Darcie Fontaine, "Modern France and the World" (Routledge, 2023)


As she taught university-level courses on modern French history, Darcie Fontaine felt like she could not find a textbook that provided an up-to-date narrative about the ways in which France has been involved in and influenced by the rest of the world—certainly not one that incorporated contributions from scholars of social and cultural history, gender studies, and the history of imperialism. So when the opportunity to develop a textbook for college professors that did just that presented itself, she decided to take the leap. Modern France and the World (Routledge, 2023) is the result of years of research, reading, and collaborative engagement with scholars in a diverse array of fields that provides readers with an engaging narrative of French history from the 18th century to the present that incorporates a consistent awareness of how France’s empire and global politics has shaped it as a nation. A useful resource for teachers, students, and scholars of modern France, the book incorporates brief discussions of cultural objects and major themes in French history that can serve as a foundation for a one- or two- semester survey, a specialized course, or even general undergraduate classes.

In this conversation, we talk not only about how she decided to take on this gargantuan task, but how she went about writing the book – gathering ideas and advice from scholars with different methodological expertise, reading widely in fields with which she was less familiar, and, eventually, whittling down all of this information into a concise text. Along the way, we discuss how collaboration, teaching, and an awareness of the influence of academic history shaped the decisions she made about what to include and what to leave out of the narrative. Fontaine demonstrates an astute awareness of the political importance and stakes of creating national narratives. As she explains: “everything about [the book] is a historiographic intervention… every choice I make about what to include, what not to include, is embedded in the historiography.”

Darcie Fontaine is a scholar of modern French imperialism, particularly in North Africa, though she has studied transnational women’s movements and refugee politics in nineteenth and twentieth century French history. Her first book, Decolonizing Christianity: Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria was published in 2016—and was featured on an episode of New Books in French Studies! She is currently working as a developmental editor and translator at Les plumes rouges, the new company she has launched with Dr. Sandrine Sanos.

Sarah K. Miles is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who specializes in global francophone history and the history of the French Left. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (skmiles@live.unc.edu).

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Sarah Miles

Sarah Miles is a historian of 20th century France and the francophone world. More about her can be found at sarahkmiles.wordpress.com.

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