Anti-French sentiment

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Anti-French sentiment (Francophobia or Gallophobia) is fear or antagonism of France, the French people, French culture, the French government or the Francophonie (set of political entities that use French as an official language or whose French-speaking population is numerically or proportionally large).[1] It has existed in various forms and in different countries for centuries. The phenomenon has been strongest in Britain and Germany, and was often expressed in literature and the popular medium. It also is a major factor in Canadian culture.

By region[edit]

Though French history in the broadest sense extends back more than a millennium, its political unity dates back from the reign of Louis XI, who set up the basis of a nation-state (rather than a dynastic, transnational entity typical of the Late Middle Ages). In the last days of the Ancien Régime, only aristocrats and scholars spoke French in much of the Kingdom of France, as about two-thirds of the population spoke a variety of local languages, often referred to as dialects. Henceforth, Eric Hobsbawm argues that the French nation-state was constituted during the 19th century through conscription, which accounted for interactions between French citizens coming from various regions and the Third Republic's public instruction laws, enacted in the 1880s, probably in parallel with the birth of the European nationalisms.[citation needed]

Europe[edit]

Britain[edit]

The Gate of Calais: O! The Roast Beef of Old England by William Hogarth, portrays France as an oppressive, poverty-stricken and backward culture.

England and France have a long history of conflict, dating from before the Battle of Hastings, when William the Conqueror claimed the English throne. Before becoming King of England, William found conflict with his liege several times and conquered some neighbouring fiefs. The relationship between the countries continued to be filled with conflict, even during the Third Crusade. The medieval era of conflict climaxed during the Hundred Years' War, when the House of Plantagenet fought unsuccessfully for control of the French throne and lost almost all French holdings, which resulted in future English kings being more culturally English. (Previously, they had largely spoken French and lived in French castles much of the time. Richard the Lionheart, who was famous for his feud with French King Philip, spent most of his life in France and as little as six months of his reign as King in England.)

In contrast, relations between Scotland and France were generally good. The Auld Alliance treaty of 1295 provided for mutual support between Scotland and France in the event of an English attack on either. This was replaced by the 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh between England, Scotland and France.

The modern history of conflict between Britain and France stems from the rise of Britain as a primary commercial and maritime power in Europe in the early 18th century onward and the threat it posed to France's supremacy. Hostility toward and strategic conflict with France's similar ambitions became a defining characteristic of relations between the two powers. The time between the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and Napoleon's final capitulation in 1815 has been perceived in Britain as a prolonged Franco-British conflict to determine who would be the dominant colonial power (sometimes called the Second Hundred Years' War). British hostility to the Catholic Church, which dated back to earlier conflicts with Catholic Habsburg Spain, contributed to attitudes towards the French because France was also seen as a Catholic power, and the majority of the British people were Protestants. England and later Britain joined continental European states in resisting French ambitions of undisputed hegemony during the reign of Louis XIV and the Napoleonic Wars. Britain also resented France's intervention in the American Revolutionary War. The repeated conflicts spawned deep mutual antagonism between the two nations, which were only and partially overcome by their alliance to defeat Imperial Germany in the early 20th century.

The dimensions of the conflict in Britain were as much cultural as strategic. Indeed, British nationalism, in its nascent phases, was in large part an anti-France phenomenon and the attitudes involved extended well beyond who won what on various battlefields:

  • A growing group of British nationalists in the 17th and 18th centuries resented the veneration that was often accorded the French culture and language.[2]
  • France was the most powerful Catholic state for much of the modern period and anti-Catholic sentiments had been widespread in Britain since the Act of Supremacy in 1534.
  • The permeation of anti-French sentiment throughout society, as epitomised by the apocryphal story of the Hartlepool monkey hangers, whose belief that the French were literally inhuman led them to have allegedly executed a pet monkey in the belief that it was an invading Frenchman, but the story is based upon the disputed premise that those involved had never seen a Frenchman before.[citation needed]

Robert Graves wrote shortly after the First World War during his time at Oxford University as an undergraduate that:

The eighteenth century owed its unpopularity largely to its Frenchness. Anti-French feeling among most ex-soldiers amounted almost to an obsession. Edmund, shaking with nerves, used to say at this time: "No more wars for me at any price! Except against the French. If ever there is a war against them, I'll go like a shot." Pro-German feeling had been increasing. With the war over and the German armies beaten, we could give the German soldier credit for being the most efficient fighting man in Europe ... Some undergraduates even insisted that we had been fighting on the wrong side: our natural enemies were the French.

— Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That.[2]

Germany[edit]

Beginning with the French invasions of Germany in the late 18th century, France became the century-long rival of Germany. The rising German nationalist movement also considered France their greatest enemy because France not only had temporarily conquered much of Western Germany during the Napoleonic Wars but also was the country most strongly opposed to the idea of a unified German empire and wanted Germany to remain divided into many individual states.

In this time, the myth of the so-called hereditary enmity (German: Erbfeindschaft) came into being, according to which the Romanic French and the Germanic Germans had been antithetic enemies ever since the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, a notion that was inherently unhistorical. In the 19th century, anti-French sentiment became commonplace in German political discourse even if the deep cultural interrelation between the two could never be blanked out completely. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poked fun at this in his epic Faust I with the verse: Ein echter deutscher Mann mag keinen Franzen leiden, doch ihre Weine trinkt er gern. "A real German man likes no Frenchy, but he likes to drink their wines.")

Several German nationalist anthems were written against the French, most prominently Die Wacht am Rhein. After the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the anniversary of the decisive Battle of Sedan was made a semiofficial national holiday in the German Empire.

After the culminations of Franco-German enmity in both world wars, the two actively gave up their mutual animosities in the second half of the twentieth century. The most prominent symbol of this development is the picture of heads of government François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl holding each other's hands at a ceremony at the military cemetery in Verdun in 1984. Today, Germany and France are close political partners and two closely connected nations. A joint Franco-German television network, Arte, was founded in 1992.

Ireland[edit]

Historically, relations between French and Irish have been generally positive, as both peoples shared a common religion, Roman Catholicism, and a common Protestant enemy, England (later the United Kingdom). French kings during the 16th to 19th centuries often supported Irish interests against English advances in Ireland.

Recently, there have been a few instances of friction between France and the Republic of Ireland over political and economic issues that led to expressions of Irish francophobia. One of these was when Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty in a referendum in 2008 and Nicolas Sarkozy commented that Ireland "must vote again"[3]as it indeed did the following year. Another source has been the French criticism of Ireland's low corporate taxation rate and the perceived French resistance to conceding an interest rate reduction on the International Monetary Fund/ European Union loan arrangement until Ireland "moves" on this rate, which was perceived as interference.[4]

Francophobia in Ireland rose in the aftermath of a controversial FIFA World Cup playoff game between the two countries, leading to protests outside the French Embassy in Dublin.[5] Irish businesses exploited the occasion in a mostly light-hearted way, with promotions offering discounts for every goal scored against France and special reductions to celebrate the elimination of France from the tournament.[6][7]

Russia[edit]

Russians scorn and uncommonly mock French people, generally by stereotyping them or by giving them nicknames.[8]

Italy[edit]

On Easter Monday (30 March) 1282, at the Church of the Holy Spirit just outside Palermo, at evening prayer (vespers), a Frenchman harassed a Sicilian woman. This single event led to the massacre of 4,000 Frenchmen over the course of the next six weeks, and the government of the French-born king Charles I of Anjou lost control of the island.

Spain[edit]

Goya painted several famous pictures depicting the violence of the Peninsula wars during the Napoleonic Era. In particular, the French actions against Spanish civilians during the Peninsular War drew a large amount of criticism, as illustrated by The Third of May 1808 painting.

Africa[edit]

French colonialism in Africa led to anti-French sentiments among colonised peoples, particular during periods of conflict between the French and various African states. Imperial disputes with other European colonial powers in Africa (such as the Fashoda Incident) also led to anti-French sentiments. More recently, the French policy of maintaining the Françafrique has been characterized as neocolonialism and led to further anti-French sentiments.[9]

Algeria[edit]

The Algerian War had been underway since 1954. The Évian Accords of March 18, 1962, brought an end to the conflict. The Accords, which were reached during a cease-fire between French armed forces and the Algerian nationalist organization the FLN, began the process of transfer of power from the French to the Algerians. The Évian Accords intended to guarantee the rights and safety of the Pieds-Noirs, the French-speaking European settlers in an independent Algeria.

