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Thread: France as a "Nation"

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    2 members found this post helpful.

    France as a "Nation"



    I'd really be interested to get the reaction of our French members to this article:

    https://undsoc.org/2009/01/29/france-as-a-nation/

    "Is France one nation? What makes it so? And what are the large socio-cultural factors that led to modern France? These are the questions that Emmanuel Todd raises in The Making of Modern France: Ideology, Politics and Culture. Todd is one of this generation’s leading historians in France, and his conception of the challenge of history is worth studying. I would call him a “macro-historian”, in that he is interested in large processes of change over extended stretches of space (for example, the extension of industry across the map of France from 1850 to 1970, or the patterns of religious dissent from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries), and he singles out characteristics of family structure, demography, literacy, and religion as a set of causal factors that explain the patterns of historical change that he uncovers."

    "
    Crudely, Todd argues that there are large regional patterns of culture, demography, and property that created distinct dynamics of change across eight centuries of French history. The southern half of France is characterized by complex family systems with several generations in the same household and a low rate of reproduction, in contrast to the nuclear families of the north and their higher rate of reproduction. The family values of the southern region gave greater importance to literacy and education than the nuclear (and larger) families of the north. And family structure, patterns of inheritance, and land tenure are in turn highly relevant to the formation of large patterns of ideology. (A similar logic is expressed in another of Todd’s books, The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structure and Social Systems (Family, Sexuality and Social Relations in Past Times).)"

    "
    At the largest scale, he argues for three axes of historical causation: a north-south axis defined by family structure that creates differentials of literacy and population growth; an east-west axis defined by the diffusion of industry from northern Europe into eastern France and across the map from east to west; and a political pattern different from both of these, extending from Paris at the political center to the periphery in all directions. The following is a great example; Todd is interested in observing the degree of “religiosity” across France around the time of the Revolution, and he uses the percentage of priests who accepted the oath of allegiance demanded by the Revolutionary government as a measure. The resulting map reveals conspicuous patterns; the periphery and the south stand out as non-conformist."

    "
    Todd also argues that there is a causal order among the large social factors he singles out. Family structure is causally relevant to literacy and education level; literacy is relevant to religious dissent and the emergence of Cathars, Waldensians, and Protestants; family structure is relevant to reproductive rates which are in turn relevant to the spread of industry; and traditions of inheritance are relevant to a region’s receptiveness to the ideology of the Revolution. And the patterns created by these causal processes are very persistent; so the southern belt of high-literacy départements of the twelfth century coincides almost exactly with the pattern of high incidence of baccalauréats and doctors in the late twentieth century."

    "
    Note that the large estates are concentrated in the center of France, including Paris; while peasant proprietorship (sometimes combined with share-cropping) predominates in the southern tier. Note as well how closely these patterns conform to the distribution of family structure and fertility at the top of the posting. And Todd argues that these patterns showed substantial continuity before and after the Revolution (61). In other words, there is a very substantial overlap between agrarian regimes and the anthropological-demographic patterns discussed earlier. Todd then uses these geographical patterns to explain something different: the pattern of de-christianization that took place over the century following the Revolution. Basically, de-christianization is associated with the regions involving a large number of landless workers, whereas this cultural process was least virulent in regions of peasant proprietorship. Todd summarizes this way:
    The link between family and agrarian system will help us to understand why dechristianization gained ground, from 1791 onwards, in regions of large farms and share-cropping, and met with resistance in provinces where tenant farming and peasant proprietorship were predominant. This proposition can, moreover, be reformulated thanks to equivalences between family types and agrarian systems. Dechristianization spread in regions where the family structure was egalitarian nuclear or community, but failed in provinces where the family was stem or absolute nuclear."

    This all sounds very convincing in terms of what I know about France, but then I saw a map of traditional family structures in Europe based on his work and it seems all wrong to me.

    Interested to hear from people about the traditional family structures in their area.



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    3 members found this post helpful.
    First reaction, without much time to give the matter much thought : the analysis seems convincing, but I'd tend to think Todd's approach is in some ways unnecessarily complicated.

