Lesson 1: What Is France? Who Are the French?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, you should be able to accomplish the following:

  1. Define “civilization” and “nation.”
  2. Explain French exceptionalism.
  3. Describe the relationship between the French language and French national identity.
  4. Explain the character of the state in France.
  5. Explain the anxieties and conflicts expressed by French people over their participation in the European Union.

Reading Assignment

Contemporary French Cultural Studies

  • pages 111–125, "French Political Culture: Homogeneous or Fragmented?" by Brian Jenkins
  • pages 129– 139, "If It Isn't Clear, It Isn't French: Language and Identity" by James Munro


Figure 1.1. Map of France.

The definitions of "France" and "French identity" may at first seem self-evident and not in need of further elaboration. After all, you've signed up for this course and presumably you have a pretty good idea of what France is. Part of the point of this course, though, will be to complicate preconceived notions of France and the French. By the end of the course, seemingly simple statements like, "France is a country in Western Europe" and "French people speak the French language," will hopefully seem insufficient descriptions of a territory and a people formed through complicated historical processes that are far from complete. That is, "France" continues to change with our changing world, in particular in the current age of economic globalization. As in all nations and regions, the general condition of globalization has manifested in France in particular ways: France’s at-times reluctant membership in the European Union, pressure to minimize France’s traditional welfare state, and new debates around the issues of immigration, citizenship, and multiculturalism.

Defining "Civilization" and "Nation"

We'll begin by defining some terms central to our topic: first of all, "civilization." This term is obviously relevant to us as it appears in the title of this course. The Oxford English Dictionary defines civilization as "the action or process of civilizing or of being civilized; a developed or advanced state of human society." The word "civilize" is defined as "to make civil; to bring out of a state of barbarism; to instruct in the arts of life; to enlighten; to refine and polish." These definitions suggest that the term "civilization" carries with it certain political or ideological baggage. We need only remark that "civilization" is here opposed to "barbarism" to notice certain assumptions: that some nations or peoples “have” it and some do not; some are advanced and some are backward or "barbarian." Thus "Roman civilization" is somewhat commonplace, but not "Navajo civilization." Historians often describe ancient African civilizations (such as Dahomey) but rarely use the term in relationship to contemporary African nations or regions. In the lessons that follow we will be sensitive to the ways that the idea of “civilization” excludes certain groups and topics. Thus, the point of this course will not be to give an overview of the great achievements of the French people in art, politics, and philosophy (though we will explore all of these fields to some extent). Instead, this course will explore how France came to be, what counts as "French" and why, and how different regions, ethnicities, genders, and classes experience being French differently, as well as to what extent we can give a more universal sense to the term.

"Civilization" has a special relationship to the next term that we will unpack: nation. What exactly is a nation? The nation is essentially a modern political institution. It came into being in the late eighteenth century during the period known as both the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolution, the period during which the American Revolution, French Revolution, and a number of other similar political upheavals took place around Europe. Beginning in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Enlightenment philosophers and political theorists, such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Locke, and Hume, began to question the legitimacy of absolute monarchies, whose power was supposedly divinely ordained. Instead, these thinkers argued that governments should be reflections of the governed, of the people. These first theories of democracy led to political experiments that sought to put these principles into practice. The nation was the political entity based on the power of the populace (who elect representatives) rather than on the power of an elite body of individuals. The idea of nations assumed that people are divided into distinct cultural or ethnic communities. The “nation” should not be confused with the “state,” which describes the government apparatus of the nation in question.

Perhaps because of their relative newness and thus the need to justify their existence, nations have typically insisted on their archaic origins. National histories were first written in the nineteenth century, often as a way of justifying the existence of new or burgeoning nations. As Brian Jenkins writes on page 111 of the Kidd and Reynolds textbook, "where the [nation-state] does not reflect a preexisting sense of community, it sets out to create one." Indeed, authors of the earliest national histories imagined eternal racial ancestries and traditions in order to legitimize the nation. Thus, every nation has some kind of origin story, often based as much on fiction as on fact; these stories served to define who "naturally" belonged to the French nation, the German nation, the English nation, America, etc. Nations, then, have tended to define themselves in terms of who doesn't belongs as much as in terms of who does.

