners. These perhaps are the children of today who will deliver France. Honor to
these brave children on whom rest our hopes! And honor too to the poet who, the other
day, helped them on the path!
Once more, these students were a new group of warriors, on a defensive mission that would lead
them into the heroic Pantheon. Though he clearly attributed the students agency as deliverers of
France, by including “the poet” (either François Coppée or Paul Déroulède) as part of that
movement, he admitted the less than purely organic, less than purely grassroots, nature of these
Ibid, 9.
Ibid, 9. The reference to the politics around freemasonry is an important avenue, but not capable of
being treated in its entirety within this context.
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protests. Clearly, the relationship between performer/protester, poet/director, and the greater
audience on the scene of French political culture had a more complicated character.
The other speakers that evening treated the protests of the young to various extents.
Edouard Drumont’s insistence that “Thalamas has made a miracle” by “reviving the spirit of
Joan of Arc” did not speak explicitly of student involvement but evoked the spirit of the Pucelle
as he saw it in all French people. Likewise M. Longnon, a professor at the elite College de
France, served as the historical expert who justified their patriotism and their admiration. 414 Léon
Daudet, from whom a letter was read, did insist that “The young gave us the example today of
going on the offensive, the example of an efficient and effective offensive that can only lead us
to victory.” 415 That others moved on to how they saw Joan of Arc representing or responding to
anti-Semitism, militarism, foreign relations, religious politics, and early feminism, and other
ideologies, illustrated the desire of the Action Française to exploit this scandal to the fullest. It
reflected their desire to make this scandal not simply about a conflict between teacher and
student, but to present it as a symptom of illness that spoke more strongly to their particular
cause. Yet this does not lessen the power of the speeches by Coppée especially, and Lemaitre
secondarily, celebrating the contribution which young French citizens made in the protests of the
Thalamas Affair movement, and which were seen as necessary for them to continue making as
France’s rising saviors.
Ibid, 11-13. « Joan of Arc is not some fantastic being, like the national Swiss hero. For us, conscientious
patriots, she cannot be just a figure of legend, an ideal good vision for exalting the love of the land which she
reconquered. She was a person of historical reality; the good that we owe her and that all our gratitude would
never fully recognize, we can however define and appreciate it. She saved our independence which the English
threatened, and her decisive intervention in the war between these two nations was also an advantageous
influence in terms of French unity, the masterpiece of a political art…”
Ibid, 15.
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The program from the “Nationalist Meeting against the Insulters of Joan of Arc” revealed
the variety of ways in which members of the Right used a singular and remarkable event such as
the Thalamas Affair to support their particular agenda for the elaboration of a new direction for
the French nation. Yet that orientation towards the French future necessarily placed a premium
on the role that the next generation played in the present. In the moment of the Thalamas Affair,
that part belonged to the students and French youth actively demonstrating allegiance to a
specific vision of Joan of Arc against a public school teacher and the public school as a
centralized, secularized Republican institution. Their performance as protesters resonated with
leaders of the Right as a performance that renewed appreciation for traditional French values;
that this series of speeches occurred towards the end of the three weeks of public disorder
testified to its reverberation as a topic of discussion. In this reverberation, the Action Française
had a vested ideological and political interest. No available archives testified to the circulation of
this program, but that it was printed after the meeting proved that it was meant for proselytizing.
To what audience was this meeting oriented? Who attended? To what readership was this
program advertised or sent? These questions, unanswerable on the basis of available documents,
nevertheless underline the theatricality of this evening and the Thalamas Affair as a whole. It had
weight as a moment for the Action Française, inviting its members to reflect on, critique, and
also participate in how the political culture would remember and lower the curtain on this event.