    The areas (see map in the paper linked) where priests refused allegiance to the Revolution were Brittany, Flanders, Alsace, the one French Catalan département, and the mountainous areas of the Pyrenees and Massif Central, ie, areas which, for cultural (linguistic) or topographical reasons, were for long periods of time far less influenced by the central power in Paris than were all the regions along the major routes of transportation and communication. Brittany, Alsace, Flanders, Catalonia had their own distinct languages. The mountainous areas in the southern half of France spoke occitan dialects as late as the 1960s. There was no need for other factors to explain a certain reluctance to align politically with people who were hardly likely, anyway, to come bother you on your remote plateaux.

    "Geography is destiny". Highlanders seem to be more reluctant to stoop to authority than lowlanders. In the mountains of Auvergne, centuries before the Revolution, peasants had managed to secure a degree of independence from the local gentry. Share-cropping was marginal. Conversely, in Bourbonnais, in the plains to the north, share-croppers were virtually enslaved by their lords. To this day, the mountain départements of Auvergne, though geographically under-privileged, vote right, while the Bourbonnais farmers, who now own vast expanses of land, still vote left.

    My own ancestors lived under the unchallenged authority of the Pater Familias. He remained in charge till he died. He usually had nine to fourteen children, who didn't all survive. One of those children was singled out as his successor - usually the eldest, but not always : sometimes the smartest boy was chosen instead. A third of the property was set apart and reserved for the chosen one. Then he also inherited his normal share of the rest. This meant that the shares of all the others were small and could over time be bought back by the elected one. Some of the boys (and some of the girls as well) did not get married, and stayed on the farm as unpaid farm hands, which kept their shares safe in the hands of their brother. The other girls either became nuns, or were married off with a dowry corresponding to their share on the inheritance. The dowry was paid in instalments over a period of time agreed on with the bridegroom. The other boys went away, as priests, soldiers, or, if they married, as farmers on their wives' properties: they all left their shares of land to the main heir, who bought them back over what was left of his lifetime.

    In other words, allegiance was to the estate more than to the individual family members. The system was particularly unfair to all but the chosen son. That son, by the way, spent his teenage years with a priest uncle who taught him to read and write. Schooling was not compulsory by then, and would have involved "exile" and expenses.

    In isolated areas, priests were the only moral authorities at hand. Their grip over consciences was tight and unquestioned, as were traditions. So I guess the old ways survived longer than in more urbanized, or more culturally ebullient, areas.

    So France may not exactly be "one nation", but I am tempted to think that Todd mistakes the causes for the consequences. The estate of the King of France in 1200 AD was ridiculously small. It extended over time, but each region retained their own distinct ways long after they were included in the kingdom, through marriages, alliances, or violent annexations. So, in terms of ideology, I guess what made a difference was : - isolation (the further away people were from the mainstream influences, the more independent-minded); - how fertile the soil was (lords didn't bother to retain the same degree of confiscation in poorer areas); - in the 19 and 20C, industrialization (in the north, Lorraine, etc, where the coal was), with the emergence of a distinct class-consciousness.

    I don't think ideology was determined by family structure. I think family structure was determined by ownership (ideology), and the specific strategies of survival imposed by the local geographies.
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    It is widely known in Catalonia that the owners of a "Masia" (large farm house) gave the house to the older child. The reason is that if equal inheritance happened, the estate would be dismembered, and it would not survive.

    The other children were not left aside. The family invested in them for other jobs. For example, the younger one used to become a priest (maybe unsurprisingly, the younger child in a big family has a bigger tendency to be gay).

    It is surprising to me that "Catalonia North" (the part of France which is traditionally Catalan, and which was lost due to an agreement between the Castilian King and the French King) has a different strategy. I wonder why is that so.

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    1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post

    I am not sure this map is so reliable. Belgium and Nord-Pas-de-Calais is essentially the same culture. The map shows both regions in light green, meaning a mix of authoritarian family and egalitarian nuclear family. I have an large extended family and know a lot of people, yet I do not know any family where one adult child lives with the parents while others move out (authoritarian family). That's a completely foreign concept in Belgium. I think that the vast majority of people would fit into the egalitarian nuclear family in blue.