For example, when we tell the history of the United States, we begin with the Pilgrims, though they did not think of themselves as "American" and had little idea that their experiment in the wilderness would lead to the founding of the United States of America. More politically sensitive accounts add the American Indians to the story, but even these stories of the origins of the United States assume that the founding of a unified American nation was inevitable, and until recently, assumed that it was predominantly white.

The Development of France as a Nation 

Stories of the French nation likewise begin at a point in history centuries before there was ever an entity known as France. The French often cite their Celtic origins, identifying their pedigree with the Celtic tribes called “Gaul” that inhabited the region around Paris and throughout modern-day France from about 700 BC. The Gauls had pushed out and integrated with an earlier people whom archaeologist simply call "urn/field people," because little is known about them. Just before the first century AD, though, the Roman emperor Caesar invaded Gaul and made it an integral part of the Roman Empire. Over the course of this three-hundred-year occupation, the original Celtic tribes of Gaul thoroughly integrated with the Romans. They eventually took on their religion, and especially their language, Latin. One Celtic language remains in France (Breton, spoken in the region of Brétagne by a small portion of the population), but most of the other numerous dialectics and languages spoken in the region derived from Latin. Further, as Rome was about to fall around 500 AD, Europe was invaded by waves of Germanic tribes. One of the tribes was called the Franks (from whom France gets its name), and they succeeded in defeating the Roman Gauls and setting themselves up as rulers throughout France and Germany. One family, the Merovingians, became extremely powerful and constituted the first "French" kings; this is the moment when an entity that we might call "France" began to take shape.

We can see from this history that even though there was a Celtic presence at one time in the region that comprises modern-day France, modern French people are descended just as much if not more from the Romans and the German tribes that succeeded them. Nonetheless, French authors, artists, politicians, and historians have often insisted on their essential Celtic origins in order to define themselves as unique and different from their neighbors, especially the Germans with whom France has so often been at war and with whom it has so much in common historically. (In fact, under the Franks, France and Germany were part of one empire until about the ninth century.) This Celtic origin, based in the Paris region and Northern France, leaves out numerous regions whose history is different, in particular the South of France and the Southern Atlantic coastal regions. The most famous comic book in France, Asterix, is about plucky Celtic Gauls who trick and get the better of their occupiers, the Romans. Extreme right-wing nationalist groups like the fascist Vichy government of World War II and the Front National (National Front) of the contemporary era use images of the Gauls as symbols of their movements. For the anti-Semitic Vichy government, the Gaul was a symbol of pure white “Frenchness.” Similarly, for the virulently racist and anti-immigration National Front, the Gaul symbolizes French purity, and goes along with their credo, "France for the French." On page 267 of the Jones textbook, you'll see a good example of a Vichy-era poster representing the French nation as a burly bearded Gaul wearing a winged helmet and carrying an axe. There is more about his character at Asterix NZ.

It is important, though, not to take at face value such origin stories by recognizing that the French nation (or any nation) is not a natural, archaic, nor ancestral inheritance, but an institution, created at a certain moment in history for particular political reasons.

French flagFigure 1.2. The flag of France.

As stated above, an important aspect of the nation as an institution is that the power of the "people" who elect their representatives (theoretically at least) replaces the power of a central monarch. Since the church was usually associated with royal power, the nation in its origins was secular, i.e., not organized around a particular religion but nonetheless tolerant of all religions (again theoretically). As Benedict Anderson argues, national identity, in the modern age, replaces religion as the “spirit” that binds a people together. Most people living in the United States (though certainly not all) would probably identify themselves first as "American," and then as "Christian" or "Jewish" or "Buddhist"; and in the case of France, as "French" before "Catholic." The relationship between church and state has remained a hotly debated topic in France.

France is a Catholic country and has had long and enduring ties with the papacy in Rome. The earliest French Christian kings pledged themselves the protectors of the Pope and enjoyed close political ties to the Vatican. French kings took active leadership roles in the Crusades (the subject of the next lesson), and a majority of Crusading knights and commoners were French. French monarchs over the centuries were staunchly Catholic and the Catholic Church held much financial and political power in France. This all ended, however, with the French Revolution of 1789. The French revolutionaries greatly reduced most of the Catholic Church’s authority and power. Church lands were seized, religious schools closed. The revolutionaries, called republicans, didn't even want the church to handle burials anymore, and they moved corpses from church graveyards to public cemeteries! This laïcisme (anti-clericalism), a politics that opposes any union of church and state, has remained strong in France, especially on the part of the Left wing, though the centrist conservatives also believe in the anti-clerical doctrine. Far Right conservative groups, however, tend to be strongly Catholic and believe that the separation of church and state has gone too far in France, depriving the nation of an important cultural and social institution. Indeed, Joan of Arc, the Catholic saint and defender of France, is another favorite symbol of the National Front party.

