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The most important battle you've probably never heard of

The Battle of Bouvines was fought 800 years ago on July 27, 1214 and its outcome directly led to the Magna Carta and also to the national identities of both England and France. Some historians claim this date should be remembered after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 as one of the defining moments in English history. King John attempted to retake lands in Normandy employing an alliance army including Otto of Germany. John attacked from the south, but more importantly Otto was decisively defeated at Bouvines. Humiliated in defeat John was forced to consent to the Magna Carta, and the Anglo-Norman realm came to a final end allowing both England and France to develop their separate national identities. More background.
posted by caddis on Jul 26, 2014 - 14 comments

70ème anniversaire de la libération de Paris

50 photos de la Libération de Paris se fondent dans le présent. [Via] [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Jun 6, 2014 - 16 comments

In Velox Libertas!

In May 2008, while excavating around the castle, the archaeologists of Bristol University made a surprising discovery. They have unearthed two graves side by side. In both of them they have found the rests of the body of an armored knight, and above it in one grave the well preserved skeleton of a horse, while in the other the fragments of iron objects which, seen from above, resembled… a bicycle.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jan 28, 2014 - 52 comments

WWI in Color

World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 31, 2013 - 60 comments

The Underpants Revolution and other stories from the past...

"Whereas yesterday's Cora Pearl was eccentric, charming and a little cold-hearted, today's Victorian courtesan, La Païva, is straight-up eerie. Like, so eerie that a lot of people thought she was a vampire. My hand to Baby Jesus, people actually believed she was a supernatural being. " Bizarre Victoria shares (what else) bizarre, scandalous, and noteworthy stories form the Victorian era (and more). What do you serve at a country club for fat men? Devil's footprints! Lola Montez: servant whipper, de facto ruler of Bavaria. Empress Sissi and her No Good Very Bad Life. Aristocratic marriage at gunpoint. Public pubic hair trimming. Specialties of the Victorian Brothel. Curing hiccups by setting your shirt on fire. Gilded Age Arranged Marriages.
posted by The Whelk on Jul 3, 2013 - 8 comments

Haunted by the Future

Enki Bilal: Haunted by the Future -Paul Gravett on the Yugoslavian/French comics superstar.
posted by Artw on Jun 16, 2013 - 9 comments

Operation Overlord

PhotosNormandie is a collaborative collection of more than 3,000 royalty-free photos from World War II's Battle of Normandy and its aftermath. (Photos date from June 6 to late August 1944). The main link goes to the photostream. You can also peruse sets, which include 2700+ images from the US and Canadian National Archives.
posted by zarq on Mar 19, 2013 - 12 comments

Flash Friday: Second Empire Artistic Demimonde Edition

In the new game Avant-Garde, you play an up-and-coming artist in 19th century Paris, a contemporary of Manet and Bouguereau. Carve and sell allegorical statue groups! Get snubbed by Napoleon III! Subsidize Gustave Courbet's drinking! Compose and promulgate your own aesthetic manifesto!
posted by Iridic on Mar 8, 2013 - 56 comments

"deconstruction, in French, would be nothing without puns"

What was Of Grammatology about? When Madeleine, the heroine of Jeffrey Eugenides's campus novel The Marriage Plot, asks a young theory-head this question, she is immediately set straight: 'If it was "about" anything, then it was about the need to stop thinking of books as being about things.' That's not so far off. In all three books, Derrida's argument was that Western thought from Plato to Rousseau to Lévi-Strauss had been hopelessly entangled in the illusion that language might provide us with access to a reality beyond language, beyond metaphor: an unmediated experience of truth and being which he called 'presence'.
Not in the Mood by Adam Shatz is an essay in The London Review of Books about a new biography of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. The review does a good job of explaining Derrida's theories in simple language and putting it in the context of his life, from his childhood as French Jew in Vichy-controlled Algeria to his later years as a globetrotting academic star. For a complimentary perspective on Derrida, you can do worse than starting with these thoughts on his relevance for historians and progressives.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 14, 2012 - 36 comments

"A continuous slaughter which could be of no avail either to the French or the Russians."

Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in which Napoleon's armies met Russian troops 75 miles east of Moscow on 7 September 1812. The huge battle, involving quarter of a million troops, was the strongest stand the Imperial Russian Army made against Napoleon's forces, and it resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Although the Russian army withdrew, the French tactical victory in the Battle of Borodino was a Pyrrhic one, and Napoleon ultimately left Russia in defeat. The battle was reenacted at Borodino last weekend, as is done annually. A cultural symbol of Russian national courage, the Battle of Borodino has been famously commemorated in Russian literature, music, art, and poetry. [more inside]
posted by Westringia F. on Sep 7, 2012 - 26 comments

Perry Anderson's essays about modern states in The London Review of Books

Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Aug 25, 2012 - 6 comments

Dreaming in French

On Angela Davis.
posted by latkes on Mar 25, 2012 - 10 comments

There is no law in France, it turns out, against the improvement of clocks.

