the discovery of france


At the time of the French Revolution of 1789, only about half of the population of that country knew French, and bilingualism was common. France continued to accommodate a myriad of tongues right through the 19th century: Flemish, Provençal, Gascon, Catalan, Basque, and so on, and many dialects and patois, as well as extraordinary variation in spoken language within regions. The diversity wasn’t merely lingual: A variety of pre-Christian religious beliefs and superstitions, worldviews and ways of life flourished simultaneously in the more provincial countryside beyond Paris. Even the legal order varied greatly: In addition to the difference between regions influenced by customary law — essentially northern France — and Roman law, a variety of local systems of justice survived intact, each system bringing along with it a strong sense of belonging to one of the myriad petites patries of the hexagon.

more from The NY Sun here.