Cold War Holidays: American Tourism in France

Cold War Holidays: American Tourism in France

Cold War Holidays: American Tourism in France

Cold War Holidays: American Tourism in France


Moving beyond traditional state-centered conceptions of foreign relations, Christopher Endy approaches the Cold War era relationship between France and the United States from the original perspective of tourism. Focusing on American travel in France after World War II, Cold War Holidays shows how both the U.S. and French governments actively cultivated and shaped leisure travel to advance their foreign policy agendas.

From the U.S. government's campaign to encourage American vacations in Western Europe as part of the Marshall Plan, to Charles de Gaulle's aggressive promotion of American tourism to France in the 1960s, Endy reveals how consumerism and globalization played a major role in transatlantic affairs. Yet contrary to analyses of globalization that emphasize the decline of the nation-state, Endy argues that an era notable for the rise of informal transnational exchanges was also a time of entrenched national identity and persistent state power.

A lively array of voices informs Endy's analysis: Parisian hoteliers and cafe waiters, American and French diplomats, advertising and airline executives, travel writers, and tourists themselves. The resulting portrait reveals tourism as a colorful and consequential illustration of the changing nature of international relations in an age of globalization.


The lobby of the Hôtel George V in Paris has been a good place to observe the rise and fall of great powers in the twentieth century. Founded in 1928 just several blocks south of the Champs-Élysées, the hotel began as a fashionable destination for wealthy Americans and other foreigners. Then, in the summer of 1940, the season when Americans normally descended upon the George V, first the French and then the German military laid claim to the ornate hotel. Four years later, American officers requisitioned the hotel and slept in beds that German officers had abandoned just days earlier. When the U.S. Army finally checked out in 1946, the hotel’s managers were eager to revive the glamour the hotel had earlier won among civilians. Yet rather than retreat from the political role the war had given the hotel, the George V’s staff newsletter encouraged the waiters, chambermaids, porters, and other workers to see themselves once more as part of the drama of international relations. With the nation’s status as a world power in question after the war, good service toward elite foreign guests could win France much-needed supporters, especially among Americans. “In a hotel of this class,” noted the newsletter, “we are all, each for his part and at his post, like ‘Ambassadors’ for our country.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, as Cold War tensions mounted, American travel writers also presented tourism in the language of foreign policy. One travel article, appearing first in Travel magazine and then in Reader’s Digest in 1949, offered instruction on how to be an American abroad. Readers learned that Americans vacationing in Europe would likely encounter “the antiAmerican venom distilled first by Hitler and now by Stalin.” At a time when U.S. policymakers declared friendly ties with Western Europeans to be essential for the survival of the “free world,” each American abroad needed to speak humbly but confidently about the virtues of U.S. foreign policy and in the process become “truly an ambassador of good will.”

Americans’ trips to France were Cold War holidays in that leisure culture in both nations fell under the shadow of postwar international pressures. Calls by travel writers and hotel managers for ordinary citizens to act as unofficial . . .

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