Could a successful Napoleonic France Frenchify the Rhineland

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Noscoper, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. Noscoper Well-Known Member

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    Could a successful Napoleonic France through a mix of settlement and assimilation turn the Rhineland into majority French
     
  2. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    You mean French-speaking? That would take a lot of population exchange, the rhineland was heavily populated. Why would they do that?
     
  3. Noscoper Well-Known Member

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  4. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    Come on, those were either colonies outside of heavily populated Europe, or regional languages in parts which are considered to be "France" since more than half a millennium.
    Nobody ever claimed the Rhineland was French. Elsass-Lothringen is the only analogy that comes to my mind, and that was more ambiguous and way less populated.
     
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  5. Schnozzberry Secretly illiterate Donor

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    Just because it was France doesn't mean what happened wasn't wrong or a serious endeavor. In 1860 when the non-French languages began to be suppressed across all of France, 39% of the French population were native Occitan speakers, and 48% of the country spoke non-French languages as a native tongue. Now, only 1% of France are native Occitan speakers, and less than 7% are native speakers of any of the native languages which were spoken within France before 1860.

    The French certainly could Frenchify the Rhineland to a certain degree. It was the official policies to suppress native languages, and while native cultures would remain to some degree, I don't doubt they could largely be suppressed too.
     
  6. Jiraiyathegallant Well-Known Member

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    I would think another major obstacle could be fertility. When they are having far more children then you are, it is much more difficult to colonize the place. France would need to probably improve their TFR or see the Rhinelands weakened compared to OTL to make this viable.
     
  7. funnyhat Well-Known Member

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    We should note that the objective was not to subjugate the non-francophone peoples and make them second-class citizens, but the reverse: having them learn French would allow them to participate more completely in civic life. French was also the dominant international language in this era so there was an incentive for people to learn it anyway. With the rise of universal public education, I don't see why the people of the Rhineland wouldn't have followed the example of the Alsatians, Basques, Bretons, Provençaux, etc.
     
  8. Indicus Raianus Indicorum

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    Presumably the coal boom that would exist there would attract lots of Francophone people, so there’s that.
     
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  9. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    Historically in the Rhineland the region was rather docile and accepting under French rule, and wasn't particularly discriminated against. The percentage of conscripts who deserted was lower than the national average (well below actually, at 13% in 1804-1805 and 3% between 1806 and 1810, compared to 28% and 13% nationally), and volunteers equally around 15% of the conscripted rate represented acceptance of military service for France. Conscription rates by 1810 were around 40% higher than the national average, after initially having been well below during the first part of the decade. Business interests generally supported the French until late in the period, when the tightening of the continental blockade brought opposition. So too, most elite and notable interests rallied to the French, except in Cleves. Official administration ratios in regards to officials was roughly equivalent to "Old France" in the South : the Rhineland provided 4 prefects (and 2 outside of France proper in broader imperial territories), and had 15 prefects from the rest of France. In France as a whole each department supplied on average 2.3 prefects, while the Rhineland provided 1/1.5., and Southern France provided 1.7. So, mild discrimination, but one which was fading over time : by the end of the empire, most offices were held by local Rhinelanders and these were starting to head into the interior, but this process was cut short when the regions were lost. This discrimination was probably more because the Rhinelanders were provincials instead of not being "French". The Rhineland is famous for having a long-lasting admiration and support for Napoleonic codes of justice and administration, which outlasted the French period.

    There was of course, some resistance, particularly due to continuing amity for Austria, and in Cologne in particular there was a great deal of opposition during the IIIrd coalition and during the Vth coalition there was a small rebellion in the Saar in response to the mobilization of national guardsmen, although this was put down in a few hours with no casualties. The Saar did in contrast have the best conscription record. There were continuing numbers of soldiers who served in the Hapsburg armies, and diaries of soldiers from the Rhineland do not seem to indicate that the French army was a "school of the nation" - the soldiers don't seem to have been very patriotic as Germans or French, but instead their identity was as soldiers. Opposition during the wars against Prussia was by contrast, minimal. Draft dodging was mildly higher than in the rest of France in 1806-1810, at 33% compared to 27%, but this was at least in part due to the Rhineland being on the frontier, making it much easier, and due to the many hills and forests. It would be unfair to say that there had been any significant change in the identity of the region to make them into French. But simultaneously, opposition does not seem to have been very severe. If there was opposition, it seems to have been in bureaucratic and legal terms to attempt to negotiate the position of the Rhineland vis-a-vis the French state, instead of violent military opposition. And neither was pro-German (and above all pro-Prussian) sentiment, strongly expressed.

