Francophobia: Wikis


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Francophobia, or Gallophobia, as well as Francophobe, are terms that refer to a dislike toward the government, culture, history, or people of France or the Francophonie.[1] Its antonym is francophilia. Contemporary prejudice against the French often derives from criticisms from the immediate post-World War II period and the way of life of the artistic and philosophic elite of the time. Francophobia has existed in various forms and in different countries for centuries. In China, the term "Francophobia" (恐法症) became widely known in 2006 in the context of the eight-year standing football rivalry between Brazil and France by local media under its literal meaning of "Fear of the French". However, this is a misnomer stemming from the use of the word "phobia," the Greek word for "fear."


Use of the term

Given its lengthy history and various changes in relative international status, properly qualifying hostility toward France and its people with one term is difficult. Francophobia is used here as it is the historically understood term for the most pronounced and longest running hostility toward things French — that of the United Kingdom from the 17th to 19th centuries. Francophobe and Francophile (along with the now archaic Gallophobe and Gallophile) would have been well understood to British commentators of the period and the former terms are still easily grasped today. In the contemporary United States, anti-French sentiment is more likely to be used to describe the recent upsurge in that country of animosity toward the French. In former French colonies, meanwhile, resentment may fall under the larger rubric of anti-colonialism.

France as continental hegemon

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 nation-state (rather than a dynastic, transnational entity typical of the late Middle Ages). According to Eric Hobsbawm (1990), only aristocrats and scholars spoke French before the French Revolution, whilst about two-thirds of the population of the French kingdom spoke a variety of local indigenous languages often referred to as dialects. Henceforth, 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.

Francophobia in Britain

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 the Duke of Normandy, a vassal of the French King, raised himself to be King of England. 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 This medieval era of conflict climaxed during the One Hundred Years War, when the House of Plantagenet fought unsuccessfully for control of French throne and lost the last of their 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 Coeur de Lion who was famous for his feud with the French King Philip, spent most of his life in France and as little as six months of his reign as King in England).

The modern history of conflict between the two nations stems from the rise of Britain effect into a position as a dominant mercantile and seafaring power from the late 17th century onward. 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). English hostility to the Catholic Church, which dated back to earlier conflicts with Spain and the Catholic Habsburg dynasty contributed to attitudes towards the French, because France was also seen as a Catholic power, while the majority of the English people were Protestants belonging to the Church of England. Britain assisted continental European states in resisting French ambitions to hegemony during the reign of Louis XIV and of course during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain also resented France's intervention in the American Revolutionary War. These repeated conflicts spawned deep mutual antagonism between the two nations, which were only, and partially, overcome by their alliance to contain Imperial Germany in the early 20th century.

The dimensions of this conflict in Britain were as much cultural as strategic. Indeed, British nationalism in its nascent phases was in large part a contra-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 French culture and the French language.
  • France was the strongest Catholic power and "anti-Papist" suspicions were always strong in Britain.
  • The French political system appeared absolutist and conformist, contrasting Anglo-Saxon notions of liberty and individualism which British nationalists invoked.
  • 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 (although the story is based upon the disputed premise that those involved had never seen a Frenchman before).

The French Revolution

The revolutionary ideas that emerged in France in 1789 during the French Revolution and subsequent years were not well-received by monarchists and aristocrats on the rest of the continent and in Britain. France, the leading European power for two centuries, had suddenly and violently overthrown the feudal foundations of continental order and, it was feared, the revolution might spread. Objections were many:

  • That the legitimacy of hereditary monarchy had been vitiated.
  • That violent, uneducated peasants and urban poor had gained power over their traditional social masters.
  • That the revolution was anti-religious.
  • That the revolution aspired to continental hegemony, in effect that liberté, egalité, fraternité would be limited to the French, while the Spanish, Italians, etc would be under French domination. Thus the nationalism created in France during the revolution spread to other nations under French occupation, leading to resistance movements and guerillas opposed to the French.
  • That the revolution would (and eventually did) result in a reign of terror terminating in despotism (under Napoleon), thus failing to live up to aspirations of liberty (Reflections on the Revolution in France).