    Regarding fertility rates in France, it is not just the northern half that has higher fertility and birth rates, but also the Rhône valley in the east.



    Religiosity does not show any clear pattern. What we can say is that Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté in the North-East is more religious than the rest of France. This map shows the percentage of people without religion by département.



    There is hardly any correlation between fertility and religiosity in France. Côtes d'Armor is not religious and has one of the highest fertility rates. Haute Vienne is also low in religiosity but has the lowest fertility rate. Tarn-et-Garonne is one of the most religious département and has a high fertility rate. The Moselle and Bas-Rhin are quite religious but have lower fertility rates than the rest of northern France.


    As for the percentage of university graduates, things aren't as simple either as a north-south divide. This map from Slate shows the percentage of French people without any diploma or degree.




    I think that the main reason why we see départements with high percentages of people without diploma around Paris is that the capital acts as a magnet for university graduates. So the countryside around is depleted of its "brains". The same happens in the south with Bordeaux, Toulouse and Montpellier siphoning graduates from their periphery. In more remote regions like Brittany, Béarn (French Basque country) and the Alps, graduates do not so readily leave for the big cities and therefore the percentage of educated people remains higher at the local level.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I think that the main reason why we see départements with high percentages of people without diploma around Paris is that the capital acts as a magnet for university graduates. So the countryside around is depleted of its "brains". The same happens in the south with Bordeaux, Toulouse and Montpellier siphoning graduates from their periphery. In more remote regions like Brittany, Béarn (French Basque country) and the Alps, graduates do not so readily leave for the big cities and therefore the percentage of educated people remains higher at the local level.
    That's an intelligent hypothesis, but lots of people with degrees retreat from the city and commute in by train and car (I'm just guessing here, there's no reason France is different to the UK in that respect). I think that map of people without diplomas/degrees actually maps amazingly well with this map of % immigrants (which should be seen as a minimum estimate):






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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    Interested to hear from people about the traditional family structures in their area.



    I've many doubts about the accuracy and reliability of this map.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pax Augusta View Post
    I've many doubts about the accuracy and reliability of this map.
    Todd's work uses the so-called European Marriage Pattern established by Hajnal: "Seminal research by Hajnal (1965, 1982) establishes the crucial role of the European MarriagePattern (henceforth EMP), a family model diffused at least since the 16th century in NorthernEurope, west of a line running from Trieste to St. Petersburg. According to Hajnal, the EMP wascharacterized by nuclear residential patterns, relatively late marriage for both sexes but particularlyfor women, and widespread permanent female celibacy. In Hajnal's interpretation these features areclosely connected: marriage could have occurred at an early age only under the protection of acomplex family model, since the nuclear model would not have created the economic conditionspermitting the formation of an independent household at an early age.1 Complementarycharacteristics of the EMP were also the pervasive presence of servants living within the householdand, as pointed out by Laslett (1977), a low age gap between spouses. The pattern prevailing inSouthern Europe, again according to Hajnal, was instead characterized by early marriage andcomplex families, thus departing radically from the EMP."

    "At a subsequent stage, in his analysis of family organization in Europe since the Middle Age, Todd(1990) develops a classification of family types organized along two axes. The first axis reflects therelationship between parents and children as captured by residential habits: families can beclassified as liberal or authoritarian. They are classified as liberal when they are based on thenuclear model and children establish their own separate household after marrying, while they areclassified as authoritarian when they follow the extended pattern and different generations livetogether.

    The second axis in Todd's classification focuses on the relationship between siblings ascaptured by inheritance rules: such rules can be classified as equal or unequal. Equal inheritancerules imply partition of family wealth among all children, while unequal rules can take the form ofprimogeniture, unigeniture, or discretion, that is the absence of formal rules. The combination of thetwo axes generates four family types: the absolute nuclear family (liberal and unequal), the egalitarian nuclear family (liberal and equal), the stem family (authoritarian and unequal); and thecommunitarian family (authoritarian and equal)."

