Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography

By David Robin Watson | Go to book overview
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Georges Clemenceau was born on 28 September 1841 in a modest house in the main street of the village of Mouilleron-en-Pareds, in one of the most remote parts of the Vendée. He was the second child and eldest son of Dr Benjamin Clemenceau and his wife Emma, née Gautreau. The Vendée, the area along the Atlantic coast south of the mouth of the River Loire, was one of the poorest parts of France, economically backward and conservative in politics. Large towns, modern industry, modern methods in agriculture had still not reached the Vendée even at the end of Clemenceau's long lifetime. At the time of his childhood and youth the peasants who made up the great majority of the population followed a way of life burdened by grinding poverty, which had changed little over the centuries. The railways hardly penetrated the area, and roads were notoriously bad. When Clemenceau, the rising young politician of the early Third Republic, returned to the family home, the Château de l'Aubraie near the village of Féaule, it still involved a long journey by horse and carriage from the nearest railway station. It was a strange background for one who was to lead the Left wing in politics, and to speak, at least for a time, for the industrial working class.

The Vendée is indeed one of the most distinctive regions of France. There is no grandeur in its scenery, but great charm, and much diversity within a small area. It is divided into three quite distinct parts, the bocage, the plaine, and the marais. The bocage consists of small, abrupt hills and deep valleys, covered with thick woods, traversed by narrow roads. The plaine, the open countryside, is closer to the normal type of farmland in northern France. Finally there is the marais, the marshy regions by the coast, in part a wilderness visited only by fishermen and


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Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography


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