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In my research and writing process, I start with a basic question which seems to not have been addressed by historians.  For example, how did the grief the French experienced after the First World War affect France and how long did this grief actively affect the politics? Was the contentious politics and cultural conflicts of the 1930’s in part fueled by this grief. Could and did grief turn to anger after twelve years had gone by? How much had the depression, which by comparison was mild in France, contributed to this anger?

Sometimes after a period of research, these questions just flame out, with no real supporting evidence with which to base a paper, such as the difficulty in attributing grief to the political activities of the 1930’s. Thus, after several weeks of writing I drop aspects of that inquiry, but in the meantime, new questions have arisen, and like a bird dog, I chase after those. I suddenly, most intimately, feel like Marx must have. For he, having thrown so much effort into his vast lifetime of writings, was unable to encapsulate the essence of human historical economic existence.  The history of man is far too complicated, too nuanced, with the randomness of human actions taking down the most carefully conceptualized models. The path of the event historian is far more concrete than trying to understand why history unfolded the way it did. For me, its a cop out not to try to understand, even if there is, in truth, no true concrete reason, why.

In this series, The History of Modern France, I started with the idea that written history is indivisible from the writers of that history. That means the history we read is inflected by the time, place, and mental condition of its writer. While this might not affect the facts of the

Dean Alexander


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