The transformation of this scandal into a formative memory for the members of the Action
Française, into a part of its epic founding and call to action, would be confirmed by the 19081909 Thalamas Affair, in which many of the same student and adult activists participated. If
scholars have seen the 1904 Thalamas Affair as the simple prologue to the greater, more
interesting production in 1908-1909, they should amend this. The 1904 Thalamas Affair was for
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the French Right an experimental and to some extent improvisational performance of their values
on the stage of the greater political culture, on the boulevards and streets of Paris. It gave lycéens
prime billing in the first of what they hoped would be a several act historical drama, a production
that, if carefully orchestrated, spoke with fiery rhetoric from the heart. It was a production in the
public sphere and in the public domain, a performance that they hoped would find its climax in
the overthrow of the policies of the Bloc de Gauches, in a Revanche against Germany, and in the
return of ideologies they genuinely saw as necessary to remake France. It is hard to be
sympathetic in our day to such groups, whose fear-mongering and Anti-Semitism make the
collective 21st century spine shudder. Their deep and radical commitments still deserve our awe.
The Action Française also had a vested interest in making this movement appear as an
organic reaction of those closest to the event, most likely to be offended: the young studentcitizens and not the adult of the Right. Though they represented it this way, though they sought
to remember it this way, the truth is that this performance of certain French values was a
composite production of boys and men. The extent of that collaboration is difficult to surmise.
Yet what the police records show, in the sheer hundreds of participants, is that it is difficult also
to assume that none of these students had genuine feelings of love for the Pucelle. They had
every reason for genuine motivations against those who might insult Joan of Arc. They had been
taught by the Republicans of the governmental institutions, as well as by significant authorities
throughout the political culture, to see bits of themselves in her story, and to identify with her on
the basis of shared hopes and shared obligations to the nation and to the patrie. Their visibility as
possible change agents in the public sphere, even at the age of fifteen, spoke to an initiation of
this generation into the political culture. The 1904 lycéen was not just a schoolboy. He embodied
France’s future, just as his elders had always told him he did.
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When the Curtain Falls: Setting the Thalamas Affair
in French History
Page 191 of 216
“Enough of Thalamas!” 416
-“La France Bouge”
Michel Winock writes of Joan of Arc as a “fragmented, controversial, and
instrumentalized memory … one that reflects the conflict of ideas that have divided the French
since the dawn of the modern era.” 417 As we have seen, his statement is no shallow claim. The
contestation of her legacy reached a fever pitch under the Third Republic, at its most basic level
because of how she encapsulated conflicting visions of how France could and would change in
the twentieth century. To say she was appropriated or contested speaks to how she was owned
and by whom. But she was not simply contested or appropriated by Left and by Right, by clerical
or anticlerical. Joan of Arc belonged to French youth too. Focusing on her as an instrument and
symbol of change in political culture does an injustice to the power of her legacy to transform
and resonate in individual lives. The lenses of politics, religion, or gender so often applied to her
memory have focused on the adult producers or consumers; yet because she was a cultural
product accessible to everyone, anyone could establish Joan of Arc as an actor and influence
within his or her life. This phenomenon extended to the lives of fin-de-siècle children and
adolescents too. A gap in scholarship on that relationship exists despite the Republic’s specific,
explicit interest in defining what it meant to be a young French citizen, and in creating and
strengthening the institutions that would create – and recreate, as necessary- the next generation
of leaders. The popularity of and debates over Joan of Arc in this moment testify to a rigorous reexamination, re-writing, and representation of the roles the young citizen would play in
distinguishing twentieth-century Republican France from the centuries and states before it.
« La France Bouge, » in Maurice Pujo, Almanach de l’Action Française. Paris : 1910. Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
Winock, “Joan of Arc,” in Les Lieux de Mémoire, edited by Pierre Nora, vol 3, Paris: (Editions Gallimard,
1992. 433-480.
