France's Natural Borders

Aug 2012
1,733
Colorado
#21
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.
I didn't mean to suggest that France is more entitled to the heritage of the Frankish Kingdom than Germany. I was only pointing out that the French are related to Germans through the Franks.

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.
But why classify people as French or German based on this? We could also say that according to historical linguistic borders, only Paris and Normandy and the areas around them are France's natural borders. This is because French is simply the Parisian language, and people in France assimilated to Parisian language and culture. During the Napoleonic Wars, when this map was designed, less than a quarter of Frenchmen spoke French. I don't agree with using historical linguistic borders to determine France's natural borders. After all, this is taking a mid 19th-mid 20th century idea (nationalism) and applying it to people in the past who didn't think this way. Germany didn't even exist in 1200, or 1500, or 1800, because people only began to think of themselves as belonging to the German nation in the mid 1800's.

I propose that we should be examining how the French and Germans view nationality differently, because this is very important and different interpretations have led to huge conflicts in the past. We should also be looking at geography because the map is using the term 'natural borders', and not 'cultural borders'. I also suggest we take language less into account. If we are only looking at language to determine natural borders, then Germany's natural borders include Austria, and much of Switzerland; and France's natural borders should include part of North America and parts of Africa!
 

WeisSaul

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,836
New Amsterdam
#22
To add to that, the Alsacians, who spoke German, saw themselves as French when annexed by Germany confusing many a German nationalist.
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,903
Hercynian Forest
#23
But why classify people as French or German based on this? We could also say that according to historical linguistic borders, only Paris and Normandy and the areas around them are France's natural borders. This is because French is simply the Parisian language, and people in France assimilated to Parisian language and culture.
It is important to be aware that there are continuous language areas on the one hand, and sharp language borders on the other. For example, the Romance language area was once continuous; this is still obvious when one looks at the local dialects which smoothly transition into one another (e.g. at the border between France and Italy). The border between Romance and Germanic languages, however, was always sharp; there is no transition from a French dialect into a German dialect.

This argument does not mean that language trumps everything else, it just establishes that the assimilation of people who speak a closely related language is very different from those who speak a truly foreign language.

During the Napoleonic Wars, when this map was designed, less than a quarter of Frenchmen spoke French.
Yes, this was especially true for the Alsace, where almost nobody spoke French and thus was considered barbarian by French standards.

I don't agree with using historical linguistic borders to determine France's natural borders. After all, this is taking a mid 19th-mid 20th century idea (nationalism) and applying it to people in the past who didn't think this way. Germany didn't even exist in 1200, or 1500, or 1800, because people only began to think of themselves as belonging to the German nation in the mid 1800's.
Somehow you give me the impression that you think that there was France as a state, and to the East of it a desert without any state organization. The reality is that you don't even have to use historical linguistic borders, because the Holy Roman Empire as a state did have clearly defined borders. The regions we are discussing here were all part of that state for at least 700 years (962-1648). Is this something that should not be considered at all?

There is enough evidence that we can speak of a territory called Germany at least since the 10th century; so it did exist in 1200, 1500, or 1800. Its state organization was different though. The Holy Roman Empire was not a nation state, although clearly dominated by Germans.

The development of a national identity did not happen out of the blue in the 19th century, even not in such a belated nation as Germany. There was actually a quite intense national debate around 1500 among German humanists. One of the protagonists of that debate was Jakob Wimpfeling, an Alsatian born in Schlettstadt. He clearly advocated German patriotism and felt as German, and would not in his wildest dreams have expected that his hometown would once be called Sélestat.

So, when Louis XIV invaded the Alsace in the second half of the 17th century, there was already a German identity, albeit certainly not in the modern sense.

I propose that we should be examining how the French and Germans view nationality differently, because this is very important and different interpretations have led to huge conflicts in the past. We should also be looking at geography because the map is using the term 'natural borders', and not 'cultural borders'. I also suggest we take language less into account. If we are only looking at language to determine natural borders, then Germany's natural borders include Austria, and much of Switzerland; and France's natural borders should include part of North America and parts of Africa!
How we define nationality is not static, but changes very much over time. In Germany, the cultural and linguistic identity preceded the organization as a nation state, whereas in France it was the other way round. The German term for German originally referred to all people that spoke in a German dialect as opposed to those who spoke a Romance language. So, even people in the area of Switzerland, Austria, or the Netherlands (but not Denmark, which is not part of the German dialect continuum) would have self-identified as German in the 16th century. Later on, the term was used in a more restricted manner, with loyalty to a state becoming more important.