Figure 1.3. A painting of Joan of Arc, 1485, which is an interpretation of the only portrait for which she sat.

Diversity and Sameness within the Hexagon: The Case of Language

Figure 1.4. In the map above, the dark-green dotted boundaries indicate the 22 regions of France.

Modern France is shaped like a hexagon and indeed "l'Hexagone" is often used as another term for "France." Its coastal areas lie along the North Sea, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, and it shares borders with Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain. France is made up of twenty-two different regions, each possessing a unique cultural heritage and history. Regions function a bit like states in the United States, but they have less autonomy. These regions are divided into departments, administrative units that are the equivalent of counties in the United States. Some of the regions include the Auvergne, Brétagne, the Côte d'Azur, and Bourgogne. Additionally, France has overseas departments, vestiges of its colonies in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. Regions are often characterized by a unique history and even language. For example, the city of Nice in the Côte d’Azur did not become an official part of France until the mid-nineteenth century. Nice has its own dialect, and a culture more similar in some ways to Italy or Spain than to that of France. Alsace-Lorraine, which lies on the border between France and Germany, was fought over by these two countries for centuries. The region became definitively a part of France after World War I, only to be retaken by Hitler and then returned to France after World War II. Alsatians continue to speak a dialect that resembles German more than French, though today, in both Nice and Alsace, French remains the first language. Jones points out in the introduction to his textbook (these pages are not part of the assigned reading) that traditional histories of France, told with the goal of promoting national unity, have tended to neglect the vast regional differences that exist within France’s borders. This is misleading, especially since many people even in modern-day France identify themselves according to the region from which they hail, such as the Normans, Bretons, Nicois, etc.

The history of language in France also attests to the high degree of variation that exists within its borders. The French language became the dominant language in France only towards the end of the nineteenth century. What is now considered standard French was one dialect among many, but had the advantage of being a written language and to have already been established as the language of royal administration, law, etc. In the seventeenth century, the powerful Cardinal Richelieu (under Louis XIII) even established the Académie française, whose aim was to preserve, promote, and regulate the French language. The Académie also served to promote and enhance the glory of France and Frenchness by supporting its greatest writers. This organization exists to this day; its more recent fight is to preserve French, not against regional dialects, but against the dominance of English (or "American" as many say) internationally. In the article assigned for this lesson by James Munro, he writes, "there is an old joke that a language is simply a dialect with an army" (131). Indeed, the establishment of French as the national language of France was no natural or organic process; rather it was the outcome of a long and concerted effort on the part of the French state to unify its territory and create a cohesive citizenry. You can visit the Web site for the Académie française. Of course, the Web site is written only in French, but the visuals will still give you a good idea of their mission and image.

The push to make the French language mandatory as the national language is closely associated with the French Revolution of 1789. France’s revolutionary government believed that equality depended in part on everyone having equal access to the benefits of the state, which meant they all had to speak the same language. Further, French, the dialect of the region around Paris, became closely associated with the values of the French Revolution: liberté, fraternité, and égalité (liberty, brotherhood, and equality). Thus, when the government of 1794 created a state school system, the goal was to teach the French language alongside the key document guaranteeing the rights granted by the new nation: the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (Munro 131). As Munro writes on page 131, "The legacy of the Revolution . . . was to place the French language at the very core of the national identity; language became inextricably linked both to the values on which the republic was founded and to one of the key institutions of the republic, l’école [school]."

Throughout the nineteenth century, the push to make French the national language continued, and 1880 was a watershed year for establishing the French language as the core of national identity and national values. At this time, the first language of a third of the population was not standard French. This was the period of the Third Republic, founded at the close of almost a century of revolutionary struggle and the longest and most stable of the French republics (we will further discuss the Third Republic in Lesson 6). Third Republic Education Minister Jules Ferry was responsible for establishing an educational system that was compulsory and free. Many of the norms established by Ferry still characterize French schools, such as extreme centralization and thus a rigid, centrally determined curriculum (i.e., students all over France are often studying the same lesson on the same day, and they take the same exams in order to graduate from lycée [high school]). Ferry’s national schools required that all children be instructed in French, and local languages were used in public school on pain of punishment. Again, Ferry associated the learning of French with an internalizing and spreading of France’s national values of equality, brotherhood, and liberty.