This stealthy undertaking was not an act of robbery or espionage but rather a crucial operation in what would become an association called UX, for “Urban eXperiment.” UX is sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde—confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new—its only audience is itself. More surprising still, its work is often radically conservative, intemperate in its devotion to the old. Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of “restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.” The group claims to have conducted 15 such covert restorations, often in centuries-old spaces, all over Paris. - Wired.com "The New French Hacker-Artist Underground"
posted by The Whelk on Jan 24, 2012 - 20 comments

Hanover Historical Texts Project

Hanover Historical Texts Project is a collection of primary source texts from ancient times to the modern era in English translation. There is a great number of interesting texts, for instance accounts of Zeno, he of the paradoxes, the diary of Lady Sarashina, a lady-in-waiting in Heian era Japan, a letter from Count Stephen of Blois and Chartres, a crusader writing to his wife, Arthur Young's travels in France before and during the Revolution, a report by the American ambassador in St. Petersburg on March 20th, 1917, immediately after the February Revolution, and finally Petrarch's letter about his graphomania. That last one is from what is perhaps my favorite part of the website, a trove of Petrarch's Familiar Letters. But there's much more in the Hanover Historical Texts Projects besides what I've mentioned.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 24, 2011 - 6 comments

Iconographie ouvrages anciens

Iconographie ouvrages anciens is a collection of historic animal illustrations that date as far back as the 16th Century, courtesy of the library at Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Lyon. [more inside]
posted by Ufez Jones on Jan 26, 2011 - 10 comments

A G.I.'s WWII Memoir

Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt," told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Nov 23, 2010 - 7 comments

Scalp the Zazous

"Imagine, amid the grey serge of wartime France, a tribe of youngsters with all the colourful decadence of punks or teddy boys. Wearing zoot suits cut off at the knee (the better to show off their brightly coloured socks), with hair sculpted into grand quiffs, and shoes with triple-height soles - looking like glam-rock footwear 30 years early - these were the kids who would lay the foundations of nightclubbing. Ladies and gentlemen, les Zazous." [more inside]
posted by Paragon on Feb 8, 2010 - 15 comments

"A giraffe, refusing to condescend to all the fuss, stood calmly in the rising water and later died of pneumonia."

Around the time of the flooding in Troyes a plant in the south-east of Paris which supplied compressed air to the owners of ‘pneumatique’ equipment – lifts, ventilation, industrial machinery – was submerged. Parisians were fond of compressed-air technology. It was how the postal service delivered mail from one office to another in small brass shuttles propelled along a network of tubes. It was also used to keep the clocks ticking on the streets of the city and, by subscription, in private apartments. When the plant went underwater during the night, pneumatic time stopped dead.
Pavements Like Jelly is an article by Jeremy Harding describing the 1910 Great Flood of Paris which started 100 years ago today. Photo exhibition with 1300 photographs focusing on Paris. Even more photos, taking in the entire Seine. Both sites are Flash heavy, for a smaller selection of non-Flash pictures go here and here. [1910 Paris Flood previously on MetaFilter]
posted by Kattullus on Jan 21, 2010 - 14 comments

The Economist: The World in 2010

In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.

The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Nov 14, 2009 - 60 comments

The Surprisingly Accurately Named Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War is a website covers that ginormous kerfuffle that consumed Europe in the first half of the 17th Century from the Second Defenestration of Prague to the Peace of Westphalia. It has a handy map with a place locator which will help you tell your Schweidnitz from your Schweinfurt. Here are some other maps, The Religious Situation in Central Europe about 1618, Principal Seats of War, 1618-1660 and Europe in 1648 - Peace of Westphalia.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 29, 2009 - 55 comments

Podcast about the history of the Normans

Norman Centuries is a new podcast by Lars Brownworth, best known for his podcast series 12 Byzantine Rulers (previously). Norman Centuries, as the name suggests, recounts the history of the Normans, those literal vikings who gained Normandy and then England, Sicily, Malta, Antioch and, well, a whole heck of a lot of other places too. They were a conquering bunch. First two episodes are out with more to follow. [iTunes link]
posted by Kattullus on Oct 15, 2009 - 18 comments

Normandy: Then and Now

Normandy: Then and Now Photographs of Normandy in 1944 meticulously juxtaposed with how the area looks today by French historian Patrick Elie.
posted by Ufez Jones on Sep 16, 2009 - 27 comments

"The Categorical Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Industries"

The University of Michigan's collaborative translation of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encylopédie has completed some 650 selections from the Enlightenment keystone, including articles on California, vanilla, werewolves, the English language, beauty, and the complete structure of human knowledge. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 1, 2009 - 7 comments

"Well, we will write our memoirs."

