France's Natural Borders

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,904
Hercynian Forest
#12
France has had during her history a very strong power of assimilation, and it is possible that the regions in question would have been thoroughly Frenchified over time. It is also possible that the population size of this region would have been too much to digest for France, even more so in the light of the beginning modern nationalism in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century.

We don't know what would have happened, but somehow I suspect that France would have gained less than Germany would have lost. For France, these regions were "nice to have", a welcome addition; for Germany, they were core regions that played an essential role in history. To a certain degree, that is also true for the Alsace, since that region made important contributions to German culture from medieval times until the 20th century. Even the first newspaper in German language was edited in Strassburg.
 
Likes: Futurist
Aug 2010
16,063
Welsh Marches
#13
I simply cannot imagine that inhabitants of the French Rhineland departments, if they had been retained, would have abandoned their German culture in the 19th Century, it would have been unsatisfactory for all concerned; it was all very well for someone like Napoleon to keep them under his thumb, but times were changing.
 

WeisSaul

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,836
New Amsterdam
#14
"Natural Borders"? Bretons, Gascons, Normans there is plenty of Room for debate,
I hope that you understand that I think these borders are as natural for France as the Pyrenees are natural borders for Germany.
Those weren't natural borders because they included lands where the language and culture were German.
It's not my term. That's what the presented borders were referred to by expansionists/nationalists within France among higher circles during the later stages of the Ancien Regime and the 19th century.

A france with larger Borders, after the Napoleonic wars could still quite capably loose the franco-prussian war and be reduced.
French industry and finance would be benefited by Belgium, South Netherlands, and Rhineland. Meanwhile it is possible that Westphalia would still likely go to Prussia and perhaps more of Saxony too. I'm not sure that Prussia would be stronger than France.

Persons of highest importance for Germany have been born on the left bank on the Rhine, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Karl Marx, Heinrich Böll, and Konrad Adenauer.
Marx, Boll, and Adenauer likely wouldn't be born.

That's an oversimplification, if France had kept the German territories on the Rhine, for instance, it would have been awkward for the Germans who lived there if they had remained resolutely German! The problem has been resolved in Alsace through the fact that the culture there has become essentially French and use of German (as a language of culture or as a dialect in everyday life) has declined.
It took until around halfway through the 20th century for Dutch/Flemish and German/Alsatian to die out in France, though I would think the latter is due to 1871-1918. French would still be the language of the elite in this France and

wasn't Algiers considered a core province of France?
Yes Algeria was part of Metropolitan France not a standard colony.

France has had during her history a very strong power of assimilation, and it is possible that the regions in question would have been thoroughly Frenchified over time. It is also possible that the population size of this region would have been too much to digest for France, even more so in the light of the beginning modern nationalism in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century.
IIRC the Revolutionary French were at first welcomed by the more liberal-minded people of Rhenish lands and it was later on during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars when people were getting particularly enraged about their sons all being killed off in the wars that anti-French sentiment really started to take off. Absorbing all of the Rhineland, Flanders, and the Southern Netherlands would be difficult though I'd imagine many people would take the immigration route too.

We don't know what would have happened, but somehow I suspect that France would have gained less than Germany would have lost. For France, these regions were "nice to have", a welcome addition; for Germany, they were core regions that played an essential role in history. To a certain degree, that is also true for the Alsace, since that region made important contributions to German culture from medieval times until the 20th century. Even the first newspaper in German language was edited in Strassburg.
Brussels, Antwerp, and Rhineland would make France much stronger economically. Still, historically France was industrially behind Germany not only on an overall level, but at per-capita levels too. The French may not be able to exploit the region as well and could end up just exporting more coal to other countries. That or the Germans and Flemings would contribute to increasing per-capita industry of France.

I simply cannot imagine that inhabitants of the French Rhineland departments, if they had been retained, would have abandoned their German culture in the 19th Century, it would have been unsatisfactory for all concerned; it was all very well for someone like Napoleon to keep them under his thumb, but times were changing.
Who is to say the German and Dutch-Flemish regions would change entirely? I think it equally possible that they would heavily influence other regions of France culturally.
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,904
Hercynian Forest
#15
IIRC the Revolutionary French were at first welcomed by the more liberal-minded people of Rhenish lands and it was later on during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars when people were getting particularly enraged about their sons all being killed off in the wars that anti-French sentiment really started to take off.
There is the nice anecdote of the Rhinelander Ludwig van Beethoven (*1770 in Bonn, on the left bank of the Rhine), who initially dedicated his "revolutionary" Symphony No. 3 to Napoleon Bonaparte ("Sinfonia grande, intitolata Bonaparte"). When Beethoven learned that Napoleon crowned himself emperor, he was so enraged that he aggressively tried to extinguish the dedication words on the title of that symphony:



I think that is symptomatic for many people in Western and Southern Germany at that time: They were initially happy about the new liberties they were granted with the Code Napoleon and the new constitutions of their respective states, but soon realized that Napoleon was a man of power who pursued a French imperial policy and drowned Europe in a sea of wars.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,927
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#16
There is the matter of my own land: Piedmont in North West Italy. It can be disputable if it was "France". Actually it was part of Napoleonic Empire.
 
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
#17
To be honest, Quebec is welcome to them, but we'll take British Columbia in trade. ;)
:notrust:

You're neighbours to Amsterdam, that should do you just fine, now keep your grubby paws off or it'll be Normandy all over again, and Quebec won't make even a peep about conscription this time! You'll have the entire student riot movement plus the ghosts of the FLQ clambering up your shores, jonesing their way to victory.

I like better the idea of we give you Quebec (now there's a fireworks show I wouldn't want to miss) and we keep BC plus all that Yankee stuff. New York would look good in red and white.

As far as France's natural borders, here's my proposition:



Except, as an Atlantic colony of Britain (that is, an Atlantic colony which is not Irish), the Plantagenet stuff should go to Canada, just like Newfoundland did. You guys can have the royal demesne and all that vassal stuff, especially Flanders, which we never want to see again.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2010
16,063
Welsh Marches
#18
It's not my term. That's what the presented borders were referred to by expansionists/nationalists within France among higher circles during the later stages of the Ancien Regime and the 19th century.
Presumably when talking of natural frontiers, they were thinking in purely geographical terms, e.g. that France's frontiers should go up to the Rhine. In the old under monarchical rule, language and nationality were not such a big issue, it was thought quite natural that the King of France might rule German-speaking subjects, as he did in Alsace, or the King of Denmark likewise in Schleswig-Holstein. In neither case had the rulers set out to impose their own language or culture in those areas. It was only with the advance of nationalism in the 19th Century that there was felt to be a Schleswig-Holstein 'problem', or that the Germans felt justified in seizing Alsace-Lorraine because it was essentially German. If the French had kept their Rhineland conquests into the 19th Century, there would assuredly have been problems too. One hardly needs to mention the problems that developed within the Austro-Hungarian Empire!
 
Aug 2012
1,733
Colorado
#19
France = Franks, the Germanic tribe who conquered Roman Gaul, and Latinized themselves, while mixing with the population. So I personally don't see something too strange about France owning western Germany. especially considering it was owned by the Franks. Northern and eastern France spoke Dutch or German not long ago but have become assimilated to the Parisian ideal of a 'Frenchman', just like the Bretons, Occitans, and Provencals.

I'm not German, but as I see it Germany itself is a somewhat odd cultural entity - eastern and western Germany seem like to two different countries to who happen to speak the same language. One can also see quite a difference between the north and the south - a difference that one of my Bavarian friends is always quick to point out.

Finally, I agree with what Linschoten said in the above post. These 'natural borders' are probably referring more to geography rather than culture. We need to consider that most French people didn't speak French at the time of this map. Most spoke whatever dialect or language was prevalent in their region, including Breton, Dutch, or German. We also need to consider that at this time period, the notion of nationalism based on language was weak. I don't think the people of Mainz would think of themselves as German anymore than the people of Calais-du-Nord consider themselves Dutch.

P.S. IIRC France still controlled Belgium after Napoleon was defeated and exiled to Elba. It was only after he returned and was defeated at Waterloo that Belgium was split off as a separate country.
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,904
Hercynian Forest
#20
France = Franks, the Germanic tribe who conquered Roman Gaul, and Latinized themselves, while mixing with the population.
The statehood of both France and Germany ultimately go back to the Frankish Kingdom. The similarity of Francia and France does not mean that the French are somehow more entitled to the Frankish heritage; there are as well numerous toponyms in Germany that bear witness to the Frankish heritage, e.g. the city of Frankfurt or the region of Franconia.

The successive partitions of the Frankish Kingdom into ultimately West and East Francia were at first and foremost a family issue between brothers, but the rulers soon became aware of the different languages used in their respective realms. The language border between Romance and Germanic languages had been established during the migration period in the early medieval age, and then remained stable for more than a millennium. And it never followed the Rhine until the 20th century.