 French Exceptionalism

Related to the inextricable connection between the French language and French national values is the concept of "French exceptionalism." In his article, Jenkins writes, "The idea that France is somehow unique is deeply embedded in the nation’s self-image . . . It reflects the conviction that France has an exemplary, universal role as a civilizing force, that its aspirations are those of humanity at large" (112). The idea that the French nation embodies values that apply to all people developed in the eighteenth century among philosophers supported by the French monarchy, especially Louis XIV, "the sun king." The latter had established various scientific and humanistic "academies" of research intended to spread and increase the greatness and glory of the French monarchy (including the Académie française, discussed above). The monarchy’s desire to spread French "glory," of course, already attests to the idea of the exceptionalism of French culture. Indeed, most other European monarchs of the era sought to emulate the French in all things from cuisine to architecture (Louis XIV built the famous Versailles palace). In many courts throughout Europe, French was the language of the aristocratic class.

The French philosophers supported by Louis XIV—Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu, among others—and later his sons developed ideas that ultimately brought the monarchy down: that all men are equal, that societies should be governed by reason and not religion (i.e., divine right of kings), and that people were born with certain natural, inherited rights. These ideas were the foundation of the American Revolution, as well as of the French Revolution, and many other independence and revolutionary movements worldwide, particularly in the eighteenth century during a time known as the Age of Revolution. It is largely due to the fact that France is the homeland for the universal values of modern democracy and human rights that it sees itself as "exceptional," distinctive, and special. Kidd, in another article in his book, quotes a famous saying that “every man has two countries, France and his own” (154, my translation). Indeed, many agree, and France has long welcomed ex-patriots from all over the world searching for greater liberty and freedom, especially artists and intellectuals elsewhere marginalized owing to their sexual orientation or ethnic or racial identity, or those merely seeking a more tolerant and open sphere of artistic expression. We will learn more about French “universalism” in Lessons 3 and 4.

The French State

An important feature of the French state, one that differentiates it from the United States, for example, is the high degree of state intervention in everything from education to culture. While some degree of state involvement exists in all the democracies of the developed world (the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States, for example), in France the degree of intervention into social and political life is much more significant. The French state is huge: it employs hundreds of thousands of people; it controls public utilities, the educational system, and the health system, and it regulates and promotes most of the cultural initiatives in the country. Yet another feature of its “exceptionalism,” France also offers an unusually high degree of social welfare to its citizens; it has remarkably generous pension, welfare, unemployment, and maternity benefits, making it a model of the social welfare state.

As Jenkins points out, the implementation of social welfare and a large state bureaucracy is not merely the work of the Left wing. Conservative parties, beginning with the great leader Charles de Gaulle, have also advocated and established a philosophy of government that is based on a strong social welfare component. De Gaulle was the hero of the French Resistance during World War II and a looming political figure in the entire post–World War II period. His mission was to revitalize French “grandeur” (i.e., exceptionalism) after the destruction of the war, and establishing a large state that cared for its citizens was an important part of his project. As Jenkins writes, "the Gaullists [members of the party initiated by Charles de Gaulle] positively endorsed the notion of the heroic State as an agent of national revival" (115). De Gaulle’s legacy (as well as that of the French Left) has been severely compromised in the current era of globalization, which has required welfare states to slash government funding, limit subsidies, and loosen labor laws. France has had to move with the rest of Europe towards such reforms, though the French public has resisted much of the way. This characteristic quality of the French nation-state and its relationship to society is being eroded in the current era, an issue that we will explore in Lesson 7.

As Jenkins notes on page 116, France's traditionally powerful state apparatus has many critics. Among the criticisms levied are that the state, in hiring so many talented people, drains "civil society" (non-government sectors) of creative, hardworking people. This has had the result of limiting French enterprise and innovation. Further, the extent of government involvement in culture, information, and education, according to critics, has created a certain uniformity and homogeneity in the cultural sphere. The charge is that people do not take risks either in business or art/culture because the state takes care of and controls too many aspects of both. Just as the large French state has its critics, though, it also has its fans. Those who appreciate the French welfare state argue that the state cares for its citizens in material terms and in terms of their public culture. The French public has come to expect state-guaranteed health care and protection from mass unemployment. It also has confidence that art and culture—very important to French identity—will not ever be entirely subject to the whims of an unstable, weak, or—as is so often feared today—U.S.-dominated economy.

