Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis


International Studies

First Advisor

Paul Hanson


In 2010, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a "Maison de l 'histoire de fa France," a heritage museum, as reporters began calling it, to be opened in Paris in 2015. President Sarkozy's speechwriter on issues of national identity has cast the museum as an answer to France's "identity crisis".' The project's aim, as President Sarkozy has articulated it, is to "reinforce national identity," warning as well, "It is always dangerous to forget your history.t" It is exactly this fear, the fear of forgetting France's rich history, which has spurred controversy and upheaval within the French republic.

The extent to which President Sarkozy's proposal has struck a nerve in the French population is evidenced by the extensive protest against the Maison, notably from the academic sphere. Several historians signed letters that were published in Le Monde, speaking against this promotion of "official history" and its propagation as a political tool. One letter points specifically to the creation and promotion of national identity as problematic to academic historical pursuits. The letter states, "Si l'echelle privilegiee est celle d'une France rabougrie, c'est, en consequence, moins le resultat d'une reflexion pedagogique, savante et critique que de la mise en place d'un projet fonde sur la peur de l'autre et que Ie pouvoir exprime dans un mouvement de repli sur soi.,,3 For the historians who signed this letter, the national identity to be promoted by this museum would represent less a celebration of French history and more the assertion of a French identity that diminishes the multitude of different histories that compose an increasingly diverse national identity. Addressing exactly this concern, immigrant organizations have also staged protests throughout Paris, denouncing the propagation of an official French history that they argue fails to incorporate their stories, often with roots in countries beyond France, into the mosaic of French national history. The problem with the proposed museum, from their perspectives, is the legitimization of a singular national history, one that implies a definitive version of the history that defines France, and French citizens, in the past and as they exist today.