Funerals, Politics and Memory in Modern France 1789-1996
This is an interdisciplinary study of the state funerals that were celebrated in France between the French Revolution and the death of Francois Mitterand. Its aim is to explain how the funerals of such prominent figures as Voltaire, Napoleon, Gambetta, Hugo, and de Gaulle became major public events that helped to mould the national memory. Combining the insights of anthropologists and sociologists with a historical analysis, it argues that the dual character of the ceremony, a political festival and final rite of passage, turned the state funeral into a gripping event to which few French people could remain indifferent. The book focuses on the republican tradition of state funerals, which emerged in the French Revolution and has continued through the Fifth Republic. Whether in power or in opposition, the republicans used the funerals of their leaders and militants to educate the masses and mobilize public support. This book, the first comprehensive analysis of French state funerals, is also a major contribution to the study of republican culture.