Date of Award

Spring 1997

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Ruff, Julius

Second Advisor

Hay, Carla H.

Third Advisor

Gardinier, David E.

Abstract

In many ways the day of 30 October 1994 was just like any other one in the French city of Nantes: damp and cloudy, with intermittent rain ranging from light drizzle to heavy downpours. But this day held special significance for me, for in the morning I boarded the bus in Nantes to travel to a little town--a place that would become the object of my academic blood, sweat, and tears for the following two and a half years. After getting on the bus at the Rue de Baco, I looked out of my window with great interest at the landscape, people, buildings, and generally anything else that might give me some insight into what I was about to study. Traveling first over the Loire River and then into the southern suburbs of Nantes, I soon caught my first glimpse of this mysterious land about which I had been reading over the previous two years--the terrain that the French call le bocage. For the first time I saw the muddy, rain-soaked fields, many of which were still lined by trees and various thickets. I then understood better than ever why the bocage had remained a land of limited communication and transportation, as well as cultural isolation, for so long. I tried to visualize what it had been like for the rag-tag bands of counterrevolutionary troops, who briefly had claimed this land as their own two hundred years prior to my trip, to march over the moors or hide in the thickets. Above all I was struck by the countless calvaires along the road and the small but impressive parish churches standing in each and every town we passed. It did not take very long before I had reached my destination, the town of Machecoul, where a whole new world--both past and present--was waiting for me. It is with much nostalgia that I recall that trip, probably because I learned more about French history that week in Machecoul than I did in all the books and documents I poured over during the several months that followed.

COinS

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