Aristocratic families in republican France, 1870-1940

By Elizabeth Chalmers MacKnight

Aristocratic families in republican France, 1870-1940

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8501-7
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: January 2012
  • BIC Category: European history, HISTORY / Europe / France, Modern History, History, France, Humanities / European history
  • Series: Studies in Modern French and Francophone History


This is a study of the daily life, concerns, and dynamics of aristocratic families in the France of the Third Republic. Elizabeth Macknight draws on a vast range of material from private archives to contest assumptions about the irrelevancy of the nobility under the republican regime. Within a challenging political and economic environment nobles were determined to protect their interests and conserve the integrity of the aristocratic way of life. The convictions that underpinned nobles' responses to government initiatives emerge from the sources with freshness and clarity. Macknight interweaves male and female perspectives to provide a very full account of familial activities and decision-making with attention to all stages of the human lifecycle. Nobles' experiences of parenting and grandparenting, sibling and cousin relations, marriage, property negotiations, and interaction with servants are brought to light in a vivid and engaging narrative.


'Macknight illustrates the powerful role Catholic sentiments played in the emotional lives of this class.'
Journal of Social History

'A noteworthy contribution to the already rich body of literature on the French nobility.'
Cultural History

'Macknight argues in particular that 'the resilience of conservative ideologies' in the twentieth century should direct historians towards a greater interest in the aristocracy that provided such an important berth for reactionary politics . a lively and concise writer.'
English Historical Review

'Through its insistence on the political dimensions of noble family strategies and the family rhetoric of their manifestos, the book shows the evolving practices of power and gender, highlighting their interactions, their contradictions, their reciprocal influences at many levels of politics and society.' (Translated)
Clio. Women, Gender, History

'As for the fine study of intrafamilial correspondences, it offers a vision of the social rites of marriage in the big world, and a reassessment of the place of sentiment and sexuality in aristocratic couples.' (Translated)
Journal of Modern and Contemporary History

'Readers of Proust will enjoy Elizabeth Macknight's insights into the world of the French aristocracy under the Third Republic. Reading Aristocratic Families in Republican France is like rummaging through the cupboards of Remembrance of Things Past: Macknight shows us the backstairs gossip, wage bills, the dirty laundry, and, especially, the price tags of aristocratic life. Drawing on private, familial archives, Macknight shows us the distant ripples of the Night of August 4, 1789 as she examines strategies for noble survival under a republic committed to the revolutionary principle of equality.'
Carol E. Harrison, University of South Carolina, H-France Review Vol. 19, No. 77


1. Genealogies
2. Marriage
3. Property and inheritance
4. Serving the household
5. Paternity and politics
6. Aristocratic motherhood
7. Children's worlds
8. Space and memory, loss and nostalgia


Elizabeth C. MacKnight is Lecturer in European History at the University of Aberdeen.

Aristocratic families in republican France, 1870-1940

By Elizabeth Chalmers MacKnight

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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