That Sweet Enemy: Britain and France: the History of a Love-Hate Relationship

That Sweet Enemy: Britain and France: the History of a Love-Hate Relationship

by Robert Tombs, Isabelle Tombs
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That Sweet Enemy: Britain and France: the History of a Love-Hate Relationship by Robert Tombs, Isabelle Tombs

That Sweet Enemy brings both British wit (Robert Tombs is a British historian) and French panache (Isabelle Tombs is a French historian) to bear on three centuries of the history of Britain and France. From Waterloo to Chirac’s slandering of British cooking, the authors chart this cross-channel entanglement and the unparalleled breadth of cultural, economic, and political influence it has wrought on both sides, illuminating the complex and sometimes contradictory aspects of this relationship—rivalry, enmity, and misapprehension mixed with envy, admiration, and genuine affection—and the myriad ways it has shaped the modern world.

Written with wit and elegance, and illustrated with delightful images and cartoons from both sides of the Channel, That Sweet Enemy is a unique and immensely enjoyable history, destined to become a classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400032396
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 816
Sales rank: 613,724
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Isabelle Tombs was born in France, studied at the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) and received a Ph.D in modern British history at Trinity College, Cambridge. Robert Tombs was born in England, studied at Cambridge, and conducted doctoral research on modern French history in France where he was connected to Université de Paris IV (Sorbonne). Presently, Isabelle teaches French at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Robert is a reader in French History at Cambridge and a Fellow of St. John's College. They live in Cambridge, England.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Britain joins Europe

England is worth conquering, and whenever there is a probability of getting it, it will surely be attempted. When the people are . . . weak, cowardly, without discipline, poor, discontented, they are easily subdued; and this is our condition . . . nothing can be added to render them an easy prey to a foreigner unless a sense of their misery and hate of them that cause it make them look on any invader as a deliverer.—Algernon Sidney, political writer

A Nation which hath stood its ground, and kept its privileges and freedoms for Hundreds of Years, is in less than a Third of a Century quite undone; hath lavishly spent above 160 Millions in that time, made Hecatombs of British Lives, stockjobb’d (or cannonaded) away its Trade, perverted and then jested away its Honour, Law, and Justice.—Political pamphlet, 1719

In a Europe devastated by more than a century of ferocious religious conflicts, culminating in a Thirty Years War (1618–48) that had killed millions, France, emerging from its own internal conflicts in the 1650s, became the pre-eminent power by reason of its population, armed force, wealth and cultural influence. The embodiment of that power was Louis XIV, who acceded to the throne at the age of four in 1643 and reigned for seventy-two years. Of the fifty-four years when he effectively ruled, thirty-three were years of war. His life was dedicated to ensuring that the king dominated France—culturally and politically—and that France dominated Europe. This was a time when war and predation were normal conditions. The métier de roi—the king’s job—was to direct these conflicts, burnishing his gloire and that of his dynasty and realm, whose prosperity and security were the prizes of his strength and cunning.

Louis XIV dominated Europe less by force of intellect or character—he was hard-working rather than brilliant—than by the length of his reign and his tireless devotion to promoting an image of majesty. Artists, writers, architects, musicians and priests were enrolled, to create (as Louis himself wrote) “an extremely useful impression of magnificence, power, wealth and grandeur.” Versailles, practically complete by 1688, provided a setting that impressed all Europe. It has long been believed—and Louis’s own comments lend support—that his motivation was a reckless thirst for glory. This is not wholly false, but la gloire must be understood to include overtones of “renown,” even “duty.” Unlike some British historians, French historians argue that France under Louis was following no grand strategy, whether to seize the Spanish Empire or to gain territory up to what would later be claimed as France’s “natural frontiers”—the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Rhine. He and his entourage certainly believed in his right as Europe’s greatest monarch to aggrandize his kingdom and dynasty, and to equal or surpass the great men of history—he was hailed as an “Augustus,” a “new Constantine” or “new Charlemagne.” These vague and potentially unlimited ambitions, manifested in imperious words and belligerent acts, rallied most of Europe against him. That Britain was dragged into this maelstrom was Louis’s part in British history. That, against the odds, Britain came to lead the coalition against Louis was its part in his. His personal support of the Stuarts—part chivalry, part piety, part Realpolitik—caused durable bitterness within and between the Three Kingdoms, and made conflict with France inevitable.