Even the French, however, are not free from a linguistic definition of their nationality, at least since the Revolution. Until then, for example, the Alsace was left alone with its cultural and linguistic identity, and some of the bourgeois elites there actually felt both German (culturally and liguistically) and French (politically). Later, however, France did not accept these special identities anymore; this is the reason why France in contrast to most other civilized nations did not even sign conventions for the protection of minority languages. It is also the reason why German was suppressed and in part forbidden after WWI and WWII. If the question of language were not central for France, why should the Alsace not have kept its cultural and linguistic identity?

In regard to natural borders - I have never understood such an artificial concept. If there is such a thing as a natural, geographic border, it is usually an ocean, or a mountain ridge, almost never a river. The point is, a natural border cannot be independent of cultural, linguistic, and political factors; otherwise, why not take the Elbe as France's natural border? Having said this, the most rational natural border between France and Germany would have been the Vosges Mountains, which conincided with the language border for a millennium.
 
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Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,757
Lorraine tudesque
#24
I didn't mean to suggest that France is more entitled to the heritage of the Frankish Kingdom than Germany. I was only pointing out that the French are related to Germans through the Franks.



But why classify people as French or German based on this? We could also say that according to historical linguistic borders, only Paris and Normandy and the areas around them are France's natural borders. This is because French is simply the Parisian language, and people in France assimilated to Parisian language and culture. During the Napoleonic Wars, when this map was designed, less than a quarter of Frenchmen spoke French. I don't agree with using historical linguistic borders to determine France's natural borders. After all, this is taking a mid 19th-mid 20th century idea (nationalism) and applying it to people in the past who didn't think this way. Germany didn't even exist in 1200, or 1500, or 1800, because people only began to think of themselves as belonging to the German nation in the mid 1800's.

I propose that we should be examining how the French and Germans view nationality differently, because this is very important and different interpretations have led to huge conflicts in the past. We should also be looking at geography because the map is using the term 'natural borders', and not 'cultural borders'. I also suggest we take language less into account. If we are only looking at language to determine natural borders, then Germany's natural borders include Austria, and much of Switzerland; and France's natural borders should include part of North America and parts of Africa!
I have already trying to point that

http://historum.com/speculative-history/61477-france-s-natural-borders.html#post1572997
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,903
Hercynian Forest
#25
To add to that, the Alsacians, who spoke German, saw themselves as French when annexed by Germany confusing many a German nationalist.
How do you know that? I am sure that many Alsatians did feel French in 1870, but how do we know that they constituted the majority? What about the situation in 1918, when Alsace-Lorraine declared independence? I think people in that region were confused about their national identity, and thus developed a very strong regional identity. So people would primarily feel as an Alsatian or a Lorrainer, not as a German or Frenchman.
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,903
Hercynian Forest
#26
By the way, I don't want to come over as a German nationalist. My argumentation would have certainly been very different if I discussed with a German nationalist who considered German-speaking regions like the Alsace as terra irredenta.
 

Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,757
Lorraine tudesque
#28
How do you know that? I am sure that many Alsatians did feel French in 1870, but how do we know that they constituted the majority? What about the situation in 1918, when Alsace-Lorraine declared independence? I think people in that region were confused about their national identity, and thus developed a very strong regional identity. So people would primarily feel as an Alsatian or a Lorrainer, not as a German or Frenchman.
There have been alsatian Protestants, alsatian Catholics, and Lorrainer.

But all togheter, yes, in 1918 the solution was independence.
 

Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,757
Lorraine tudesque
#29
That is so not correct. But we have an expert with isleifson.
We had alsatian Protestants, alsatian Catholics, not to talk about the many Jews.

Alot of the Catholic and the Jew left, and not only in 1871, but until 1914.

The Lorrainer had been completely surprised by the annexation, they had absolutely nothing to do with the Reich, since a long time.

Français je ne puis, allemand je ne veux, Lorrain je suis.

Which you can translate by

French I cannot be, German I don't want to be, Lorrainer I am.
 

Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,757
Lorraine tudesque
#30
By the way, I don't want to come over as a German nationalist. My argumentation would have certainly been very different if I discussed with a German nationalist who considered German-speaking regions like the Alsace as terra irredenta.
Keine Angst, das tut niemand hier.:)