In 1959, the Pieds-Noirs numbered 1,025,000, and accounted for 10.4% of the total population of French Algeria. However, rumors had already spread among the Pieds-Noirs that their choice would be between "the suitcase or the coffin". On the morning of July 5, 1962, the day Algeria became independent, seven companies of FLN troops entered the city of Oran.[10] An outraged Arab mob swept into the Pieds-Noir neighborhoods, which had already been largely vacated, and attacked the estimated 40,000 remaining Pieds-Noirs. The violence lasted several hours, during which the mob cut the throats of many men, women and children.[10]

The number of Pieds-Noirs who fled Algeria totalled more than 800,000 between 1962 and 1964.[11]

Ivory Coast[edit]

France's intervention in the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire has triggered anti-French violence by the "Young Patriots" and other groups.[12]

Mali[edit]

In 2012 militant Islamist groups took control in the North. The Mali government asked France to send troops. They succeeded in retaking rebel areas. In February 2013, the French President, François Hollande and Mali's interim President, Dioncounda Traoré proclaimed victory in recaptured Timbuktu.[13] In 2020 the military took power in a coup, and began attacking and ridiculing France's past and current roles. Paris attacked the harsh rule. French forces in Mali are preparing to move to friendlier hosts, such as Niger and Ivory Coast. [14]

Rwanda[edit]

Asia[edit]

Azerbaijan[edit]

As for the result of France's closeness toward Armenia during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, anti-French sentiment began to develop in Azerbaijan, where Azerbaijan accused France of being one-sided and Turkophobic.[15] In addition, reporters from France have also faced numerous harassment and hostility from the host nation.[16] In November 2020, Azerbaijan sent protest note to Paris after French Senate's recognized the Republic of Artsakh.[17]

Vietnam[edit]

French colonists were given the special epithet thực dân (originally meaning colonist but evolving to refer to the oppressive regime of the French) in Vietnamese; it is still universally used in discussions about the colonial era. After the French were pushed out of Vietnam, those who collaborated with them (called tay sai – agents) were vilified. Those who left for France with the French were known as Việt gian (Viet traitors) and had all their property confiscated. Although anti-French feelings in Vietnam have greatly abated, the use of words like thực dân (colonist) to describe the French is still common.[citation needed]

China[edit]

During the 1884 Battle of Tamsui, the Chinese took prisoner and beheaded 11 French marines, who were injured, in addition to La Gailissonniere's captain Fontaine and used bamboo poles to display the heads in public to incite anti-French feelings in China pictures of the decapitation of the French were published in the Tien-shih-tsai Pictorial Journal in Shanghai.[18] There was an anti-French campaign in 1916–1917.[19]

Syria[edit]

Anti-French sentiment started to develop when the French, who negotiated the infamous Sykes–Picot Agreement, began invading Syria. The battle of Maysalun that happened in 1920, where Syrian Army under the command of the charismatic Yusuf al-'Azma, symbolized a strong anti-French sentiment among Syrians as France had regenerated the promise to occupy and terrorize Syrian population.[20] French rule in Syria was extremely viewed negative by a lot of Syrians, and French involvement in the Syrian civil war also gains little sympathy.[21]

Pakistan[edit]

In October 2020, there were numerous protests in Pakistan concerning President Macron's statements on the murder of Samuel Paty.

In April 2021, violent anti-French protests organised by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik led the French embassy to advise all French citizens in Pakistan to leave the country.[22]

Turkey[edit]

In October 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for Turkish citizens to boycott French products.[23]

America[edit]

United States[edit]

A snack bar sign advertising "American" fries at Knott's Berry Farm, the sign previously read "French".

