The Cult of the Modern

27 Ebrill 2017

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New book reveals new face of 19th century France as trans-Mediterranean society

A new book by a Cardiff University academic sheds light on the meaning and significance of modernity in 19th century France, revealing a more complex picture than previously understood.

In his first book The Cult of The Modern, historian Gavin Murray-Miller explores the idea of France as the epitome of modernity, focusing on meaning and significance in an age of transition.

With its violent struggles for democratic liberties, impressive urbanization initiatives and culture of aesthetic modernism, 19th century France marked a transformative moment in the making of modern society. But the real picture was more complex.

Taking French society as an early case study, The Cult of the Modern proposes a rethinking of the enduring myths and legacies that have shaped our understandings of France, and Europe more widely.

Murray-Miller outlines a new context for studies of modernity, recognising the realities of a heterogeneous post-Enlightenment world. Deftly bringing together national and colonial narratives and post-colonial theories the American historian demonstrates that France was in fact a trans-Mediterranean society by the mid-19th century.

In a period of rapid and often violent social change across the globe, France is revealed as fascinated with its own dynamism. Western visions of French modernity are shown to be clearly shaped by cultural encounters and distinct ideologies, including diverse narratives connecting France and its North African empire.

“I hope this work will challenge the way we think of France and French studies both geographically and conceptually,” says Dr Murray-Miller, author of recent History Today article The Paris Attacks and France’s Republican Tradition. “The legacy of colonialism and France’s connections to North Africa are important to consider at present given the threat of global terrorism France currently faces and its contentious relationship with Islam.”

“A provocative—and convincing—account of how the conception of modernity became a vital means to political action and legitimacy in nineteenth-century France” Professor of History Benjamin F. Martin (Louisiana State University, USA)

Lecturer in Modern European History Dr Gavin Murray-Miller is particularly interested in Modern France, Nationalism and Citizenship Studies, the Age of Revolution, Radical Political movements, and European Islam and Multiculturalism. Prior to taking up the new post, he was a lecturer at Virginia Commonwealth University and a researcher for The People of the Founding Era digital humanities project in Virginia, USA.

The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity is published by University of Nebraska Press.

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