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We should remember that the conflicts around her history are distinctly of the modern
era. It is a post-1789 conflict. If we think of Joan of Arc as a symbol of an event, as
encapsulating the pre-modern moment that jumpstarted French nationality and territorial
integrality, in the annals of history she represents a kind of rupture. Her presence is synonymous
with the forcing of a feudal France into the era of the nation-state. How we think of the periods
of French history must inform how we think of the periods of Joan of Arc’s history. The next
event to be as transformational in French history as the Hundred Years’ War was the Revolution
in 1789. Historians of France and of Western Europe use 1789 as a general point of rupture in
the fabric of European history, from which we separate pre-and Early Modernity and from the
Modern spirit. Yet these distinctions are fraught with several dangers. 1789 is, after all, a Francocentric solution to periodicity; an additional danger of identifying lies in the superficial sense of
divorce between that modern world and its historical past; every state, every nation, and every
nation-state chooses its own moments of rupture or continuity. Carl Schorske wrote in his work
on the fin de siècle in Vienna that in the last century:
…’modern’ has come to distinguish our perception of our lives and times from all that
has gone before… Modern architecture, modern music, modern philosophy, modern
science- all these define themselves not out of the past, indeed scarcely against the past,
but in independence of the past. The modern mind has been growing indifferent to history
because history, conceived as a continuous nurturing tradition, has become useless to
His exploration of Vienna’s movement towards “a-history,” or a new cultural and political
identity, offers that the Western World of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century sought a
“reshuffling of the self” in order to free the new and rising generations from the weighted
legacies of the past. In this process, the individual and the macrocosmic group went in search of
meaning: “historical change not only forces upon the individual a search for a new identity but
Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: politics and culture. New York: (Knopf, 1979,) xviii.
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also imposes on whole social groups the task of revising or replacing defunct belief systems.” 419
Schorske’s analysis of the culturally-rich, intimate, and circumscribed space of modern Vienna
let him view new culture-makers in the process of “oedipal revolt.” 420 This insistence on
“shaking off the shackles” of history in order to further modernity necessarily assumes that
history is a strict master who imprisons us, a master from whom we thus have a moral imperative
to free ourselves and our fellow men. Yet, to invoke the language of genetics, simply because
we break ties with our fathers does not mean that our DNA transforms. Even if we become more
deliberate about what we choose to remember or forget of our parents and predecessors, we still
see a resemblance when we look in the mirror.
I cite Schorske now, not only because his work represented one of the great leaps in the
study of political culture in the twentieth century, but because I believe his theses on Vienna are
particularly useful to refining our image of fin-de-siècle France. Were one to study cursorily
France’s overabundance of media, commitment to imperialism and colonialism, technological
advances and innovations, and even the development of Impressionist and Cubist art, one might
assume that the here and now absorbed all the attention of twentieth-century citizens, and that a
clean break with history, as the Viennese sought, was indeed possible. The independence of
Third Republic France from its sense of history – primarily its pre-modern or early modern
inheritance - was however a troubled independence. It was troubled essentially because it was
not independent. That truth has led to a remarkably fruitful historiography, of which this study is
both a beneficiary and a constituent. The Third Republic engaged continually with a national
past, examining itself in the present through the mirror of revolutionary inheritance. The political
culture of the turn-of-the-century celebrated the moments of rupture and rebirth, including 1789,
Ibid, xviii.
Ibid, xxvi.
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1848, and 1871, that asserted a set of Republican and secular values against conservative
currents associated with the Ancien Régime, authoritarianism, and Catholicism. The yardstick
for success of the new state would be the extent to which it did what the First and Second
Republics had failed to do: to make legitimate and sustainable the grand ideals of 1789. In order
to make the Third Republic succeed, the project adopted in 1875 was to change forever the dark
side of French politics’ genetic inheritance: no more, desired the founders of the Third Republic,
will France move between Republicanism and conservative authoritarianism. To do so, they
sought to institute an ideal of citizenship of their own design. From the domains of politics to
education, art to science, the streets of Paris to the colonies abroad, the face of the French body
politic was in transformation.
The reactions within the body politic were correspondingly violent, as partisans rejected,
accepted, and debated Republican policies which challenged the institutions and values
associated with French conservatism. The Right – including Bonapartists, Monarchists,
Boulangists, Catholics and clericals, Anti-Dreyfusards, Anti-Semites, and many other smaller
factions – engaged ideological adversaries both peacefully and violently, both in and outside
government channels; all the while, Republican opinions too diversified. Few of either side
believed that France did not need a make-over in order to win back the coveted territory and
prestige humiliatingly lost in the Franco-Prussian War. What values would the new state of an
old nation embody? This question festered until the start of World War I.