Despite a large French contribution to the 1991 Iraq Gulf War (called Operation Daguet) and the French presence in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom), the opposition of French President Jacques Chirac to the 2003 Iraq War led to a significant rise in anti-French sentiment in the United States.[24] In March 2003, the cafeteria of the United States House of Representatives had its French fries and French toast renamed to freedom fries and toast, at the direction of Representatives Bob Ney and Walter Jones. Ney chaired the Committee on House Administration and had authority over the menu in the House cafeteria.[25]

The freedom fries renaming was not without controversy or opposition. Timothy Noah of Slate noted that the move was "meant to demonize France for its exasperating refusal to support a war against Iraq". He compared the 2003 renamings to the renaming of all things German in World War I, but argued that the freedom fries episode was even worse because "Germany, after all, was America's enemy, whereas France is America's NATO ally."[26]

The swell of anti-French sentiment in the United States resulting from 2003 episode was marked.[27] Various media personalities and politicians openly expressed anti-French sentiments;[28] News Corporation's media outlets, particularly the Fox Entertainment Group's Fox News Network, were specifically implicated in a campaign fanning francophobia at the time of the war.[29][30] By 2006, anti-French sentiment among the American public began to decline, following an increased rise in opposition to the Iraq War and rising disapproval of the George W. Bush administration. As a result, positive views of France among Americans began to increase steadily and by 2016, American favorable ratings of France reached a historic high of 87%.[31][32]

Historically, the French-speaking peoples of Louisiana and New England have also been exposed to disparagement and discrimination. Along with nationwide suppression of the French language, francophones in Vermont were subject to involuntary sterilization during the early twentieth century, when Vermont implemented eugenics policies targeting "the poor, the disabled, French-Canadians and Native Americans."[33] In the 1960s, a common argument against the founding of CODOFIL, Louisiana's agency of francophone affairs, was that empowering the francophone population might foster Quebec-style nationalism, fracturing national unity; and the congressman James R. Domengeaux, founder of CODOFIL and a prominent advocate for francophone rights, was forced to address these concerns on multiple occasions.[34] While subsequent years have since proven these fears baseless, such arguments were considered an adequate reason to deny Louisiana's francophones basic political recognition.

Canada[edit]

Anti-Quebec sentiment (French: Sentiment anti-Québécois) is a form of prejudice which is expressed toward the government, culture, and/or the francophone people of Quebec.[35]

The French-language media in Quebec has termed anti-Quebec sentiment Québec bashing[36]—what it perceives as hateful, anti-Quebec coverage in the English-language media. It mostly cites examples from the English-Canadian media, and occasionally in coverage from other countries, often based on Canadian sources.[37] Some sovereignist journalists and academics noted that unfavourable depictions of the province by the media increased in the late 1990s after the unsuccessful 1995 Quebec referendum on independence.[38][39]

Haiti[edit]

In 1804, Haitian leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines ordered the massacre of nearly all white men, women, and children remaining in Haiti following the Haitian Revolution "except for priests, skilled artisans, health care workers, Americans and British";[40] between January and April 1804, 3,000 to 5,000 whites were killed.

Oceania[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

France controls several islands in the Pacific Ocean New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna Islands and French Polynesia. There have been sporadic independence demonstrations in French Polynesia, and briefly in the 1980s a pro-independence insurgency in New Caledonia, led by the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak Socialiste.[41]

There is also the issue of nuclear testing in the Pacific. Since 1960, around 200 nuclear tests have occurred around the Pacific, to the opprobrium of other Pacific states, Australia and New Zealand. In 1982, New Zealand reggae band Herbs released their breakthrough single, "French Letter", which strongly criticised French nuclear testing.[42] The end of the Cold War led to a French moratorium on nuclear testing, but it was lifted in 1995 by Jacques Chirac. French security forces have sought to interfere with the activity of nuclear testing protesters.[citation needed] In 1972, the Greenpeace vessel Vega was rammed at Moruroa. The following year Greenpeace protesters were detained by the French, and the skipper claimed he was beaten. Also, in 1985 the French secret service bombed and sank the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, New Zealand. Greenpeace had been a very vocal opponent of French nuclear testing in the Pacific. Australia ceased military cooperation with France and embargoed the export of uranium to France. Chirac's decision to run a nuclear test series at Mururoa on 5 September and 2 October 1995, just one year before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was to be signed, caused worldwide protest, including an embargo of French wine. Riots took place across Polynesia, and the South Pacific Forum threatened to suspend France.[43]