By the early 1680s Louis and his ministers could contemplate Europe with satisfaction.

France . . . is naturally fortified against foreign attack, being almost surrounded by seas, by high mountains, or by very deep rivers. She produces an abundance of the things needed for man . . . She has an unusual perfection as a state . . . and her inhabitants are almost infinite in number, robust and generous, born for war, frank and disciplined.

The largest population in Europe—20 million and rising—made France a giant among pygmies. Spain had only 8.5 million; the countless city states, bishoprics and principalities of Germany totalled 12 million, but with a mosaic of vulnerable micro-states on France’s eastern marchlands; the United Provinces of the Netherlands, nearly 2 million; the Scandinavian kingdoms, between 2 and 3 million combined. Well down the pecking order came the “Three Kingdoms,” with a total population of 8 million and falling, and reckoned by the French foreign ministry to constitute Europe’s sixth-ranking power, their government revenues one-fifth those of France, their armies a quarter the size of Sweden’s.

France’s natural strength was consolidated by hard labour. In the 1670s the great minister Colbert had built a larger navy than the Dutch or the English. The army, over 200,000 strong, dwarfed all others. The engineer Marshal Vauban built a vast ring of fortresses, which made the kingdom a protected space and, as can be seen from the many still standing, the most fortified country in the world, able to fight nearly all its wars on foreign soil. Nature and labour were seemingly confirmed by Divine Providence, which favoured France in war and diplomacy, bountifully creating a power vacuum into which Louis had stepped. The old Habsburg enemy, which had once ruled both the Spanish and the Holy Roman empires, was now divided between Madrid and Vienna. Spain, though its colonies were temptingly rich, was in decline. The Empire, fragmented and ravaged by war and religious conflict, was assailed by the Turks, who in 1683 were besieging Vienna. Louis seemed to represent the future: absolute royal authority, professional administration, and religious uniformity. French officials and pamphleteers became accustomed to describing any state that opposed them as “arrogant” and “pretentious,” so rightful did their superiority appear.

The Three Kingdoms, after the restoration of their Euro-Scottish dynasty the Stuarts in 1660, had gravitated towards the Bourbon sun. They had not fully emerged from their own share of the religious and military cataclysm that had sundered Europe, and which had cost Charles I his head and 250,000 of his English and Scottish subjects, and an incalculable number of Irish, their lives.6 The return of Charles II from French exile had been popular at first, after the Puritan republic of “Fanatics” (as their enemies commonly called them). Charles and his brother James, Duke of York, worked to consolidate their restoration by moving towards a modern absolutist regime, bypassing the archaic nuisance of Parliament. This needed French support, including grants of money, sometimes delivered personally to Charles by his valet.7 The French were concerned by England’s budding commercial and naval success, and wanted an ally on the British thrones. Charles’s senior mistress, Louise de Penancouët de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, was a useful agent of influence: the French expatriate writer Saint-Evremond suggested that “the silk ribbon round her waist holds France and England together.” Charles did not need such pleasurable inducements: his “mental map of Europe had its centre not in England at all, but France.”8 He helped to start Louis’s aggressive war in 1672 against the Dutch, England’s national enemy. But this war, far from cementing an Anglo-French alliance, seemed sudden proof that the real threat came from France. The French army was alarmingly successful, while their navy was believed to have deliberately shirked battle so that the British and Dutch would destroy each other. French sailors reportedly “bragged that after they had Holland, they hoped to have England.”9 English opinion felt they had been duped into serving Louis’s aggressive designs, with the connivance of a francophile court. As one MP put it, “Our main business is to keep France out of England.”10 Charles assured Louis that he was “standing up for the interests of France against his whole kingdom.”11 Astonishingly, Louis revealed the details of his dealings with Charles to the parliamentary opposition— which he was also bribing. His strategy (he acted similarly in Holland) was to stir the embers of the Civil War in order to keep the Three Kingdoms weak.

