- Mar 2, 2004
The French Century
This AAR is drawn from a summary of notes from a class I took as a student at the University of Northern Algeria under the eminent Dr. Paul Renault. He was an excellent teacher, one of the best I had during those heady days, but horribly dull in his lecturing style. I never thought I would need these notes, but I am glad I kept them for this time. I will try to keep my own thoughts distinct and separate from the teaching notes
“Students, in this class we will discuss the rise and development of the French nation and empire in the recent past. As you well know as children of our fatherland, knowledge of one’s own history is essential to being a good citizen of that nation."
Dr. Renault’s voice is droning and dull, and the heat of his classroom is unbearable. My eyes drift towards the window, which frames the tile clad roofs of the University of Northern Algeria, and in the distance, the Mediterranean coast. A few days ago, I was there, lounging in the sun; now I am here, studying the history of “our Great Nation.” The French Century is a required course for all students at UAN and I happened to draw a class with the most eminent of professors who has the dubious distinction of being the dullest. My name? Rene Atta. I am a Frenchman of Arabic descent. My nation is the greatest in the world. Back to the lecture...
“The French Nation in 1836 was economically prosperous and politically stable. At home, men of wealth, good morals, and bourgeois sensibilities ruled the nation. The king Louis-Philippe was content in his rule, fully dependent on the bourgeois upper classes to support his rule. He even dressed like a member of he bourgeoisie. Abroad, France was a nation that had for half a generation, been merely another continental power, on par with Austria, Prussia and Russia and constrained on her borders by buffer states erected as a fence against French power.
The halcyon days of Louis XIV, “the Sun king” when all of Europe basked in the cultural glow of the magnificent monarch were long gone. The more recent days of revolutionary empire under Napoleon were swept under the carpet as too risky to remember. Great Britain alone strode the world as a colossus, with no true competitor to her wealth, industry or influence. France was still a great power, but not nearly as great as she been. No one could predict the changes that would engulf France and the world in the next hundred years in what would become known as The French Century."