The crises and conflicts of mid-century Europe highlight the fragility of individual life and commitment. Yet this was a time at which individuals engaged in politics on an unprecedented scale, whether in movements, parties and street politics, through culture, or by the choices confronted in war and occupation. Focusing on France, and bringing together historians of politics, literature, philosophy, art, and film, this volume sheds new light on the imagination and experience of the political individual in the age of the masses. From a controversial art exhibition on Algeria to the private diary of a Jewish lawyer in Occupied Paris, these case studies illuminate the specificities of French ideas and experiences in mid-century Europe. They also contribute to a deeper understanding of memory, agency, and responsibility in times of crisis.
Dr Jessica Wardhaugh is a lecturer in French history at the University of Warwick.
‘This collection offers stimulating insights into mid-twentieth century political life... More important, the contributions illustrate how the political polarization that preceded and followed the Second World War compelled many people to commit to a party or cause, even when this resulted in disrupted family life and professional life or class and ethnic identities, producing the competing memories of the period that persist today.’ — Rebecca Scales, European History Quarterly 46.2, May 2016, 413-15
‘With its wide range of case studies, embracing a large number of different aspects of political engagement during the period between the 1930s and the 1950s, this book offers an interesting perspective on relationships between the individual and political movements, how this has been portrayed both at the time and in more recent analyses, and the limits of individual agency during these decades. As the conclusion states, much work remains to be done in this area. This book makes an important contribution towards achieving this aim.’ — William H. E. Rispin, French History 30.2, June 2016, 276-77