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Se donner à la France ?

Jacques Berlioz
Olivier Poncet


Texte intégral

Introduction, by Jacques BERLIOZ

1The 150th anniversary of the annexation of Savoy and of the County of Nice to France through the Treaty of Turin signed on March 24, 1860 was commemorated in 2010. This annexation did not result from a military occupation, but from a voluntary transfer of power by the King of Sardinia. This book aims at stepping back from this event and at analysing various “peaceful” annexations to France (which does not mean that they came about without tensions or debates), from the Middle Age to 1860, highlighting their different historical contexts and characteristics. Based on a comparative approach, it seems relevant today to reflect on these annexations. Indeed, would Wallonia be annexed to France in the event of a break-up of Belgium? And what kind of process would be involved?

The “annexation” of Lyon to France. Forty years for a peaceful annexation, by Bruno GALLAND

2The “Annexation” of Lyon to France in April 1312 – even though this date remains disputed – is undoubtedly part of the “peaceful” annexations to the kingdom, even though the violence of social relations experienced by the elite in the beginning of the 14th century should not be underestimated. The French royal authority was de facto established in Lyon from 1271-1273. The event has been revisited here, by means of precise analysis of both the vocabulary found in the written documents and its reception by its contemporaries. Four elements contributed to the gradual peaceful integration of Lyon into the French Kingdom: the weight of urban government, the game of diplomatic balances, the absence of a real feeling of provincial identity that could justify defending sovereignty and the general context in which the king of France affirmed his rights in his kingdom. This feeling is expressed in a great number of written documents, which resulted from the gradual establishment of the royal presence in Lyon. This presence resulted from the success of the politics initiated by Philip III and pursued by Philip IV.

1488-1532. From the duchy of Brittany to a province of the kingdom: forced union or voluntary servitude? by Joël CORNETTE

3The history of the annexation of Brittany to France is complex and is presented here in the form of a drama in three acts. Act 1 in 1488 (July 28th, battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, defeat of the Duke Francis II); Act 2 in 1491 (December 6th, Anna of Brittany marries the king of France Charles VIII); Act 3 in 1532 (treaty of Vannes, the Duchy of Brittany becomes a French province). It is shown that the French central power was permanently constrained to deal with the authorities and the ruling classes. The nobles from Brittany have also found sources of satisfaction in the non-violent “Frenchification” of the Duchy. Beyond a forced integration process from the “Breton State” to the “French Nation”, the fact is that the “contract of Queen Anne” (as it was called by numbers of Bretons and confirmed by Francis I and all his successors at the beginning of their reigns) de facto led to the protection of areas of freedom and franchises, which was notably manifested by a decrease in tax. Brittany offers an original model of integration into the kingdom of France, which was situated in a fragile and unstable balance, permanently called into question, between authority and compromise, respect and contempt of privileges, voluntary servitude and forced union.

Between the king and the pope: the annexations of Avignon to the kingdom of France (17th-19th centuries), by Olivier ROUCHON

4The article provides a comparative analysis of the three temporary annexations of Avignon and the County of Venaissin which were enclosed within the kingdom of France (1662-1664; 1688-1689; 1768-1774). The analysis emphasises both the forms of participation of the inhabitants of Avignon in events over which they had no control, and the consequences of a break-up between the king of France and the court of Rome for the subjects of the papal monarchy governed by the vice-legate of Avignon. Even though the annexation to France was not voluntary, given the importance of threat and force, the union with the kingdom of France was also experimented as a process that provided meaning and reassurance. The inhabitants of Avignon believed to see in each act of union the possibility of renegotiating their privileges. For them, giving themselves to the king meant not to being treated any longer as foreigners, but without giving up the basis of their prior situation. This ambiguity confirms that the inhabitants of Avignon did not see a contradiction between the link of obedience towards the pope and the link of love towards the king.

Between “dédition” and annexation: 1792-1793, the annexation of Nice to France, in the light of historiography, by Françoise HILDESHEIMER

5The history of the perception of an event is part of the history of the event itself, which is highlighted here regarding the annexation of Nice to France, in 1792-1793. This revolutionary episode is first analysed and described with the help of new sources from Paris. We witness a tragicomedy, with very dull and awkward emigrants. Once freed from the false perspective given by the official French documents, which constitute a real propaganda literature describing a country where the population subscribes to republican ideals, and minimising or demonising oppositions, the outcome must be reassessed. Nice went through the Revolution rather late. The history of Nice is regularly chanted through the commemoration of three major events: the “dédition” to the Duchy of Savoy in 1388, the union with France in 1793, and the annexation in 1860. The importance of commemorations needs to be emphasised, as they aim at celebrating at fixed intervals allegiance to France. It is only at the end of the 20th century that the event has been, little by little, analysed more dispassionately. Recent historiography has opened up Nice’s history and integrated its special qualities into academic history.

Two “annexations” for a French destiny: Savoy from 1792 to 1860, by Christian SORREL

6The article provides a comparative analysis of the two moments when the French destiny of Savoy was at stake. In both 1792 and 1860, the destiny of Savoy depended on the initiative of France, even though the populations of Savoy were also involved in both events. A similar process took place in the local population, but in different ways. In 1792 and 1860 the populations are also consulted. In 1860, the population of Savoy expressed its consent to its new identity. In this perspective, the actual vote counts less than the collective events which took place at the time (processions, feasts, address of women to the empress), in a unanimous dynamism that could be regarded as a celebration of nationality: France is a history, a language, shared interests, a homeland, while another homeland, seen as foreign, was being created on the other side of the Alps. 1860 completed the French destiny foreseen in 1792.

Peaceful annexations (France, Middle Age – 19th century)? Law, politics and historical geography, by Olivier PONCET

7Historical geography aims at understanding the countless factors contributing to the reunion of diverse populations and landscapes in a gradually constructed political entity. This approach cannot be only a retrospective review of the frontiers and the figures of a territory: it should also take into account the historical and human foundations of a memory shared by the nation which hands itself over to another nation, and the nation which receives it. The memory of annexations to France was at first controlled by the groups that either guided and carried out the annexation process or that were fierce opponents to it. Memory then became increasingly present in the written documents, in the political vocabulary, but also in the space and the key places of the provincial capitals. With the help of time, the event is appropriated by a growing part of the population of these territories, who analyse it in a different perspective. The task of the historian is then to understand both the events and the way they are received in the memories, and to avoid being fooled by mythical discourses.

© Publications de l’École nationale des chartes, 2013

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