    German did continue to exist in administrative roles, and many of the mayors didn't speak French so relied upon secretaries for writing in French. In 1810 at least, mayors were allowed to write their reports in German.

    As a synthesis of these elements :
    1)The Rhineland wouldn't face a serious political opposition movement to being part of France. There might be occasional grumblings, but French rule was not markedly unpopular or detested, and in times of peace the burden of conscription and taxes will fall.
    2)A surviving Napoleon France will have a different ideology of what is "French" and the boundaries of Frenchness as compared to the original France. While still being highly concentrated upon Paris and in this sense hierarchical and unequal, I think that it would be less exclusionary and more cosmopolitan. France is the greatest power in Europe and an empire which rules over many lands, and resultantly the imposition of French will be less defensive, and although encouraged by the French state, it won't be tinged with the fear of inadequacy and reactive nationalism in response to the Prussian/German challenge. Furthermore too, it will be more of an imperial conception, rather than strictly national conception. In time this distinction of empire vs. nation will close, but I think that it would be less tight under Napoleonic France than originally.
    3)Nor do I expect that there would be any negative stigma attached to German on the French as compared to OTL. OTL German was a threatening language spoken by a dangerous continental enemy, the usage of which in the border regions carried distinctly political overtones inimical to the French nation. In contrast, in a Napoleonic France, German is spoken by a wide swathe of allied (and harmless) states in Central Europe, as well as admittedly by the more dangerous - but also distant - Austrians and Prussians. Rather than being a language which is to be suppressed, it is a language which is a useful tool for connection to the Eastern marches of France, and instead of a dangerous and threatening tongue, one which doesn't carry a negative symbolism.
    4)I therefor expect that the Rhineland will see a steady expansion of French as part of France, as a result of education, connections to the rest of France, links with the broader world (which will have French even more markedly than the OTL 19th century as its greater lingua franca), ambitions to rise higher in the administration, and movement into the territory of other francophones, but that there will be less of a hard language barrier than OTL. "Frenchification" will still occur, but it will be on a frenchification which will be less absolute and which has less defensiveness against local languages than OTL.

    tl:dr I think that the Rhineland would be successfully frenchified in regards to speaking French and being a loyal part of France which considers itself French, but that this would be part of a French nation with a significantly different perspective in regards to minority languages in general and German in particular, and with a different political ideology distinctly different than the OTL Republican ideology.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  10. ennobee Well-Known Member

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    It depends on what you mean by 'French'. If you define it as willingly adopting the French legal and political system, you could argue that most of Europe today does this anyway in one form or another. All of continental Europe uses the -originally French- metric system and has a legal code based on the Napoleonic Codex. If you mean as a kind of extension of the French empire, much depends on how united the other German regions will become and how strong they can project the idea of 'German-ness' to make the Rhinelanders feel like Germans that live under French occupation rather then German-speaking citizens of the 'Republique'. (Note that for instance until much later Bavaria was actually considered Germany proper and not just a region geographically as well as culturally halfway between Germany and Austria but neither belonging to both.)

    As for the Rhineland becoming a French speaking region of France proper, not within the first 50 years, but if France can hold on to the region for at least that long, eventually assimilation will creep in.
     
  11. Achaemenid Rome Iron Age City-State

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    A lot of Germans might immigrate to the Seine river valley and French Belgium as part of industrialization. After which point, the Germans would be assimilated within 2-3 generations.

    The French would also migrate out into Holland, the Ruhr, and the overall Rhineland as those areas industrialize and opportunities for French speakers open up.

    A France without the turbulence and coups of the 19th century, with persisting stability under the Empire, and with access to resources across the entirety of Western and Central Europe, might have a higher total fertility rate for the French, because they would both be more prosperous and have their population spread out over a larger area.
     
  12. Noscoper Well-Known Member

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    Similar to Normandy, They both speak French and feel French
     
  13. Matthew Metek New emperor of Rome

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    The thing is , the german in the long run would never give up the rhineland. After all it was the cradle of germany ( see Aachen ? ). And even if France could hold it , itwould take time. Beside this is fun to see the annexions by France not saw as an oppresive form of assimilation. I mean see that part of Flanders , Alsace and even that part of the Ardennes ? Then weren't really french speaking or even french at all. Meanwhile when Germany took territories they are saw as brute warmongers.
     
  14. Xgentis Member

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    The Rhineland became the cradle of Germany later during the napoleonic era the economy was still mainly agrarian. I don't see why they would not be able to assimilate the region.
     
