What future for France’s House of History?


Plans for a Maison d'histoire de France were unveiled by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to a storm of protests, including criticism from many historians. Opponents feared that a museum focussed squarely on France's history would become a political vehicle as Sarkozy sought to use the issue of “national identity” in France to boost his appeal with the voters. But now that the museum's chief supporter has gone, the project appears to have gained in respectability among its former detractors. Antoine Perraud wonders what lies ahead for this once deeply controversial museum.

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At the beginning, when detailed plans were first unveiled, it seemed simply a hobby horse for the sixth president of the Fifth Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy (1). The purpose of the proposed Maison d'histoire de France, a museum devoted to French history and due to open in 2015, was to focus on “national identity”, a subject that became a key theme of Sarkozy's presidency as he sought to regain support on the far-right of the political spectrum.