Late-Medieval France: A Nation under Construction. A study of French national identity formation and the emerging of national consciousness, before and during the Hundred Years War, 1200-1453
Broek, J.D.P. van den
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Whether nations and nationalism are ancient or more recent phenomena is one of the core debates of nationalism studies. Since the 1980’s, modernism, claiming that nations are distinctively modern, has been the dominant view. In this thesis, I challenge this dominant view by doing an extensive case-study into late-medieval France, applying modernist definitions and approaches to a pre-modern era. France has by many regarded as one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the club of nations and has a long and rich history and thus makes a case-study for such an endeavour. I start with mapping the field of French identity formation in the thirteenth century, which mostly revolved around the royal court in Paris. With that established, I move on to the Hundred Years War and the consequences of this war for French identity. I discuss the war in three parts. In the first part, the Edwardian War (1337-1360), I use the chronicles of Jean le Bel and Jean Froissart to argue that an initially feudal struggle quickly matured into a more ‘national’ conflict after the French suffered several crushing defeats. In the second part, the Caroline War (1369-1380), I mainly study the Chanson de Bertrand du Guesclin by Cuvelier, in which a more profound ‘love for the kingdom’ can be found. In the third part, the Lancastrian War (1415-1453), I show that nation construction took a new course in the fifteenth century. Also in this chapter, I argue that Jeanne d’Arc became the link that connected the constructed/emerged identity of the preceding centuries, that was until then limited to the nobility, to the common populace. In the end, I conclude that although the medieval French nation and nationalism differ greatly from the modern French nation, it can rightfully be called a nation.