This book introduces an English-speaking public to the life of
Madeleine Riffaud - one of the last living leaders of the French
Resistance. It considers the nature of the rebel hero in France's
founding historical narratives (revolution, insurrection,
resistance) while asking what contributions such a hero might make
to debates on national identity today. Through a series of
narrative close-ups, the book offers perspectives on major chapters
in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French history through the
eyes of activists who experienced them: the Revolution of July 1830
and the 1851 insurrection against Napoleon, as experienced by
Riffaud's ancestor Edme Liron, and the French Resistance, the
Vietnam War and French-Algerian conflict as experienced by Riffaud
herself. The book aims to explore the kinds of choices individuals
face when their beliefs set them at odds with the state, and to
suggest that there is a place for individual action in a global
arena where state boundaries are becoming increasingly less
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