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The symbol of the foreigner in French history

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  1. Introduction
  2. Creation of the Nation
  3. Colette Beaune's capital work
  4. French history
  5. The symbol of the foreigner
  6. Conclusion

The word foreigner is strongly connected to the idea of Nation; indeed it is the creation of the Nation that in turn generated this new meaning given to the word foreigner. The creation of the nation drew a line between national and non national, between citizens and foreigners. To some historians, this Nation building process took a very long time, others underline that even though the process as a whole might be long, and one can single out critical moments during which decisive steps were taken. In the case of France the night of the 4th of august 1789 is often perceived as one of those steps: as the privileges of the nobility were abolished, the French became one people and therefore citizens. It was only from then on that the idea of a foreigner could emerge in opposition to this new group. There is therefore a question hovering above the role played by the figure of the foreigner in the Nation building and the discourse about the Nation that contributed to the Nation building process. How did this representation of the foreigner evolve and did it play any part in the Nation building process?

To begin, one should start by underlining that up until the 19th century, the word foreigner did not mean somebody coming from outside the realm or the country. This should be explored in two ways, first the reference to foreign origins in the monarchic mythology and second the figure of the foreigner as the outsider, the one who comes from outside the known sphere and the images related to that figure.

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