During the tumultous period in France's history that was the 19th century, political power changed hands numerous times, leaving French citizens searching for an identity as a people and nation--something the government had previously provided for them. Many scholars set out with the purpose of defining an identity for the French people, turning to the nation's Celtic, or "Gallic", heritage to find the enduring "essence" and historical "spirit" of the French. They turned to history, exploring the various "roots" of France's culture in an attempt to understand the present. Essentializing the French identity proved difficult as these scholars also tried to reconcile their Gallic heritage with their Roman and Frankish heritage. In François Guizot's nationalist historical text, A Popular History France from the Earliest Times, one can see this tension between claiming each of these groups as French ancestors, specifically in the accompanying illustrations by Alphonse de Neuville.
Curated by Maggie Howell under the direction of Dr. Verkerk