In this context, it was impossible to be indifferent to history. The leaders of this New
France created a language of modern French and Republican values using the signs, symbols,
and vocabulary of the nation’s past. The modern ethic of heroism, as Christian Amalvi described
it, depended on the repackaging and sanitizing of old heroes, a process that made the modern
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Republican spirit appear as the natural progression of the French identity.
They renewed
through appropriation and re-appropriation of the old, reaching back as far as the Middle Ages to
establish legitimacy. This is one of the great contradictions of the Third Republic. In particular,
the pantheon of historical and mythological figures established by the Third Republic demands
that we define this modernity not as Schorske’s “[breaking] ties” with history but as the
sanitation and embrace of particular histories. 422 The Third Republic sought to adopt and adapt
heroes, vaccinating the body politic against the greater harm that a non-Republican interpretation
of a King (or Saint) Louis, a Charlemagne, a Joan of Arc, or a Francis I could trigger.
From politicians to pedagogues, from textbook writers to playwrights, from sculptors to
painters, from filmmaker Georges Méliès to actress Sarah Bernhardt, Joan of Arc was a historical
figure molded for Third France with the imprint of many adult hands. Her history of militarism,
patriotism, nationalism, and martyrdom was taught to the young student-citizens through the
multitudes of experiences and opportunities that only such a cultural obsession could produce.
As a singular example of young heroism for the benefit of the nation, she had truly unique
physical and cultural space carved out for her that none of the other members of the heroic
pantheon did. Long representative of the birth of the French patriotism, the nation-state and its
territorial integrality, and the regenerative power of young impassioned heroism, she resonated
deeply with a political culture in transition, and in search of regeneration. The connections
forged between this savior of the French nation, the Daughter of the People, and the generation
reaching maturity at the turn-of-the-century celebrated her as much as it celebrated them. If
Christian Amalvi, « L'exemple des grands hommes de l'histoire de France à l'école et au foyer (18141914), »Romantisme, 1998, n°100, pp. 91-103. “Les Guerres des manuels autour de l’école primaire en France
(1899-1914),” Revue Historique Vol. 262, Oct-Dec 1979, 359-398. Les Héros de l’Histoire de France : Recherche
iconographique sur le panthéon scolaire de la troisième République, Paris : Editions Phot’œil.
Schorske, xviii.
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France’s identity changed, its young students, citizens, and future soldiers would be the first
evidence of that change. The Jules Ferry and Camille Sée educational program, the laws of the
Bloc de Gauches regulating clerical instruction, and the regulation of educational and
instructional practices and opportunities, from vocational schools to the University level,
provided both the laboratory and the tools necessary for this experiment in national
transformation. Joan of Arc provided a heroic example and an emotional attraction for the young
who too were being asked to sacrifice themselves for France’s betterment. They were asked to be
the modern re-interpreters of ancient values. They were not asked to be a-historical modern
soldiers and citizens; they were asked to be modern jeunes Français in the style of Joan of Arc.
