The Social Origins of Political Regionalism: France, 1849-1981

The Social Origins of Political Regionalism: France, 1849-1981

The Social Origins of Political Regionalism: France, 1849-1981

The Social Origins of Political Regionalism: France, 1849-1981

Excerpt

To the tourist, the cantons of Argentré-du-Plessis, in the western French department of Ille-et-Vilaine, and Bonnieux, in the French Mediterranean department of Vaucluse, are brief distractions on the way to more exciting attractions. For most, Argentré-du-Plessis offers little more than a crossroad to the treasures of Mont-Saint-Michel and the castles dotting the Loire Valley. Bonnieux offers little to the tourist other than marmalade and wines, and proximity to Avignon, with its Palace of the Popes and its unfinished bridge of children's song, and Aixen-Provence, that mecca of Impressionist painters.

What first strikes the traveler entering ArgentrU+00E-du-Plessis is its isolation. ArgentrU+00E-du-Plessis is part of a vast woodland in which farms and villages are separated by hedgerows (bocage) that give the landscape the appearance of an enormous chessboard. The population is greatly dispersed and the roads are few. These features, along with the rains that can last uninterruptedly from November to May, put a damper on the canton's social activity, leaving the impression that the inhabitants of Argentré-du-Plessis are withdrawn. Though perhaps socially detrimental, the abundant rainfall yields acres upon acres of luscious grassland, which in turn nurtures the livestock, the basis of the canton's principal economic activity.

In contrast to Argentré-du-Plessis, Bonnieux lies in the shadows of Mount Luberon and is part of the foothills of France's southern Alps. On entering Bonnieux, the traveler expects to hear Spanish or Italian spoken rather than French since the area has a definite Mediterranean flavor. The compact villages of Bonnieux are mostly perched high on hills. The streets are narrow and winding, for medieval architects knew that a winding rather than undeflected street could better serve as a bulwark against the mistra--that continual winter wind that irritates the entire Mediterranean region. But for the most part, the blue sky and warm days kindle the animated and constant . . .

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