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Can leaders of post-war Iraq learn from the French?

Published: 23 November 2004

A new book by a University of Southampton professor of French suggests the leaders of post-war Iraq could learn from the experience of France after the Second World War.

Professor Mike Kelly, who is Head of the School of Humanities, examines the way France reinvented itself in 1945 after a process of regime change led by the US and Britain.

"The way in which they rebuilt their national identity might hold lessons for other countries in the present day, where embattled national elites confront the strategic task of building or rebuilding a nation after conflict and regime change," he comments.

"The leaders of the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, might well examine post-conflict France for cultural and intellectual approaches to rebuilding a nation's identity. Seeing what the French achieved in 1945 could give deeper insights into the difficulties that have to be overcome, and the long-term price that might have to be paid for success."

Professor Kelly's book, The Cultural and Intellectual Rebuilding of France after the Second World War, has developed from his extensive researches into French cultural history. He demonstrates how important it was to rebuild a sense of national identity, with careful use of language, symbols and broadly inclusive ideas, but points to the cost of nation building in the areas of class and gender.

Notes for editors

  1. The Cultural and Intellectual Rebuilding of France after the Second World War is published by Palgrave Macmillan 2004 ISBN 1403933766, £45.00.
  2. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5,000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.

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