French historians have long been interested in the Nachleben, or ‘after life’, of significant markers of national identity, arguably the greatest development in French historiography since the Annales School. Pierre Nora’s seven-volume Les Lieux de Mémoire is epic testament to that, all attractively abridged into the trilogy Realms of Memory for more casual Anglo-Saxon readers. The essays range from Joan of Arc to the Tour de France, via Jacobin festivals and the tricolor.
The Oxford historian Sudhir Hazareesingh has had the bright idea of giving similar monographic treatment to the Big Daddy of modern France: Charles de Gaulle, or ‘Pops’ as his security people called him. Unthinking Anglo-Saxons regard him as a Gallic marplot, rather than the great twentieth-century statesman he was –