Political Culture

On page 118 of Jenkins' article, he describes the intense, polarized conflict that characterizes French political culture, referring to an oft-quoted formula, “la guerre franco-française” ("the war between the French and the French"). Jenkins argues that conflicts around religion and especially social class have a particular salience for modern French politics: "Order versus Movement, Reaction versus Progress, Catholicism versus Anti-clericalism, Right versus Left" (118). The origin of these divisions goes back to the French Revolution of 1789 and Jenkins accords a strong role to the French Revolution in shaping France’s political culture. We will look in depth at the French Revolution in Lesson 3. What is important here is that the Revolution brought to light conflicts between two groups who both wished an end to rule by the monarchy: the Jacobins, who were Left wing and believed government had a responsibility to care for its citizens; and the Girondins, conservatives, who insisted on citizens’ duties to the state over the state's duties to the citizen. Girondins also believed that the state should guarantee basic freedoms, but not social welfare. According to Jenkins, then, the conflicts between the "two Frances" is as much about ideas as it is about interests, a fact that explains the important role that intellectuals have always played in French politics. Jenkins writes that in the twentieth century, French governments, rather than being dominated by one extreme or the other, are more often formed by a "coalition of the centre [that] has struggled to hold the line against the 'extremes' on each side" (118). Yet, despite the dominance of centrist political coalitions, change in France is often sudden, not gradual, as in the United States and Britain. This is an aspect of French society, politics, and life to which we will often return in the lessons that follow.

The European Union and Globalization

Figure 1.5. The European Union includes some but not all of the region (member countries are light tan).

On page 116, Jenkins mentions the "Maastricht" criteria in his discussion of the French welfare state. This is a reference to the European Union, the joining of all the European states into a common economic (and eventually political) entity. Maastricht was the city where, in the mid-nineties, European politicians battled out a set of reforms that would make their economies work together. This is the moment that saw the emergence of the euro, which replaced each nation’s individual currency (with the exception of Britain, which has maintained the British pound). The Maastricht negotiations also had the goal of making labor laws, subsidy rules, trade tariffs, etc., uniform across the various European nations. Due to Maastricht, any European can work or attend school in any other member nation, and passports are no longer required when crossing borders within Europe. The European Parliament now funds yearly festivals in all the capitals of Europe—a way to foster identification, especially among the youth of these countries, with Europe, over their old national affiliations.

The creation of the "new Europe" aims to render Western Europe more powerful in the global economy, and so far it has succeeded. Many of the measures and reforms that have gone into its making are indeed part of the larger international push for economic globalization (liberalizing trade and markets; establishing common rules regarding labor, food safety, the environment, etc.).

Without surprise, the EU is seen by many French people as a threat to the integrity, uniqueness, and exceptionalism of France, and the French have often acted independently of the rest of the new Europe. In 2005, French voters, going against the government of Jacques Chirac, voted overwhelming "no" on the European Union's proposed constitution (each member nation holds a referendum on major decisions). Voters rejected the constitution in part because of the unpopularity of the Chirac government, which they held responsible for high unemployment rates and a sluggish economy. But more broadly, the "no" vote was a statement of the French population’s anxieties about globalization; they believed that the constitution would enforce an excessively free market economy in the EU, again chipping away at France’s social welfare programs and allowing countries with cheaper labor (and no minimum wage) to further siphon jobs away from France. Again fearing a loss of jobs, the French created controversy over Turkey’s effort to become a member nation. The French Parliament proposed that all countries with a population five percent greater than the overall EU population could gain entry only through referendum (in all the member nations). This measure was directed at Turkey and caused serious enmity between the two nations. In June of 2000, the French Senate voted to drop the requirement. The current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, though he is a Gaullist, or right-wing nationalist, is a strong advocate of the European Union. Sarkozy is pragmatic on economic issues and knows that France cannot be competitive in the global economy by going it alone. Nonetheless, he remains anti-immigration, and in order to satisfy many of his more working-class traditionalist constituents, his rhetoric expounds “France for the French” and also suggests an economic protectionism that his policies ultimately do not replicate.

