The automobile is an object that has been systematically consumed to become part of the fabric of society, hence its impact and its perception make the car a remarkably precise means of studying cultural values. As it grew in popularity, the automobile conditioned the texture of modern life. The particularly car-centred society of modern and contemporary France is especially apt for such critical examination. Precisely because the automobile became so ubiquitous, people from all classes interacted with it, making it part of the national cultural fabric. The automobile thus provides us with an accurate prism through which to examine the evolution of French society in the modern and post-modern eras. Taking the Second World War as a pivotal moment in the development of France, this book demonstrates how the automobile was consumed and, crucially, fetishized in distinct ways before and after the global conflict. This social evolution allows us to view French culture “through the window” of the automobile as an embodiment of technology and progress in 20th-century France. The present volume accordingly seeks to explore and explain the processes of representation and mediation involved in the evolution of French society’s construction and consumption of the automobile, and resulting impacts on local and national identities. This ongoing process is examined by means of a detailed case study from the late-19th century to the 1973 oil crisis.
“The definitive statement in English on the post-war history of automobiles in France. This book will greatly appeal to historians and cultural studies practitioners dealing with modern France, as well as interdisciplinary scholars of automobility and those working in the cultural history of transportation and technology.”
David Inglis, University of Helsinki