The Thalamas Affair of November and December 1904 was an exceptional moment in
that it allowed students to put their identification with Joan of Arc into action. The battle they
fought was in the classroom, in the street, but as a moment of the ongoing culture wars, it offered
both Left and Right the chance to prove their patriotism, either through adherence to the
Republic or loyalty to the Pucelle. The synchronic influences of the moment necessarily
depended on a long-cultivated environment where history and heroism made up the backdrop of
modern life and the political culture. As such, my new research on this small historical moment
has exploited youth as a new and fruitful category of analysis, intertwining cultural, material,
political, intellectual, and microhistorical methods. It has allowed me to play “the historian
weaver,” to cite Schorske, to reconstitute some of the fabric of this political culture by exploring
how the Johannic history spoke and gave voice to the first generation of the Third Republic
In the realm of physical and material culture, the public spaces of Paris, the city’s
statuary and art, and the uses of these spaces encouraged her integration into daily life. Joan of
Arc was a sight and a site, an artistic and visual experience whose strategic placing across the
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capital not only integrated key moments of her history into the memory of Parisians but
integrated her into the spaces most important to the Republican legacy. As initiatives such a s the
national holiday in her honor and her prominent inclusion in the Pantheon demonstrate, Joan was
seen as the most direct and emotionally resonating model for the young generation’s own civic
duty and patriotism. Thanks to the consumerism and rapidly expanding media of the Belle
Époque, the youth of France did not need to admire her from afar. On the contrary, daily
materials, from books to songs to paper dolls and board games, integrated her into their spaces.
They took her off that pedestal of authority, and wrapped her life story in the memory of their
own childhood. She was both the shining statue on the Rue Rivoli, passed by students on their
walk to school, and the object they carried with them.
This child and young person’s exposure to Joan of Arc did not rest a superficial and
material one. The textbooks of the Third Republic schools engaged young readers with her story,
developing a version of her history which, because it stressed her patriotism above the divisive
qualities of her story, was fairly palatable to both Catholic and anti-clerical. By transforming her
narrative from one of devoted religious martyrdom in the service of patriotism to one of
sacrificing her life for people and nation to the exclusion of religion, textbook writers exploited
the new podium of the public school to extend her image as a servant of the Republic. That the
writers of these texts were also the pedagogues, bureaucrats, administrators, and general
luminaries of the educational establishment gave them both special authority and special access
to these young minds. They targeted the young and called for them, in speeches and other
discourses, to assume the mantle of civic and patriotic duty. That they conveyed and repeated
these messages in the public school environment, in which where the same language was
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deployed about Joan of Arc, gave additional moral and intellectual support to the students’
uniqueness. They were presented to themselves as the heroes of a new era in national history.
Understanding the connection forged and reinforced between young students and the
historical figure of Joan of Arc, we can approach the Thalamas Affair with a different set of
questions than those which prior studies have brought. It gives us a fuller and more vibrant
experience of what it felt like for typical bourgeois students, the idealized lycéens, to “defend
Joan of Arc.” It further helps us understand the emotional, but also logical, attachment that might
have kept students - those involved in the Affair but especially those not at Lycée Condorcet–
invested in the cause of this defense. Although Professor Thalamas’s own account and the debate
in the Chamber of Deputies on December 1, 1904, revealed vastly contradicting ideas of what
role the student had to play in the development of the protests, it was simply impossible for these
government officials to deny attachment to this figure. They too had ideological and emotional
investment in this figment of a distant, less than Republican, past; the Third Republic needed its
history. A generation of attempts to sanitize Joan of Arc and appropriate her example for the
Republican cause did not prevent students, or students instigated by parents, from acting out in
her name. That they had such difficulty working through an otherwise minor affair speaks to the
challenge of reconciling the ideal of the lycéen as an acquiescent, enthusiastic, patriotic and
purely devoutly Republican adolescent with a more complex reality of them as political actors, a
reality that testified to a paradox of the public school experiment. Students were encouraged to
think independently, but only if that thought were Republican.
Though the debate in the Chamber of Deputies was indeed a closed affair, it responded to
the very public period of protests that disrupted Paris for nearly three weeks from late November
to mid-December. In a period when spectacle and reality blended into a production of irresistible
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drama, the streets of Paris were a stage that even ordinary citizens could take to as a platform for
expression. That appropriation of public space, and ability to direct the public eye, made the
student protests a pause-worthy production for the outsider. As police reports revealed, these
manifestations could not go unnoticed, nor could the prominence they allowed the lycéen, who
seemed now no longer docile but part of a greater movement in critique of the government.