Australia[edit]

Similar anti-French protests occurred in Australia in response to Jacques Chirac's announcement of his intentions to resume French nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1995. In Sydney, protestors marched with placards stating "Guillotine Chirac", "In Your Back Yard Jacques" and "Ageing Hippies Against the Bomb". According to British journalists Robert Milliken and Tony Barber, French nuclear tests in the Pacific had led Australia (and New Zealand) to " [drift] further from their European roots" and reorient their foreign policy in Asia, and establish closer relationships with nations in the Pacific. Numerous boycotts were launched against French companies and products in Australia, and French-owned business were vandalised. Marc Lacher, a French-born Australian with dual citizenship, noted that "Like many French people in Australia we're against the tests." Lacher also stated that "If Australia is serious, it would stop selling uranium to France".[44]

France and World War II[edit]

The Second World War had an effect on the modern French image abroad. Before the war's outbreak, the French government had reluctantly acquiesced to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement and acceptance of Adolf Hitler's various violations of the Versailles Treaty and his demands at Munich in 1938. Prime Minister of France Édouard Daladier was under no illusions about Hitler's ultimate goals and initially opposed Chamberlain's policy and told the British in a late April 1938 meeting that Hitler's real aim was to eventually secure "a domination of the Continent in comparison with which the ambitions of Napoleon were feeble.... Today it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow it will be the turn of Poland and Romania".[45] However, in the end, Daladier could not stand without Chamberlain's support and let him have his way, with the appeasement of Hitler at the Munich Agreement.

The prime ministers of France between the World Wars were generally frightened about German intentions, as France sustained more casualties in the First World War than any other Western country, approximately 1.4 million military and 1.6 million total casualties.[46] Accordingly, French policies towards Germany in general, more specifically the Nazis, were more aggressive than that of other Western nations. Relations were very poor at the time, and French leaders were also acutely aware that the population of Germany (64 million) exceeded that of France by a considerable margin (40 million), a major strategic vulnerability.

The vulnerability and France's proximity to Germany caused French leaders to take a harder stance on Germany than the British, for example. The French occupation of the Rhineland and France's desire to collect reparations, owed by Germany under the Versailles to France, caused British leaders to see French leaders as pushing for war with Germany.

The predecessor of Daladier, Léon Blum, was acutely aware of the dangers of the German rise. He even considered military assistance to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War (the Germans were supporting the Nationalists)[47][48] but reluctantly decided otherwise, as some Nationalist sympathizers in France openly threatened civil war, just like in Spain. Also, the predecessor of Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin, and his staff, including Anthony Eden, strongly opposed any aid for fear both of communism (the Soviet Union was supporting the Republicans) and of the war spreading into another world war.[49]

In 1940, the military defeat of the French Army, after only a month, caused much disillusion across Europe. As a consequence, the image and the reputation of France as Europe's military superpower were seriously compromised until after the war ended. Vichy France collaborated with Germany, which included anti-Jewish legislation and other actions, which had a negative effect on the French image abroad.[50] However, Free French Forces still participated actively in the final Allied victory and France rebuilt its military after the war, to recover some of its position as a major military power.

France as a major power[edit]

Results of 2017 BBC World Service poll
Views of France's influence by country[51]
(sorted by net positive, Pos – Neg)
Country polled Pos. Neg. Neutral Pos – Neg
 Turkey
38%
43%
19%
-5
 Pakistan
25%
26%
49%
-1
 Indonesia
31%
26%
43%
+5
 Russia
35%
22%
43%
+13
 India
37%
20%
43%
+17
 Spain
44%
26%
30%
+18
 Peru
47%
25%
28%
+22
 Nigeria
55%
24%
21%
+31
 Mexico
56%
24%
20%
+32
 Kenya
53%
21%
26%
+32
 United Kingdom
66%
29%
5%
+37
 Greece
50%
11%
39%
+39
 Brazil
59%
19%
22%
+40
 Australia
69%
23%
8%
+46
 United States
66%
19%
15%
+47
 Germany
56%
6%
38%
+50
 China
74%
16%
10%
+58
 Canada
74%
14%
12%
+60

Post-World War II France is a major world power with nuclear armed forces retaining a weapons stockpile of around 300 operational nuclear warheads, making it the third-largest in the world.[52] France also has a permanent seat on the United Nations, and one of the largest economies in the World.[53] It is very active in international affairs in locations overseas (such as its continuing participation in Afghanistan, its Pacific nuclear testing in the 1980s, and in interventions in its former African colonies).

