French History @ IHR: Andrew Smith, Terror and Terroir

Date & Place: Monday 31st October, Pollard Room, IHR, North block, Senate House

Speakers: Andrew WM Smith (UCL), Máire Cross (Newcastle), Julian Jackson (QMUL), Kathy Burk (UCL)

Paper Title: Roundtable on Terror and terroir: the winegrowers of the Languedoc and modern France (Manchester University Press, 2016)

Chair: Iain Stewart (UCL)

Click HERE to listen to an mp3 recording of the paper (right click to save).


What on earth is wine terrorism? In recent times terrorism has been mostly associated with religion, but at the last IHR French History Seminar on Monday 31 October 2016, Andrew Smith drew our attention to a group of guerilla winegrowers  in the Languedoc who were planting bombs and breaking power lines in the late twentieth century. Who were they? and why were they doing this?

The CRAV – the Comité Régional d’Action Viticole – was born in 1961, but its origins can be traced back to 1907 when winegrowers revolted against growing economic insecurity. After the Second World War, frustrations persisted and evolved until they exploded in the 1960s onwards. More than a knee-jerk reaction, the violence unleashed by André Castera and his group revealed the desperation of a group on the periphery.

But Smith’s book is about more than the CRAV. By showing how the guerilla winegrowers were inspired by the tactics of the fellaghas from the Algerian war, he draws interesting connections between regionalism and empire. Not only that, but the problems that the winegrowers are faced with after the 1960s are ones imposed not only by the French government in Paris but also by the European political machine in Brussels. Ultimately modernisation, Europeanisation and globalisation threaten this region’s produce but also the identity it had created for itself.

Maire Cross (Newcastle) and Julian Jackson (QMUL) further added to the discussion: the importance of socialism was reinforced whilst the region’s fractured communities and therefore identities were underlined. Kathy Burk (UCL) finished off the evening by reminding us of France’s complicated relationship to wine – after all, the origins of wine are not in France, but in the Greek and Roman empires. All in all, this was a wonderful way to celebrate Smith’s first book which, as Maire Cross noted, showed how a produce, a region, a social movement can enrich our vision of history. So now you can discover it for yourself.

Andrew Smith, Terror and Terroir: The winegrowers of the Languedoc and Modern France (Manchester University Press, 2016).


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