Resisting the Republic: The Politics of Commemoration in the Vendée, 1870-1918

Gareth Oakland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Resisting the Republic: The Politics of Commemoration in the Vendée, 1870-1918.

This thesis considers the way that groups in the Vendée used the memory of the 1793-96 civil war to construct competing regional and national identities between 1870 and 1918. Republicans used the education system, the national press and the commemoration of republican “great men” to achieve their aims. Their conservative opponents, deprived of formal national power, turned to alternative channels such as the regional press, learned journals, pulpit sermons and memorials to the martyrs of the civil war. While many historians have focused on official republican ‘statuomanie’ and commemorative culture, this thesis demonstrates how Vendéen conservatives used similar techniques to achieve their cultural and political aims.

After considering the problems of research in a loosely defined région de mémoire, and showing that this was more politically contested than normally assumed, the thesis first establishes the emergence of competing historical narratives of the Vendée wars in the Third Republic. The core chapters explore four commemorations: republican statues of Joseph Bara (Palaiseau, 1881) and Louis-Marie Larevellière-Lépeaux (Montaigu, 1886), and royalist statues of Henri de La Rochejaquelein (St. Aubin-de-Baubigné, 1895) and Jacques Cathelineau (Le Pin-en-Mauges, 1896). The final chapter considers how nationalism and external threats occasionally provided the spur for reconciliation between the competing ideologies in the region, but these broke down and the memory of the civil war continued to be a resource for ideological conflict. The thesis concludes that the Vendée was a region of political contestation where both republicans and conservatives used the disputed memory of 1793-96. The statues of civil war heroes had a local significance that was at least as powerful as those erected by the republican state. Despite modern theories that the Republic had hidden the “real” history of the civil war, debates about its causes and consequences were very prominent in the region after 1870.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


  • French history, Vendee, Third Republic, Memory and commemoration, Conservative resistance

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