    It was quickly clear that this model might apply to northern Europe, but it absolutely didn't apply to Southern Europe, and most particularly not to Italy.

    "Relative to Hajnal, Todd therefore questions the association between co-residence and latemarriage, suggesting in particular that the complementarity between nuclear residential rules andlate marriage is not robust. For instance, Southern Europe witnessed both early female marriagewithin nuclear families as well as late female marriage age within complex ones. Dennison andOgilvie (2014) present a meta-study which confirms that the EMP did not uniformly prevailthroughout Europe and that its two distinctive components did not always coincide.

    "Relative to Hajnal, Todd therefore questions the association between co-residence and latemarriage, suggesting in particular that the complementarity between nuclear residential rules andlate marriage is not robust. For instance, Southern Europe witnessed both early female marriagewithin nuclear families as well as late female marriage age within complex ones. Dennison andOgilvie (2014) present a meta-study which confirms that the EMP did not uniformly prevailthroughout Europe and that its two distinctive components did not always coincide."

    So far, so good. However, as for you, the map didn't strike me as correct for Italy. I would have said that the south was more likely to have families where the adult children live with the parents rather than areas like Lazio, Toscana and Emilia-Romagna or at least that the numbers were more equal. So, I decided to investigate.

    It seems that perhaps our feeling that the map is "wrong" may be because we are thinking of relatively modern patterns. I found this study based on the 1871 census in Italy.
    http://ftp.iza.org/dp10327.pdf

    I can't argue with this data. However, it calls into question some assumptions in social science, i.e. that nuclear families are correlated with industrialization. That seems to fit for northwest Italy, which was the first to industrialize, but what about the south? Also, I think we have to bear in mind that there are nuclear families and nuclear families. Young couples in Italy may set up their own separate households, but in my experience they are in close proximity to those of the parents. Plus, when the parents become elderly and a little infirm they move in with one of the children, although from what I see it is often with a daughter, not a son. Also,on a personal level, this is contrary to the 20th century structures in my mother's family in the Lunigiana, where nuclear families were apparently the norm in 1871, whereas in her family the eldest son and his family lived with his parents, he inherited it, and his two unmarried sisters lived and worked with them. It's true that the other sons started their own households. As for my father's family in Parma, it's accurate. Adult children lived with or very near their parents.



    Fwiw, as you can see here, the map does reflect the situation in Italy in 1871. (The two "egalitarian" categories are "nuclear" egalitarian.)




    Perhaps to be expected: "Within the research line on family patterns the case of Italy stands out for its complexity, whichcannot be completely captured by the aforementioned classification approaches.

    I would agree with hv I think. I think it was the economic structure which drove the family structure to some extent, not the other way around. Where nuclear families already existed, industrialization was easier if and only if the other necessary factors were present.

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    Prior to the 1900s, women in rural areas were definitely part of the workforce. If I am to depend on the papers my forebears left me, people not only married early round here, but they also remarried very soon after the death of their spouses - within six to twelve months, most of the time, with a few isolated counter-examples. A widow apparently couldn't survive alone, particularly if she had young children. If she was left alone with some land, suitors would quickly multiply.

    Which goes to show that early marriage did combine with authoritarian patterns. I have also noticed that the harder the times were, the earlier the marriages occurred. Some of my great-great-...- grandmothers were married off at 14 in the late years of the 17C, when food was scarce.

    Concerning demography... today, women decide how many children they want. Before the pill, women produced children until they died in childbirth. There was no way people could decide on a "pattern". Demography depended on how many babies you managed to keep alive.

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    "Delayed" marriage for women was anything 24 or older, so still young by our standards. In both my mother's and father's families the women married at around 18-20 from what I can tell from the records. I didn't see very many marriages for girls in their early teens. Part of that is, I think, that given the diet and the hard work, many girls didn't pass through menarche until around 16. Widows did remarry quickly, and sometimes to younger men.

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