These concerns were not unique to Europe. Despite the positive view some Americans had of The French Revolution, it awakened or created anti-French feelings among some Federalists.

The Age of Napoleon

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. This is illustrated by The Third of May 1808 painting.

France as imperial power

France's colonial empire earned it many enemies, among rival colonial countries, especially Great Britain, and especially amongst colonized people. On a whole, although French neo-colonialism is denounced under the term of Françafrique (including by sectors of the French population itself), this does not necessarily lead to "Francophobia.", even in Côte d'Ivoire where, beyond the provocations of Laurent Gbagbo, elected with less than 15% of the polls, the vast majority of people feel no resentment towards the French, nor the huge number of Franco-Ivorian citizens, and few towards the former colonizing power, their main target being rather the rests of paternalism of the French political attitude in Black Africa, leading to political tensions from time to time.

France in Africa and Asia

  • Asia - The 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 abated, the use of words like thực dân (colonist) to describe the French is still normal.

France and World War II

The Second World War had an effect on the modern French image abroad. Before the war's outbreak, the French government had reluctantly acquiesed to the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement and accepted Hitler's various violations of the Versailles treaty and his demands at Munich in 1938. The then-Prime Minister of France Edouard Daladier was under no illusions about Hitler's ultimate goals and initially opposed Chamberlain's policy. He 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." He went on to say "Today it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow it will be the turn of Poland and Romania...".[2] However, in the end, Daladier could not stand without Chamberlain's support, and Daladier let Chamberlain have his way with the appeasement of Hitler at the Munich.

The prime ministers of France between the World Wars were generally more aggressive against German and Nazi interests than that of other Western nations, as France-Germany relations were very poor at the time and France sustained more casualties in World War I than any other nation (except Russia which underwent several revolutions in the middle of the war in 1917) - approximately 1.4 million military and 1.6 million total casualties[3]. French leaders were also acutely aware that the German population and manpower exceed France's by a considerable margin (64 million versus 40 million), a major strategic vulnerability. This strategic 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 the reparations owed by Germany under the Treaty of Versailles to France, caused British leaders to see French leaders as too stern on Germany.

The French President previous to Daladier, Leon Blum, was acutely aware of the dangers of the German and Nazi rise, and even desired to send military aid to the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War (the Germans were supporting the opposite Nationalist side in this conflict)[4][5], but decided against doing so in order to maintain France's alliance to Britain because then-Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and his staff including Anthony Eden strongly opposed any aid because of fear of Communism and of war[6].

However, once war broke out, the quick military defeat of the French Army caused much disillusion across Europe. As a consequence the image and reputation of France as Europe's military superpower was seriously compromised until after the war ended. However, France still participated actively in the final victory, and rebuilt her military after World War II to recover some of her position as a major military power.

France as vocal major power

Post-World War II France is a major world power with nuclear armed forces comparable in size, technology, and global reach to that of the United Kingdom, and greater than those of modern Germany or postwar Japan - all nations which have rarely been claimed to be merely "middle powers". France also has a permanent seat on the United Nations, and one of the larger economies in Europe (its GNP and GDP per capita are comparable to those of the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States). 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 some of postwar France's leaders to be vocal and independent-minded in their dealings with other major nations. However, the leaders of every nation act for primarily for what they deem to be the benefits of their own nations. For example, United States president George Bush has generated controversy by his consistent refusal to sign the Kyoto Treaty saying that "Kyoto would have wrecked our economy. I couldn't in good faith have signed Kyoto".[7]. 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

The policies of Charles de Gaulle during his second presidency (1961-1970) included several actions that some critics have held against him.

