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A state that never happened: a case of alternative history during the alteration of generations in the French historiography

Uvarov Pavel

   The success of French ‘middle-aged’ humanities scholars gives rise to surprise. Contrary to the scepsis of elder colleagues, the works of this generation, from Thomas Piketti to Patrick Boucheron, have proved to be in demand. They are not afraid to make mistakes, and this gives them opportunity to answer simple, but at the same time very important questions. Such scientific style is also inherent to Elodie Lecuppre-Desjardin, who has dared to ask why la Grande Principauté de Bourgogne (1363–1477) turned out to be ‘unfinished’ as a political body. (Lecuppre-Desjardin E. Le Royaume inachevé des ducs de Bourgogne. P.: Belin, 2016). Her investigation follows a narrow verge between ‘finalism’ and ‘alternative history’ (uchronie), without being afraid of posing theoretical questions long disregarded by French historiography. For example, what is a state, and which type of medieval states should the domain of the Dukes of Burgundy be attributed to? The research of E. Lecuppre-Desjardin gains new dimensions when compared with Russian historiography which has its own tradition of study the history of la Grande Principauté de Bourgogne and a different terminological system, opening new connotations of the term ‘state’. Most importantly, a detached approach to the medieval West in the context of the World history allows us to surmise a positive connection between the failure of the dukes of Burgundy in a state-building and a striking economic and cultural rise of that region. If Europe was an exception, then lands of the dukes of Burgundy of later Middle Ages were the essence of this exceptionality.

Keywords: French historiography of the 21st century, ‘Great Duchy of Burgundy’, medieval state, medieval nations, alternative history
Link: Uvarov P. A state that never happened: a case of alternative history during the alteration of generations in the French historiography // Annuaire d'études françaises 2017: La France et la Méditerranée aux époques moderne et contemporaine / Annual of French Studies 2017: France and the Mediterranean in Modern and Contemporary Times.М. P. 385-405.