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by Mort Rosenblum

Characterizes the French way of seeing the world and probes the effects of France's age-old ability to fashion itself as a civilizing force
Download Mission to Civilize: The French Way epub
ISBN: 0151605807
ISBN13: 978-0151605804
Category: History
Subcategory: Europe
Author: Mort Rosenblum
Language: English
Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (November 1, 1986)
Pages: 470 pages
ePUB size: 1977 kb
FB2 size: 1108 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 196
Other Formats: lrf txt lrf lit

This is Mort’s version of <i>”The Rise and Fall of the French Empire”</i> recounted through the perspective of its colonies. It quickly becomes apparent that whilst the French Empire shared certain ambitions with the British - the need to bring ‘civilization’ to the territories it held - the one remarkable difference between the two is that most of the inhabitants of the French colonies were granted full citizenship. Became French in fact.

Of course the civilization had to French and approved and controlled and, in French. Mort loves France and lived in Paris, speaks French, writes about the food, culture, wines and olives of France with a contagious passion. But he pulls no punches which is why the French reviews considered his book as an indictment.

In fact, it is not, just reasoned. And full of his love for “La Belle France”. An excellent, readable book offering a history of that empire and its peoples with flair and style.
Some Americans seem to easily forget past French alliance in democratic revolution and versus dangerous forces of un-civilization -- yet the French were one of the few nations besides the British to very quickly and very substantially help USA after 9/11 for example. No matter what one feels about the French and their culture in good, odd and bad ways -- they have been a central influence on Western [and therefore worldwide] civilization for beyond a thousand years. Since the 1066 AD invasion of Britain from Normandy, the Anglic world has been greatly influenced by Norman and French folks, ideas and language. Anglic language would look much more like Dutch or Nordic if not for Norman French influence and modification. Then there is the deep, long and wide influence of French culture following the rise of the Normans for hundreds of years in many areas of human accomplishment -- such as in fine arts, literature, philosophy, mathematics, science, engineering, architecture, diplomacy and warfare. The French [and their Francosphere] are at least interesting to many folks -- especially as the Francosphere [of French language and influence] is mostly by unforced choice [nowadays]. Perhaps they are worth understanding via "Mission to Civilize" -- which is written informally by Mort Rosenblum from a very passionate and personal point-of-view as he fully admits in his "Author's Note" at the start of the book. Yet this book is based on a long interest in the French and it covers historical and cultural French topics in a way much more interesting than many academic works. An excellent survey of "The French Way" +++
The title for this review is what schoolchildren in Francophone Africa -- and elsewhere in France's far-flung emmpire -- would recite until recently, the product of what the author of this book has titled France's self-imposed mission civilisatrice or "mission to civilize."
Rosenblum, whose experience as a journalist covers most countries and territories currently or previously administered by France, approaches this book as both critic and admirer.After cataloguing a list of French foreign policy stances which have drawn widespread outcries (including the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, flagship of the Greenpeace movement), he writes: "But these characteristics of France, even the least admirable ones, reinforce amazing recuperative powers that allow the nation to spring back in full force from the deepest of defeats. France rests on the same old stones and slow-cooking sauces that have been survived war, occupation, and economic depression."
However, the relationship of France to its former colonies is not as simple as it might seem, as I have learned in over ten years of working in Francophone Africa. Mort Ronsenblum's book is one of the few in English and for the general reader, which attempts to describe this complex relationship. The actual extent of this empire in terms of people formerly under French administration does not come close to the former British empire. At the same time, the number of sovereign countries which today form part of "la Francophonie" is staggering, as is evident in this book, even if none of them comes close to the size of a Nigeria or India. Ronseblum notes that it is not the numbers, but rather the sense of outreach, that France seeks, quoting former President Mitterand, "We are the carriers of a culture that can have the ambition of being universal."
Rosenblum does a good job of trying to cover nearly all of France, its overseas departments and territories, and former colonies, without pretending to bring the depth and rigor of a historian. The first two parts of the book cover French history and institutions in order to provide a foundation for third part which covers la Francophonie on all continents - the Americas and Caribbean, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia and the Pacific. His breezy style and chapters peppered with numerous quotes and anecdotes make for entertaining reading.
It would be interesting to speculate how this book would be rewritten in 2003. Developments since 1988 when the book came out,in France and its former colonies, have produced a new critique of France's relationships with its colonies. Sacred cows of the French establishment - including traditionally secretive abuse of public funds and influence peddling by senior politicians - have been dragged into court, all of which has also put a spotlight on the French relationship to Africa. - after other books in French such as "Francafrique" or by Africans "L'Afrique Sans La France" by a former Prime Minister of the Central African Republic. One wonders if Rosenblum would as tempted today,, as he was in 1988, to close his book with these last two sentences: "It is likely there will always be an England. It is certain there will always be a France."