  • De Gaulle advocated a stance that France should act partially as a third pole between the United States and Soviet Union, while remaining within the political structure of NATO, actively supporting European organizations such as the European Economic Community, and maintaining close ties with other western European nations (especially postwar West Germany). This viewpoint was not unique to De Gaulle or to the French, because many other nations sought varying degrees of non-aligned status with reference to the two major blocs (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 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 1962 and 1965. However, the next French President Georges Pompidou reversed De Gaulle's position and supported the UK's admission in 1973. French Presidents since De Gaulle have generally pursued fairly close relations with British leaders, including Jacques Chirac working with Tony Blair even during the Iraq War [8].
  • While visiting Montreal, Canada for the World Fair in 1967, De Gaulle brought support to the Québec sovereignty movement, with a speech "Vive le Québec libre!". This speech was highly regarded by the Quebec independence movement. However, it was widely criticized even in the French press [9], and it was opposed by many French and French-Canadians including the future-Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, a French-Canadian from Montreal.

In total, De Gaulle advocated a strong presence among the great nations and independence towards the United States and the Soviet Union.

Anti-French sentiment in Australasia and the Pacific in the 1980s

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. However, this situation is by no means unique to France, as the other overseas European Great Power, the United Kingdom, also owns many British overseas territories and the controversies they generate.

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. 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. 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.

Protesters demonstrated at the French embassy in Canberra, while the French honorary Consulate in Perth was fire-bombed. The company Delifrance was forced to downplay its entry into the Australian market. The Herald Sun ran an article entitled "Why the French are Bastards." A group of Australians ran a full page advertisement in Le Monde, arguing that the opposition in Australia to French nuclear testing was strong, and that large numbers of ANZAC soldiers who fell in France's defence in the First World War. Some authors in the French press replied by discussing Australia's own human rights record, and its supposed ambitions to dominate the Pacific (one cartoon by Plantu portrayed an Australian wearing a very British bowler hat).

Anti-French sentiment in United States after the War in Iraq

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[10], epitomized by a movement to rename french fries to freedom fries.[11]

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 (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina). Representative Ney chaired the Committee on House Administration and had authority over the menu in the House cafeteria. [12]

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 renaming to the renaming of all things German in World War II, but argued that the freedom fries episode was worse because "Germany, after all, was America's enemy, whereas France is America's NATO ally."[13].

Interestingly, this episode was conducted in spite of the fact that neither french fries nor french toast are explicitly French (see origins of french fries and french toast).

However, the swell of anti-French sentiment in the United States during the 2000s was marked[14]. Many media personalities and politicians have openly expressed anti-French sentiments.[15]

According to a survey in 2007 organised by the CSA and the French-American Foundation, 41% of americans have a good opinion about France.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Robertson, John G. (1991). Robertson's Words for a Modern Age: A Cross Reference of Latin and Greek Combining Elements. Senior Scribe Publications. p. 212. ISBN 9780963091901.  
  2. ^ [William L. Shirer|Shirer, William]] The Collapse Of The Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940, 1969, De Capo Press, page 529.
  3. ^ Huber, Michel (1931). La Population de la France pendant la guerre. Paris.
  4. ^ Harry Browne’s, Spain’s Civil War, 2d ed. (New York: Longman, 1996),p50.
  5. ^ Leon Blum: Humanist in Politics, by Joel Colton, p236.
  6. ^ Leon Blum: Humanist in Politics, by Joel Colton, p240.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Alain Peyrefitte, C'était de Gaulle III, p.391 to 496. (2000) éditions de Fallois/Fayard
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Fried politics: Restaurant serves 'freedom fries'". CNN. 2003-02-19. Retrieved 2008-10-09.  
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Serfaty, Simon (2007). Architects of Delusion: Europe, America, and the Iraq War. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780812240603.  
  15. ^,2933,79245,00.html
  16. ^

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary







Francophobia (uncountable)

  1. Fear of France, its people and culture


  • French: francophobie f.

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