Figure 1.6. Flag of France, left, and the European Union, right.

You can learn more about how France is trying to integrate itself into the new Europe online at EurActiv.com, a Web site that includes the member countries. Recent articles on this site have reported on French Prime Minister François Fillon's appeal to other EU governments to respond quickly to the growing global economic crisis; the EU's handover of the EU presidency to France on July 1, 2008 (the presidency of the EU transfers to a different member nation each year); and the French government’s offer of cost-free English courses to all French students.

Indeed, language is an inevitable problem for France as a member nation of the EU. While French was once the international language of diplomacy (for example, it was and remains the official language of the United Nations), today English is the official language of the European Union. The Académie française is thus working harder than ever to maintain and regulate the French language, now against the threat of English. Words like "hotdog," "hamburger," and "babysitter" have long been part of the French lexicon, along with older terms like "le weekend," which has largely replaced the far more cumbersome "fin de la semaine." As Munro asserts in his article, the importation of English (American) words into French reflects changes in French lifestyle (134). The French have developed what we think of as a modern life characterized by the nuclear—as opposed to the extended—family (and thus a need for babysitters) and convenience food, often a necessity for busy families, especially two-career families. In this respect, American terms have the connotation of referring to modern, versus traditional, styles and habits of life. Thus, as the author of another article in your book notes, there is particular anxiety on the part of the academicians of the Académie française about the use of English terms for everything related to business, advertising, and technology: "le computer," "le walkman," "le pipeline," "le brief," and "le copy strategy," for example (Duncan 179). Part of the idea of French exceptionalism is that the French have traditionally excelled at science and technology (though not business). There are thus many ideological and even emotional issues that motivate the Académie française to find and disseminate French equivalents for English terms designating computers (ordinateurs), e-mail (courrier électronique), and the walkman (le baladeur).

As we will see in the lessons that follow, the notion that the French way of life and the French language are under siege has been an ongoing concern since at least the end of the nineteenth century. In the final lessons, we will return to the question of globalization, its relationship to multiculturalism, and the risks and promises that are in store for France, its language, its culture, and its exceptionalism in the new millennium.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Community: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991.

Duncan, Alastair. "Advertising Culture in France: No Coca-Cola Please, We’re French!" Contemporary French Cultural Studies. Eds. William Kidd and Siân Reynolds. London: Arnold, 2000. 179–192.

Kidd, William. "Frenchness: Constructed and Reconstructed." Contemporary French Cultural Studies. Eds. William Kidd and Siân Reynolds. London: Arnold, 2000. 154–162.

Study Questions

  1. Define "French exceptionalism."
  2. Why did the French vote against the European Union in 2005?
  3. Describe the "French State" as discussed in this lesson commentary.

Preparing for the Progress Evaluation

When you can accomplish the learning objectives for this lesson, you should begin work on your essay. You may use any assigned readings, notes, and other course-related materials to complete this assignment.

This essay has three goals: (1) to encourage you to explore independently an aspect of French culture, society, or civilization that interests you; (2) to require you to read, summarize, and think critically about an article; and (3) to require you to think critically about French national identity (and exceptionalism) within the scheme of globalization, or the "new Europe." Later assignments will return to these concepts and also require that you engage critically with the readings and hone your analytical skills. To prepare, do the following:

  • Go to EurActiv.com. From the left-hand menu, choose a topic area that interests you (for example, "climate change," "languages and culture," or "sports").
  • Type "France" in the search window. Choose at least two articles that result from the search. Read the first article, and then summarize it in one paragraph.
  • Discuss the information reported in the article in terms of what you've learned about French involvement in the European Union. Somewhere in the second paragraph, define your understanding of French identity.
  • Define your understanding of the European Union.
  • As you write your review of the article, address the following questions:
    • Does the event/policy reported upon suggest French enthusiasm or skepticism about the new Europe?
    • Does it seem to suggest the French public's desire for integration into the EU, or rather a tendency towards separation? 
    • Finally, do any of the events or policies in question suggest that the French are attempting to maintain their "exceptionalism," all the while becoming part of the new Europe?
  • Once you have summarized the first article and responded to the issues listed above, follow the same process for the second article you selected. Be sure to quote specific passages from the articles to illustrate your ideas. The two reviews together should total two to three pages in length.