Many at home and abroad assumed that the Stuarts’ power depended on the support of Versailles. Ironically, given his eventual fate, James II of England and VII of Scotland (who succeeded Charles in 1685) moved somewhat out of the French orbit, realizing that Louis would sacrifice the Stuarts if it suited him. Although he appointed a French crony, the Marquis de Blanquefort, alias Earl of Feversham (whose brother commanded the French army in 1688), to command his new mercenary army, raised for internal use, and sent an Irish Catholic with a French title, the Marquis d’Albeville, to represent him at the crucial post of The Hague, he did not intend to become wholly dependent, like his brother, on France. His strategy was to avoid expensive European wars while using sea power to counter the French in North America, consolidating his possessions there into a vast private domain—New York already belonged to him—and using the income to become independent of his parliaments. Those of Scotland and Ireland could be ignored, and that of England subverted.

Religion was crucial. The struggle that had convulsed Europe since Luther and Calvin was tilting towards a victory for Catholicism, and hence, so many thought, for monarchs. Louis XIV considered Catholicism the pillar of his power, as well as the source of divine favour. Pressure on France’s remaining 1.5 million Protestants mounted during the 1680s, ending the relative tolerance that had previously caused English religious Dissenters (Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists) to praise France in contrast to the persecution they suffered in England. Soldiers were billeted on Protestant families to make life unbearable—the infamous dragonnades. In October 1685, Louis, the “New Constantine,” proclaimed victory over the dwindling “Huguenots” (the insulting nickname for Protestants) by revoking the 1598 Edict of Nantes, which had supposedly recognized their religious, civil and political rights in perpetuity. He declared that the “so-called reformed religion” no longer existed in his realm. Hence, there could be no public or private Protestant worship, and no marriage or inheritance. All schools and churches were to be demolished. This was the most popular act of his reign, producing “explosions of joy” among his Catholic subjects, including the court writers La Bruyère, La Fontaine and Racine. Crowds demolished Protestant churches and desecrated cemeteries. There was some armed resistance. The minister of war Louvois ordered: “take very few prisoners . . . spare the women no more than the men.”12 Protestant refugees flooded into Holland and Britain, bringing harrowing stories of persecution. At the behest of the French ambassador, one of the most influential published accounts was seized and burnt by the English government.

This trauma across the Channel darkened the first months of James’s reign, when in February 1685 he became the Catholic king of Europe’s largest remaining Protestant realm. Like several other circumspect northern princes, Charles and James had moved towards Catholicism, partly for personal and family reasons—the influence of their French mother—but also because they shared the universal view that Catholicism buttressed royal authority. Charles’s position was mainly political, but James was genuinely Catholic. In either case, their combination of religious and secular power was stigmatized by their opponents as “Popery.” It was all the more alarming in the light of the persecution in France, which James approved of. The choice, as one peer put it, was “whether I will be a slave and a Papist, or a Protestant and a free man.”13 Rebellions against James broke out in Scotland and in the West Country, where Charles I’s illegitimate Protestant son the Duke of Monmouth proclaimed himself king. The risings were quickly and harshly suppressed. A woman was burned at the stake for harbouring a traitor, and some 300 men were hanged, drawn and quartered: the execution grounds were awash with body fluids. James’s aim was to legalize Catholicism in his kingdoms. He tried to both charm and bully Anglicans into an alliance with Catholics against the turbulent Dissenters, even meeting every MP individually. When this failed, he switched desperately to an opposite strategy: to create an alliance of Catholics and Dissenters against the Anglican establishment by offering toleration to both. He dared not end the exclusion of Catholics from Parliament, but instead took steps to pack the House of Commons with Dissenters. He sacked two-thirds of Anglican JPs and Lords Lieutenant and appointed a disproportionate number of Dissenters and Catholics to positions of military and political power: Catholics included a Secretary of State, the acting Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Lord Chancellor, and the commander of the fleet. A Jesuit, Father Edward Petre, joined the Privy Council. James intended Catholicism to attain equality with the “established” church, with its own bishops, parishes, tithes and colleges. This meant displacing Anglicans: for example Magdalen College, Oxford, was ordered to elect a Catholic president, and when its Fellows refused they were all expelled.14 Mass was publicly celebrated at the Chapel Royal, and a papal nuncio received. Some hoped and many feared that in the fullness of time the whole country would, like France, be brought back to Catholicism. James’s strategy became suddenly more credible when in June 1688 a male heir, who took precedence over his Anglican half-sisters Mary and Anne, was born and baptized a Catholic. The rumour spread that the baby was not genuine, but had been smuggled into the queen’s bedroom in a warming-pan.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps
List of Figures


