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Manifestations of Poland in nineteenth-century French culture



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Devitt Tremblay, Mary Lucie Maeve 


This dissertation looks at manifestations of Poland in nineteenth-century France and how perceptions of Poland and Polish people evolved throughout the century. This evolution was a result of political changes in France as well as an increasing awareness and understanding of Poland. The Great Emigration, a migration of thousands of Polish exiles to France during the nineteenth century, changed French perceptions of Poland. The more Polish migrants entered France and settled into Parisian society, the more representations became realistic. Hence, stereotypes changed and evolved as a result of political changes and increased factual awareness.

Moreover, this dissertation suggests that culture and politics were inherently intertwined and illustrates how the French used Poland as a trope to promote their own political interests. Although the appropriation of Poland in France was prolific in the nineteenth century, it is a topic that has been neglected by scholars. This dissertation addresses this gap through a study of culture, particularly popular media. I have used a variety of primary source materials including costume books, caricatures, vaudevilles, melodramas, cookbooks, music sheets, and dance manuals to retrieve references to Pologne, polonais, and à la polonaise.

The concept of the nation plays a vital role, as the sources under consideration demonstrate how representations of Poland within France helped propagate the idea of an existing Polish nation over a century where Poland was difficult to locate. It is argued that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was considered ‘near-exotic’, it was removed; it was a ‘periphery’- a frontier between the non-exotic and the exotic. Its peripheral European status meant that it was considered an ‘other’ in France.

There are four chapters in this dissertation: one pertains to theatre, a second to images, the third concerns food and the fourth examines song, music, and dance. These chapters investigate some of the most common cultural forms through which Poland was manifested, particularly focusing on the public sphere.





Spary, Emma


History of France, History of Poland, Cultural History, Nineteenth-century French History, Cultural Appropriation, Cultural Hybridity, French culture


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Cambridge Trust