The Napoleon Series has been collecting Napoleonic scholarship since 1995. Its monstrously replete archive includes articles on Napoleon's role in Jewish emancipation, the Institute of Egypt and its investigation of the Rosetta Stone, obscure British generals, the Malet Conspiracy, and the never realized North American Empire; memoirs from the Russian Archives; and a massive collection of maps and battlefield tours.
posted by Iridic on Dec 4, 2008 - 4 comments

Les Parisiens sous l’Occupation

Paris under the Occupation, in color. [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Jul 12, 2008 - 42 comments

French language ephemera and visual miscellany blog

Agence Eureka is a French language image-blog with hundreds or even thousands of scanned illustrations, mostly from mid-20th century French schoolbooks, educational material, magazines, and ephemera. The current front page is slightly NSFW. Some of the categories include anatomy 1 & 2 (mildly NSFW); chocolate wrappers/trading cards; bricolage; decoupage (cut-outs); math education; playing cards; books and magazines; cars; cinema; orientalisme; sport; mild pin-ups; and many others (scroll all the way down the right to see the tags). [more inside]
posted by Rumple on Dec 4, 2007 - 12 comments

Bonaparte and Bush on Deck

Lessons from Past Western Incursions in the Middle East. A speech by Juan Cole at the New America Foundation in which he discusses his new book, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East, and the relevance and lessons of Napoleon's expedition in Egypt to the current American occupation of Iraq. A shorter version, covering many of the same points, is in this article: Pitching the Imperial Republic.
posted by homunculus on Aug 26, 2007 - 17 comments

"…the eye is not satisfied with seeing…"

Aerial Archaeology in Northern France
posted by anastasiav on Aug 17, 2007 - 13 comments

Super French Web Sites

Super French Web Sites.
posted by hama7 on Jun 2, 2007 - 31 comments

Memoirs of Phillipe de Commynes

Memoirs of Phillipe de Commynes. A first-hand account of the 15th-century military and diplomatic struggle between Louis XI of France, a master of intrigue, and his most powerful rival, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. "At that time the subjects of the house of Burgundy were very rich because of the long peace which they had enjoyed and the great moderation of the prince under whom they lived, who taxed his subjects little. It seems to me that then his territories could well have been described as the Promised Land, more so than any others on earth. They were overflowing with wealth and they had a peace which they have not since experienced during the last twenty-three years. ... But today I do not know in this world a people so desolate, and I fear that the sins of the time of their prosperity have brought them their present adversity; most of all because they did not recognize that all these favours came from God who distributes them as it pleases him."
posted by russilwvong on Jan 9, 2007 - 6 comments

Zut alors!

Photos of Paris during the 1910 flood. More. Yet more.
posted by monju_bosatsu on Jan 5, 2007 - 19 comments

Romanesque Churches of the Bourbonnais

Bourbonnais. No, not Bourbonnais, IL, but Bourbonnais, a historic province in France that flourished during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In this area there are hundreds of churches built in the Romanesque style.

In 2004 Stephen Murray, an art history professor, and his students recieved a $500,000 grant to document, process, and archive data from the churches into a digital database, all available online.
posted by provolot on Dec 5, 2006 - 13 comments

I have a rendezvous with Death, at some disputed barricade

90 years ago today, whistles blew around the river Somme in France as British troops prepared for an attack on German trenches. By the end of the day they had suffered 57,470 casualties. By the battle's end in November, there were over 600,000 Allied casualties, with perhaps the same number of German casualties. The Imperial War Museum has launched an online exhibition, where you can find out more about how the battle was planned, personal stories of those involved, and myths about the attack. Elsewhere you can find copies of Army reports on the first day, look at film of the attack, diaries and letters home from the troops, go on tours of the trenches, listen to contemporary songs and music inspired by the battle, and see some more modern responses.
posted by greycap on Jul 1, 2006 - 38 comments

A little lesson on the superpower of the 17th-18th centuries

And when an American mouths off about French military history, he's not just being ignorant, he's being ungrateful. The War Nerd provides a little historical perspective. [via monkeyfilter]
posted by jb on Aug 22, 2004 - 32 comments

Medieval Architecture

Images of medieval architecture. A great site put together by Alison Stones, Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. There are two large gazetteers, one for Britain, and one for France. Besides photos, there are many plans, sketches and elevation drawings, which help to give an idea of the sheer scale of gothic cathedrals such as the cathedral of Saint-Étienne at Bourges (scroll down for the human figures at the bottom).
posted by carter on Jun 29, 2003 - 7 comments

Those French have been at it for a very long time.

Those French have been at it for a very long time.
posted by lagado on Jul 5, 2001 - 9 comments

Mass grave of 24 World War I dead discovered in France. There's no way history is boring. Especially to a Belgian or French farmer.
posted by luser on Jun 20, 2001 - 8 comments

Tapez 3615 Pour Fair Votre Resérvation sur Minitél...

Tapez 3615 Pour Fair Votre Resérvation sur Minitél... Long Ago, before the Web, there was France's Minitel teletext. The French consider it a succès; I'm not so sure, since a Minitel terminal was never demonstrably more useful than than a touchtone phone in North America. In any case, Minitel may offer some lessons as to what type of Web commerce are and are not commercially viable.
posted by ParisParamus on Jun 2, 2001 - 10 comments

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