Chapter 1: Britain Joins Europe
The Sun King
William of Orange
Exiles: Huguenots and Jacobites
Britain at the Heart of Europe, 1688–1748
Malbrouck s’en va-t-en guerre
Fontenoy, May 11, 1745
France and the Young Chevalier, 1744–46
The End of the Beginning
On His Most Christian Majesty’s Service
Money: Waging War with Gold
Britain: “Breaking windows with guineas”
Blowing Bubbles
France: The Insolvent Landlord

Chapter 2: Thinking, Pleasing, Seeing
Portraying the Other: Rapin and Hamilton
Voyages of Intellectual Discovery
Travellers’ Tales
Le Blanc’s England
Mrs. Thrale and Madame Du Bocage
Fashionable Feelings: The Age of Pamela and Julie
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
The Other Pamela
Love, Hate and Ambivalence
Drawing a Lesson
Garrick’s French Dancers
The French and Shakespeare: The Age of Voltaire

Chapter 3: The Sceptre of the World
Sugar and Slaves
The Wealth of the Indies
“A few acres of snow”
The Seven Years War, 1756–63
Perfidious Albion
Encouraging the Others
Pitt and Choiseul
Years of Victory, 1757–63
Dead Heroes
Taking Possession of the Globe
Language: The Challenge to French Ascendancy

Chapter 4: The Revenger’s Tragedy
Choiseul Plans Revenge
Taking the Great out of Britain: The Second War for America, 1776–83
Enter Figaro
Revolutionary Aristocrats
Saving Captain Asgill
The Biter Bit, 1783–90
Cricket: The Tour of ’89

Chapter 5: Ideas and Bayonets
Blissful Dawn
Reflecting on Revolution
Cannibals and Heroes
Jour de Gloire
Exiles: The Revolution
Internal Injuries
From Unwinnable War to Uneasy Peace
The First Kiss This Ten Years!
Culture Wars

Chapter 6: Changing the Face of the World
Napoleonic Visions
Earth’s Best Hopes? British Resistance, 1803–5
No Common War
Relics of What Might Have Been
The Whale and the Elephant
The Continental System versus the Cavalry of St. George
From the Tagus to the Berezina, 1807–12
Invasion, 1813–14
Le Cimetière des Anglais
The End of the Hundred Years War, 1815
Echoes of Waterloo

Part I: Conclusions and Disagreements
The Economy
The World
Interlude: The View from St. Helena


Chapter 7: Plucking the Fruits of Peace
Our Friends the Enemy
The British in Paris
Fast Food à l’anglaise
Pau: Britain in Béarn
Romantic Encounters
The French and Shakespeare: The Romantics
King Cotton, Queen Silk
Navvies and “Knobsticks”
Fog and Misery
Ally or “Anti-France”?