Whatever extent the Action Française had led or been involved with the initiation of these
protests, it celebrated these students using the familiar rhetoric of patriotic duty to create
allegiance to their ideologies through allegiance to Joan of Arc and the nation.
The transformation of a single event into the rallying cry to remake France along a
particular vision had at least one direct result, the 1908-1909 Thalamas Affairs, in which a young
and angry organization of the Camelots du Roi joined with the Action Française in the halls of
the Sorbonne to make a decisive and violent statement against the representatives and institutions
of the Third Republic. Thalamas was chosen in 1908 because of his name recognition; the
historical methodology course he taught at the esteemed university that year had little or nothing
to do with Joan of Arc as a person, or with contemporary political debates. He had come to
symbolize the enemy in the metaphor of the French Right because the students had come to
symbolize the righteous warriors. In the interim of the two Thalamas Affairs, Maxime Real del
Sarte founded the Camelots du Roi as the militant student arm of the Action Française. When
one hears “La France Bouge,” their chant, one wonders how and why Thalamas escaped
attention for so long. With lyrics by Action Française propagandist Maurice Pujo, and set to an
old military march, it reminds us that what seems like the proverbial flash in the pan is not one. It
can have profound consequences.
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Un' deux! La France bouge
Elle voit rouge
Un ! Deux !
Les Français sont chez eux.
Assez de Panamas!
Assez de Thalamas!
Toute ta clique
De pédants, de brigands
O République,
Nous la mettrons dedans !
One two! France is moving
She sees red!
One two !
The French are at home.
Enough of Panamas! 423
Enough of Thalamas!
All of your clique
Of pedants and of thieves
Oh Republic,
We are getting rid of you!
The “youth in full bloom,” as the song later described the militant students, took, questioned, and
changed the relationship the Republicans had sought to establish between national history and
present politics. Examining the Thalamas Affairs within the greater drama of the Third Republic
reveals history in its capacity as a dangerous instrument of empowerment, even if given to the
seemingly innocuous young. Given as a tool to strengthen the established order to those soon
empowered to maintain that order, history can become a weapon against the established order.
Can we call the France of the Thalamas Affair “modern” in the sense of Schorske’s
Vienna was modern? The Third Republic’s active engagement with the past, its attempts to
sanitize it, and incorporate its heroic examples into a secular and Republican universe suggest
that we cannot make an argument for the type of “a-history” Schorske observed in the Austrian
cultural center. How the Third Republic might have established legitimacy without recourse to
creating new discourses about national history cannot be answered. The Thalamas Affair of 1904
lets us reflect on the incredible power that history and historical figures have as casts for
individual behavior and group ideals. It also lets us reflect on the enduring power that history can
This is a reference to the Panama Canal finance scandal. See Frederick Brown, For the Soul of France:
Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, New York: (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).
« La France Bouge, » in Maurice Pujo, Almanach de l’Action Française. Paris : 1910. Centre Jeanne d’Arc.
Page 201 of 216
have across the lifetime of individuals…What we learn as children becomes part of us and
informs our ideals in critical and often unconscious ways.
An affair such as this one reminds us too that a seemingly collective sense of history is, in
the end, only superficial. As light breaks down into its constituent waves, a collective national
history is the sum of individual relationships with a useable past. When a group of individuals
asserts their relationship with the past more strongly, it changes the color of the whole. The
examples pulled from the past, in the pursuit of real life models for our own moment’s use,
morph under those synchronic pressures to give a new visage to a familiar figure. Joan of Arc
spoke to young and maturing patriots because she could be their yardstick and their hero. “I
promise you and assure you that as long as I live, I will never abandon you… my dear friends,
never be worried while I live,” Joan of Arc in 1429 wrote to the French of Reims. 425 She is
immortal, and working out of their admiration for her, so too did the young protestors of the
Thalamas Affair hope to become. This is the process of history; we are what we care to
remember and to write; our children can become what we tell them to remember.
“Le 5 aout 1429: Lettre aux habitants de Reims,” Les Lettres de Jeanne d’Arc, ed. Nathalie Desgrugillers,
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