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Tag: History

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Off with Her Head (of Marketing)!

While the monarchy is often perceived as outdated in France, it continues to inspire a certain fascination in the United States. There are now countless brands and consumer products that reference Versailles, Louis XIV, and Marie-Antoinette, all of which have become often-kitsch symbols of French luxury. “Give your home the royal treatment with our antique collections and regal bed, bath...

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One Fair Month of July

Independence Day (July 4) and Bastille Day (July 14) share more than a month. From the beginning, our two revolutions were linked by a diplomatic and military alliance, by personal friendships, and a common philosophy. On July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “This day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the Day of Deliverance by...

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Three Colors

Why do the French and American flags share the same colors? Is it a coincidence? No one knows who designed these two flags, but there are a few clues. For the thirteen original colonies marked by British culture, and whose officers, most notably George Washington, had served in the occupying army, blue, white and red were already familiar shades used...

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The French Origin of Robert E. Lee’s Statue in Virginia

Just like the Statue of Liberty in its time, the controversial representation of the confederate general, which has been the target of anti-racism protests, was made in Paris before being sent to the United States in 1890. “A contest has been launched for the design of a monument to General Robert E. Lee in Richmond. All participants’ models and plans...

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The Best Podcasts for Francophiles

A selection of podcasts (in English) for those seeking a French culture fix while waiting out uncertain times – or anytime! The Land of Desire The Land of Desire is an engaging one-woman show about French history and culture hosted by San Francisco-based Francophile Diana Stegall. Whether discussing Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette; Napoleon’s “tiniest campaign”; or the Dreyfus affair, she...

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The French, History’s All-Time Losers?

The French excel when it comes to patisserie and haute couture, but are supposedly terrible in warfare with lily-livered soldiers going from one defeat to the next. This cliché has been peddled in the United States since the Wehrmacht entered Paris on June 14, 1940, and the French army surrendered eight days later. “Bonjourrrrr, you cheese-eating surrender monkeys!” This is...

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Toppling Statues

In the wake of George Floyd's death, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have reignited the debate over controversial statues. In this opinion piece published in 2017, France-Amérique explored the complex connection between remembrance and history through an American example, Robert E. Lee, and a French one, Marshal Pétain. The French will not be surprised by the...

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Jean-Pierre Laffont, the Darkness of America

From Martin Luther King’s funeral to the Ku Klux Klan camps in Alabama, New York-based French photographer Jean-Pierre Laffont captured the darkness and violence of America. The end of the dream. The Algerian-born French man arrived in New York City in 1965 at the age of 30 to discover a country in the throes of transformation. He stepped into the...

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Perspective Through Exile: James Baldwin in France

A key figure in the fight against discrimination and for civil rights in the United States, African-American novelist James Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. Fleeing racism in America, he arrived in Paris in 1948. France was where he wrote his most famous works, such as Notes of a Native Son (1955), Giovanni’s Room (1956) and Just Above My Head...

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Occupied Paris by Janet Flanner

Writing under the pen name of Genêt, Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was the daughter of a Quaker from Indianapolis who spent fifty years brilliantly portraying Parisian life in her "Letters from Paris" for the New Yorker. Swept up in the politics of the 1930s, she gradually abandoned her neutral stance and invented a new form of journalism. She was forced to...

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George Withers, an Illustrator at War

Seventy-five years ago, on May 8, 1945, Corporal George Withers was in Paris. The war in Europe had ended, and the American artist was painting the national outpouring of joy, scenes of jubilation in Paris, and the victory marches. “Today, I saw Churchill, Anthony Eden, and De Gaulle leading the Armistice Day parade,” he wrote in a letter to his...

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Notre-Dame de Paris: Eight Centuries of History

From the birth of the project to the finishing touches, the documentary Notre-Dame de Paris, The Secrets of the Builders looks back at the life of this architectural gem on Ile de la Cité in Paris, using animated images in a blend of historical facts and fictional anecdotes. We talked with director Emmanuel Blanchard to find out more. France-Amérique: You condensed...

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The Forgotten French Pioneers of the American Frontier

We have heard of officers Lewis and Clark and their expedition across the Rockies in 1804-1806. But who remembers Toussaint Charbonneau, their French-speaking guide? Or Pierre Gambie, an interpreter working with the Timucua tribe in Florida during the 1560s? America’s French past has been hidden, according to historian Gilles Havard, research director at the CNRS and author of a book...

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Frenchtown: The Forgotten History of Los Angeles’ French Community

Vineyards, sheep, dirt roads, and French restaurants. Welcome to Los Angeles in 1870. At the time, the future megalopolis was little more than a town of 10,000 inhabitants where French was the most spoken language after Spanish! A forgotten chapter revived by an amateur historian who has recently begun offering walking tours in the footsteps of L.A.’s French community. The...

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The Bonfire of Destiny, a Parisian Disaster on Netflix

One of the biggest fires in the 19th century has inspired a series coproduced by French television network TF1 and Netflix, streaming in the United States since December 26. In Paris during the Belle Epoque, the Bazar de la Charité sale organized by the Baron de Mackau was an annual get-together for the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Women in hoop...

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Chaumet, From Empress Joséphine to Beyoncé

The creations from the Chaumet jewelry house are neither trendy nor fashionable, but simply elegant. Founded in 1780, the brand renowned for its tiaras and diamond rings symbolizes luxury from the First French Empire, the sophistication of the Parisian salons, and this je ne sais quoi that makes France so enviable abroad. In a studio on the Place Vendôme in...

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The French-Canadian Conspiracy to Invade the United States

Between 1840 and 1930, a million French-speaking Canadians crossed the U.S. border, many seeking work in the textile mills of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. This wave of migration scared the United States, argues researcher David Vermette, a Massachusetts native, in his book, A Distinct Alien Race: The Untold Story of Franco‑Americans. Newspapers ran violent articles against French-Canadian...

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When New York Was Called Angoulême

Before being colonized by the Dutch, who renamed it New Amsterdam in 1624, New York was actually called Angoulême. Forgotten by the history books, this homage to King Francis I, Count of Angoulême, was revealed in 1950 in a thesis by historian Jacques Habert. An investigation-style documentary looks back over this French odyssey in America. A former officer from the...

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On the Trail of French-Speaking Migrants in North America

We know everything about Jacques Cartier, the French sailor who discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in 1534. But we know far less about the other Francophones who settled in North America from the 17th century onwards. This is the ambitious objective of a transatlantic research project set to finish in 2026. Des Moines in Iowa, Traverse City...

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When the Free French Forces Trained in the U.S.

During World War II, more than 4,000 French pilots, navigators, radio operators, machine-gunners, bombardiers, and mechanics were trained in the United States. A little-known chapter in the history of the French Air Force. Boston, June 23, 1943. The French soldiers disembarking from the U.S.S. West Point were ashen-faced, having spent two weeks aboard a luxury ocean liner that had been...

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How Charles de Gaulle Rescued France

As Julian Jackson insists in the preface of his biography, published by Harvard University Press in 2018 and translated in French by Seuil, De Gaulle is “everywhere” in modern France, its undisputed hero. This claim, like some other confident statements in the book, may strike a reader as both narrowly true and what a French thinker might call metaphysically false. His...