A retrospective Ulysses’ syndrome: French émigré recollections of the British host
Between 1789 and 1815, thousands of French counter-revolutionaries chose exile rather than abide by the new political systems brought on by the Revolution, and later by Napoléon. A large number came to the British Isles. Contemporary documents demonstrate the French exiled community cohabited peacefully alongside a rather welcoming British society. Yet, self-narratives written after the Bourbon Restoration of 1815 described a different situation, in which French and British communities often clashed over behavioural and political distinctions. These discourses appeared to have further diverged from the event as time went by. This article does not mean to assess how traumatised the French émigré populations had been when driven to exile, but how the initial trauma, i.e the forced and lengthy separation from their motherland, was modified in later narratives and scholarship first to be utilised in the creation of national memories, and later in the formation of transnational ones. Focusing on the French memorial side of this transnational phenomenon, it aims to understand the political, social, and editorial agendas driving such modifications.
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