Chapter 8: The War That Never Was
A Beautiful Dream: The First Entente Cordiale, 1841–46
“God bless the narrow sea”: From Revolution to Empire, 1848–52
The Prince-President’s First Lady
Exiles: Hugo and the Stormy Voices of France
“Such a faithful ally,” 1853–66
Comrades in Arms
Brumagem Bombs for Bonaparte
Tales of Two Cities
Englishness in Paris: The Dressmaker and the Whore
London through French Eyes
Spectators of Disaster, 1870–71
Exiles: After the “Terrible Year”

Chapter 9: Decadence and Regeneration
Into the Abysm
Pilgrims of Pleasure: The Prince of Wales and Oscar Wilde
Depravity and Corruption
Regeneration: Power and Empire
The Tunnel: False Dawn
Education, Education, Education
Putting Colour into French Cheeks
Food and Civilization
On the Brink, 1898–1902
Exiles: Oscar Wilde and Émile Zola
magining the Enemy
Back from the Brink: Towards a New Entente Cordiale, 1902–4
“Vive Notre Bon Édouard!”

Part II: Conclusions and Disagreements
Interlude: Perceptions
Origins: Race, Land, Climate
Religion, Immorality and Perfidy
Nature versus Civilization
Masculinity and Femininity
Materialism, Exploitation and Greed


Chapter 10: The War to End Wars
From Entente to Alliance, 1904–14
The British and the Defence of France, 1914
Les Tommy and the French
“Bene and Hot”
“Le Foot”
Stalemate and Slaughter, 1915–17
The Road to Pyrrhic Victory, 1918

Chapter 11: Losing the Peace
Paris and Versailles, 1918–19: A Tragedy of Disappointment
Clemenceau, a Disillusioned Anglophile
The Political Consequences of Mr. Keynes
Estrangement, 1919–25
The Tunnel: Bowing to Providence
Mixed Feelings, 1919–39
From Englishman in Paris to Frenchman in Hollywood
Towards the Dark Gulf, 1929–39

Chapter 12: Finest Hours, Darkest Years
The “Phoney War,” September 1939–May 1940
The Real Disaster, May–June 1940
Dunkirk and the French, May 26–June 4
“No Longer Two Nations”: June 16, 1940
Mers el-Kébir
Churchill and de Gaulle
Bearing the Cross of Lorraine
Feeding the Flame
Liberation, 1943–44

Part III: Conclusions and Disagreements
Between the Wars
The Second World War
Interlude: The French and Shakespeare: The Other French Revolution


Chapter 13: Losing Empires, Seeking Roles
European Visions, 1945–55
Imperial Debacle, 1956
European Revenge, 1958–79
Higher, Faster, Dearer: The Concorde Complex
Satisfactions of Grandeur and Pleasures of Decline
Je t’aime, moi non plus

Chapter 14: Ever Closer Disunion
A French or British Europe? Napoleon versus Adam Smith
France and the Falklands War
Thatcher and the Revolution, 1989
So Near and Yet So Far
The Tunnel: Breakthrough
Language: Voting with Your Tongue
Size Matters
The Non-Identical Twins
Europe’s Warrior Nations
Bangs and Bucks
Desperate to Be Friends: Celebrating the Entente Cordiale, 1904–2004
2005: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Part IV: Conclusions and Disagreements
Picking Up the Threads


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That Sweet Enemy: Britain and France: the History of a Love-Hate Relationship 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was i the only one thinking of that super funny historical anime hetalia when i was reading this book ? It's really awesome because real life countries are people in this anime ! Fruk or Usuk the world will never know ! LOL ( also beware because this anime has alot of sterotypes so you should not watch it if your feelings get easily hurt . Hetalia just makes you laugh at yourself because you know those sterotypes are not actually true in your country you live in . ) anyway this book has a lot of information between england & france forigen relationship between eachother and it stops and makes you think of history more : - ) p.s Im the first reviewer OMG !
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