The Cult of the Modern


The Cult of the Modern

Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity

Gavin Murray-Miller

France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization Series

336 pages


May 2017


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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May 2017


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2017


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Cult of the Modern focuses on nineteenth-century France and Algeria and examines the role that ideas of modernity and modernization played in both national and colonial programs during the years of the Second Empire and the early Third Republic. Gavin Murray-Miller rethinks the subject by examining the idiomatic use of modernity in French cultural and political discourse. The Cult of the Modern argues that the modern French republic is a product of nineteenth-century colonialism rather than a creation of the Enlightenment or the French Revolution. This analysis contests the predominant Parisian and metropolitan contexts that have traditionally framed French modernity studies, noting the important role that colonial Algeria and the administration of Muslim subjects played in shaping understandings of modern identity and governance among nineteenth-century politicians and intellectuals.

In synthesizing the narratives of continental France and colonial North Africa, Murray-Miller proposes a new framework for nineteenth-century French political and cultural history, bringing into sharp relief the diverse ways in which the French nation was imagined and represented throughout the country’s turbulent postrevolutionary history, as well as the implications for prevailing understandings of France today.

Author Bio

Gavin Murray-Miller is a lecturer of modern European history at Cardiff University.


"This book will be read with interest by students and scholars of nineteenth-century French culture and politics, especially for the sharp portraits of the individual figures on whom it most focuses. It will be especially valuable for its discussion of the Second Empire's politics of education and religion, and as a contribution to ongoing debates about modernity as both an emerging condition and the idiom in which that condition was evoked, apprehended, and encoded."—James McDougall, H-France

"This meticulously researched and intellectually stimulating study focuses primarily on continental France. . . . The author makes excellent use of historical source materials . . . and has interspersed his study with quotes from key political players, thinkers, philosophers, journalists and administrators, but also writers, and jurists, thus broadening the scope of his project to encompass cultural debates that shaped modernity beyond French domestic politics. This book would be of interest to historians, anthropologists, social scientists, and scholars of French and Francophone studies."—Christa C. Jones, French Review

“A provocative—and convincing—account of how the conception of modernity became a vital means to political action and legitimacy in nineteenth-century France.”—Benjamin Franklin Martin, Katheryn J., Lewis C., and Benjamin Price Professor of History at Louisiana State University and author of France in 1938

“A serious and ambitious work that will inspire a great deal of debate, which I imagine will last some time. The author is a talented thinker.”—William Gallois, associate professor of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean history at the University of Exeter and author of A History of Violence in the Early Algerian Colony

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Cult of the Modern in the Nineteenth Century

1. Imagining the Modern Community

2. State Modernization and the Making of Bonapartist Modernity

3. Civilizing and Nationalizing

4. The Crucible of Modern Society

5. Old Ends and New Means

6. Republican Government and Political Modernization

7. Toward the Trans-Mediterranean Republic

Conclusion: The Second Empire and the Politics of Modernity




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