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The 'milch-cow state' revisited: Republican politics in the Aveyron

Simpson, Martin


Martin Simpson
Senior Lecturer in History and Heritage


This article examines the 'republicanization' of the Aveyron under the Third Republic, exploring issues of the practice and meaning of politics in this rural département. I look at the impact of the Republic's efforts to secularize education and ask on what grounds a département that emphatically rejected the secular/anti-clerical programme of the Republic could nonetheless eventually vote republican. This opens up questions of peasant understandings of politics. In particular I refer to the work of P. M. Jones who has written on this area, attributing republican success to the material benefits offered by the 'milch-cow state' and forceful administrative intervention. I argue that whilst the action of the Republic was significant, the success of the republicans rested on more than their ability to deliver local services. Republican politics in the Aveyron succeeded in redefining republicanism, arriving at an alternative conception of the Republic that was acceptable to the strongly Catholic and politicized electorate. We need to move away from any ideas of a single opportunist republicanism to realize that there were multiple conceptions of the Republic and a range of local republicanisms forged in relation to the circumstances of the individual French peripheries. © 2005 Cambridge University Press.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Sep 1, 2005
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2010
Journal Historical Journal
Print ISSN 0018-246X
Electronic ISSN 1469-5103
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 3
Pages 743-768
Keywords Republican politics, Aveyron, milch-cow state
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Nov 15, 2016