  15. lotrian Well-Known Member

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    Germany gave up on Prussia OTL. Although I agree it's much smaller and remote. But at the time of the POD there is no Germany, so it's hard to predict how or if Germany will form at all. ITTL, I see it likely to have a balkanized Germany with a Northern Protestant one, Austria, southern catholic state(s?) and the frenchified southwestern one.
    Flanders (as a whole) had belong to the French Crown for centuries, Alsace has been conquered in the 30YW. As for the Ardennes, I really don't know what you are referring to, since it has belong to France for most of history, if not, to Burgundy; and it is French-speaking.

    If you go through far-fetched claims, you can even claim Rheinland to be the cradle of France : Franks originated from there, and the aforementioned Aachen was the capital of Charlemagne.
    You could expect a state propaganda to make mention of that.
     
  16. Socrates Well-Known Member

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    With all respect, that's just crap. How does encouraging priests to only give communion in French encourage entry into civic life for these people? The purpose wasn't to make non-French speakers second class citizens or to help them, but to wipe out regional identities so it wouldn't compete with French nationhood.
     
  17. Socrates Well-Known Member

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    Prosperity typically reduces fertility rates, not increase them. Having more land also means more population in that land, so population density would be little different.
     
  18. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    Which Germany? A surviving Napoleonic empire has a couple various Germanies hanging out.
    There is the Confederation of the Rhine, which might evolve into something more stable in the long run, but frankly I have little idea.
    There is the Austrian Empire, which did have quite a deal of continuing attachment in the Rhineland.
    And finally there is Prussia, which had minimal support in the Rhineland.

    If you mean the Germanic people as a whole, well, people get reconciled to things. The Germans got reconciled to their territorial losses after WW2. The French were becoming increasingly reconciled to having lost Alsace-Lorraine until WW1 broke out. Grievances only last so long, and there is no unified German consciousness built on opposition to France : large portion of the Germans are allied or under the broader imperial control of France in the Confederation of the Rhine.

    And a lot of people very much do see Revolutionary and Napoleonic France as "brute warmongers", so there is no hypocrisy here related to a double standard for French-Germans. If there is some double standard, then it is that the militarism which the Germans are condemned for under Nazism and to a lesser extent under the German Empire, was spreading either a genocidal or at least authoritarian state, while the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic states were at least spreading a state which was more liberal and progressive than the ancien régime monarchies which opposed it.

    Not necessarily : the fertility transition has always had handy charts associated with it which have shown that it occurs when a certain economic level is reached. But the people who had the highest birth rate in 19th century Europe were generally the English, who bred like rats. The English were also the richest people. Nowadays there is a pronounced dip in TFR which occurs for states which have reached a high human development index but not the one of the highest level nations in Western Europe and North America, such as Eastern Europe, which places them below both the richest states and the poorest states : in effect, if they became more wealthy, then following the chart their TFR would go up. Its a complex subject, and there is a lot more than simply GDP per capit at work.
    Generally the assumption presented on this forum is that stronger industrialization : state becomes more like England : population grows faster. I am not really a convinced believer in that, as while England had high population growth rate, Belgium, the second most industrialized nation in Europe, had mediocre population growth. However, a Napoleonic France might have higher growth rates in the way of lower casualties from war at least, and also since the manpower distribution in France was excess population in the French countryside, as French industry did not grow enough to keep up with the transition of the population into cities. The French population pursued a fertility limiting strategy in response to that, which might be altered here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  19. Achaemenid Rome Iron Age City-State

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    Total fertility rate is much more complicated than that. Wealth is only one of many factors. On its own, wealth isn't usually the thing decreasing fertility rates. Instead, it is urbanization and education, (factors which wealth can increase, but are nonetheless distinct things), that cause most of the decrease in fertility rate. Specifically the increased density of urbanization.

    There are in fact areas of modern India with a lower total fertility rate than the United States; yet these areas are definitely not wealthier per capita than the United States. They are however, many times more densely populated, which has led to their TFR lowering to sub-replacement at a lower level of economic development. Yes these are, for the most part, the wealthier states of India, but that doesn't tell the whole story because if we went on wealth alone and compared it to other countries, we'd expect a much higher TFR.

    [​IMG]

    During the industrial revolution and before the demographic transition has completed, an increase in wealth/resources would certainly lead to an increase (or at least a lack of decrease) in fertility, as we could see in the United Kingdom, which experienced natural population growth for a longer period of time than any other industrial power, due to being the most prosperous among them.
     
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  20. HunterX Well-Known Member

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    Not likely. You'd get a rise in pro-German language nationalism just like you did across Europe during the 19th century. The Rhineland wouldn't speak French anymore than Bohemia speaks German.
     
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