However, France's very status and active foreign policy have caused it the attract some negative attention. Some view[citation needed] some of postwar France's leaders to be vocal and independent-minded in their dealings with other major nations. The two French presidents most often perceived to be vocal and independent are Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac.

De Gaulle's presidencies and Gaullism in the 1960s[edit]

The policies of Charles de Gaulle during his second presidency (1959–1969) included several actions that some critics have held against him.

  • De Gaulle advocated the view that while France is remaining within the political structure of NATO, it should partially act as a third pole between the United States and the Soviet Union, actively supporting European organizations such as the European Economic Community, and maintaining close ties with other western European nations (especially with West Germany). This viewpoint was not unique to De Gaulle or the French, because many other nations sought varying degrees of non-aligned status with reference to the two major blocs (the United States/NATO and the Soviet bloc). India, China, Indonesia, and many other nations formed the Non-Aligned Movement, and Yugoslavia pursued a largely independent course from Moscow from 1961 until its dissolution in 2003.
  • De Gaulle decided to end the presence of NATO bases on French soil, and he withdrew France from the military structure of NATO. However, France remained within NATO's political structure.
  • De Gaulle opposed the UK's application to join the EEC in 1963 and 1967. However, the next French President Georges Pompidou reversed De Gaulle's position and supported the UK's admission to the EEC in 1973. Since De Gaulle, French Presidents have generally pursued fairly close relations with British leaders, including Jacques Chirac, who worked with Tony Blair, even during the Iraq War.[54]
  • While he was visiting Montreal, Quebec, Canada in order to attend the World's Fair in 1967, De Gaulle expressed his sympathy for the Quebec sovereignty movement, with the "Vive le Québec libre!" speech. This speech was highly regarded by supporters of the Quebec independence movement. However, it was widely criticized, even the French press criticized it,[55] and many French and French-Canadians also criticized it, including the future-Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, a French-Canadian from Montreal.

In short, De Gaulle advocated a strong French presence among the great nations and he also advocated France's independence from both the United States and the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Hagemann, Karen. "Francophobia and Patriotism: anti-French images and sentiments in Prussia and Northern Germany during the Anti-Napoleonic Wars." French History 18.4 (2004): 404-425.
  • Hagemann, Karen. “Occupation, Mobilization, and Politics: The Anti-Napoleonic Wars in Prussian Experience, Memory, and Historiography.” Central European History 39#4 (2006), pp. 580–610, online
  • Huc-Hepher, Saskia. "‘Sometimes there’s racism towards the French here’: xenophobic microaggressions in pre-2016 London as articulations of symbolic violence." National Identities 23.1 (2021): 15-39 online.
  • MacKenzie, Raymond N. "Romantic Literary History: Francophobia in The Edinburgh Review and The Quarterly Review." Victorian Periodicals Review 15.2 (1982): 42-52 online.
  • Maclean, Ruth. "‘Down With France’: Former Colonies in Africa Demand a Reset Decades after independence, many African countries are increasingly troubled by the ongoing influence of their former colonial power" New York Times 18 April 2022
  • Newman, Gerald. "Anti-French propaganda and British liberal nationalism in the early nineteenth century: Suggestions toward a general interpretation." Victorian Studies 18.4 (1975): 385-418. online
  • Sosnowski, Thomas, and Vaughn Baker. "Bitter farewells: Francophobia and the French émigrés in America." The Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850 (1992) 21: 276-283.
  • Varouxakis, Georgios. Victorian political thought on France and the French (Springer, 2002).

External links[edit]