Selected French History and Culture Resources

The collections of the Center for Research Libraries, combined with the holdings of other North American libraries as identified by two CIFNAL projects, provide a wealth of material for the study of French history and culture. The following article highlights particular collections and resources available to CRL and CIFNAL members, and focuses on CIFNAL's ongoing efforts to identify significant resources. CRL's collection of francophone material is sizable, encompassing archival materials, monographs, manuscripts, dissertations, newspapers, serials, official gazettes, government publications, and a variety other materials. The bulk of resources come from Europe, but also other areas such as northern and West Africa, Middle East, Caribbean, and South and Southeast Asia. Together, French language resources represent more than 10 percent of all items in CRL's online catalog. Particularly strong is CRL's collection of French dissertations. With more than 125,000 doctoral dissertations produced in France, this represents the largest collection of francophone graduate theses outside of Europe. More than 8,600 entries list France as a subject (note: not all records have subject headings), covering all aspects of humanities, social science, and sciences. While a relatively minor percentage of the collection was produced in countries other than France, a great number of available dissertations deal with aspects of le monde francophone. Newspapers and news collections abound: CRL holds more than 600 newspapers published in France and at least 250 from Africa. Some examples:
  • La Gazette de France, 1649–1660; 1774–1834. One of the oldest newspapers in France.
  • Collection on the Revolution of 1848 in France. Newspapers Collection on the Revolution of 1848 in France. Newspapers. Filmed from holdings of the British Library and others. Some are available online through a partnership with ARTFL.
  • Le Parisien Libéré , 1944–1986. Originally an organ of the French underground, now one of the largest papers in France.
  • Force ouvrière (Paris)1945–1966. Official weekly of the General Confederation of Labour-Workers' Force.
  • Le Courrier d’Afrique (Kinshasa, Congo) 1943–1970. A significant independent newspaper from the Belgian Congo, important for the study of colonial affairs, nationalism, independence, and rebellion.
In addition there is an astonishing wealth of archival material on microform. Among French government archives, for example, one finds a variety of consular and diplomatic files from the French Foreign Ministry, including: CRL has acquired comprehensive sets of such noted microform series as French Drama, French Books 1601–1700, Eighteenth Century French Literature, and Ouvrages sur Voltaire, 1788–1826. CRL also possesses extensive documentation of the French revolution, including materials such as French Revolution, critical and historical literature and Pamphlets and periodicals relating to the French Revolution of 1848. Finally, CRL has acquired microfilms of manuscripts such as:

In 2007, CIFNAL initiated a project to identify and publicize microform collections pertaining to the history, culture, language, and literature of France and francophone countries. Members of the project have collaborated to bring together a list of important resources, which is maintained on the CIFNAL site as a wiki. Resources are grouped in categories, for example:

The list includes sets but not journals; each title has links to OCLC records to identify holding libraries.

Another CIFNAL project aims to assess North American library coverage of regional and local French research resources, including publications of learned societies, archival inventories, and periodicals. Still developing a methodology, the effort has surveyed learned societies publications for Languedoc and Brittany. Using the OCLC database, one can identify North American holdings for major serial publications of the principal societies of these regions. For example, both the Fédération des sociétés académiques et savantes Languedoc-Pyrénées-Gascogne and the Fédération historique du Languedoc méditerranéen et du Roussillon publish the proceedings of their Congrès d'études; both series are held by 13 North American libraries. For Brittany, the Société d'histoire et d'archéologie de Bretagne's Archives historiques de Bretagne are held by 21 libraries while its Bulletin, subsequently Mémoires, is held by only 12. Predictably the society publications for smaller regions (e.g., Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine) are held by fewer libraries. Among the difficulties in using WorldCat for this research is the inability to get an accurate picture of whether North American libraries have full coverage of these serial publications because detailed holdings records are often unavailable. French regional and local learned societies and their publications are easily identified via the Web site of the Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques. Some digitization projects are underway; notably, the French national library has digitized 36 periodicals published between 1750 and 1914 by 29 learned societies of the Aquitaine and Lorraine regions.