Fraternity among the French Peasantry: Sociability and Voluntary Associations in the Loire Valley, 1815-1914

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Using meticulous archival research, Alan Baker challenges the orthodox portrayal of nineteenth-century French peasants as individualists and examines the extent to which they both continued with traditional forms of community action and developed new forms of collective action. More specifically, he examines the development and spread of voluntary associations in Loir-et-Cher, on the southwestern margin of the Paris Basin. He focuses on associations aimed at reducing risk and uncertainty (mainly livestock insurance associations, mutual aid societies, and volunteer fire brigades), and on associations intended to provide agricultural protection.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This exemplary work of historical geography presents an original interpretation of voluntary associations in French rural society during the nineteenth century that insured peasants against risk...a comprenhensive investigation...Although the empirical evidence for these generalizations is based on archival research in a single department, the book has broad scope and significance for historians as well as geographers...Baker's conjectures about the relationship between cultural change and associational life, which highlight the implications of secularization for attitudes towards risk and insurance, deserve a wide audience among historians of rural France." Ted W. Margardant, Journal of Historical Geography

"Without doubt, Baker has produced path-breaking work...Fraternity sheds fresh light on the socialization of risk and prompts further questions on the relationship of voluntary associations to earlier fraternities and later political parties. The appearance of this book will be welcomed by all with a specialist interest in the economic and social history of France, and in the contested theme of modernization." Hugh Clout, Economic History Review

"Alan Baker's book is not simply another local study of the French peasantry during the nineteenth century. By showing how effectively the rural communities of the Loir-et-Cher organized themselves for their mutual protection and evoloved what were essentially early mechanisms of insurance, he questions many of the rather glib statements so often made about peasant individualism." Alan Forrest, History

"Whilst rooted in a deep and detailed reading of a range of archival material in the department of Loir-et-Cher, the book tells us much about the nature of peasant society in France as a whole. The analysis [of voluntary associations] is thorough and detailed and written with a real understanding of the character of pays and paysan...[An] excellent volume...the knowledge, understanding and empathy displayed in Alan Baker's book gives the reader a real insight into the ways in which a French rural community lived, worked and interacted in the past." Mark Cleary, Rural History

"Baker's original and lucidly written book carries the authority of skillful, patient research over many years. The results prove that all those hours in the archives at Blois were well worth it. The image of the peasantry that emerges is at once sympathetic and more realsitic than many other accounts provide. Baker's book is a fine contribution to the "revisioning" of the nineteenth-century French peasantry." American Historical Review

"This is an impressive volume, both from the perspective of political geography and economic and social history... a triumph of scholarly endeavor and perseverance. Baker's search is immaculate, and the empirical findings are lucidly presented...this book makes a welcome contribution...from an economic and social its scholarly and stimulating responses to the various 'myths' about the French peasantry, this fine piece of research indeed demonstrates precisely the opposite." The Journal of Modern History

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface; 1. Peasants and peasantry in nineteenth-century France; 2. The theory and practice of fraternal association in nineteenth-century France; 3. Loir-et-Cher during the nineteenth century: period, place and people; 4. Insurance societies; 5. Mutual aid societies; 6. Fire-fighting Corps; 7. Anti-Phylloxera syndicates; 8. Agricultural associations; 9. Synthesis: conclusions, comparisons and conjectures.

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