When people think of France what comes to mind, for many it is the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame. So when Notre Dame’s roof went up in flames last week the outpouring from across the world was momentous. In our age news travels, demonstrating how interconnected we have become and the news stories that followed demonstrated the transnational age we live in. For instance, Heritage England has pledged to provide resources if needed, such as craftsmen and archaeologists demonstrating a level of international cooperation which was mirrored by the Japanese government.[1]

Interestingly, the fire at Notre Dame has also inspired help in other areas of the world, boosting the fundraising efforts for black churches in America which were destroyed by racially motivated arson attacks.[2] It seems that the plight of this internationally recognised, national monument has encouraged others to tackle the plight in their surrounding area.

In many ways Notre Dame has become a transnational symbol, causing people to acknowledge and address problems within their own country. In fact, the guardian article which discusses the pledges made by the Heritage England, uses Notre Dame as a spring board to discuss the lack of supervision within restoration work. The article quotes Michael Daley, the director of ArtWatch UK, the conservation watchdog, who highlights the many fires in UK have occurred during restoration work, such as at Windsor Castle, the Cutty Sark and the Glasgow School of Art.

However, the most notable of example of this was the social commentary on the donations from the French billionaires that poured in following the fire. Wealth inequality which was used as a staging point to discuss wealth distribution not only in the UK but also around the world.[3]

In many ways, I am increasingly coming to understand Hugh’s perspective on transnational history, at least in the modern world. With the world so interconnected as it is now, is it not the job of the historian to reflect this? Transnational history it could, therefore, be argued is simply how historian should write a good history, for as the news articles have shown us, any event can be linked to a wider theme. I’m not sure I agree with this, however I think it is an interesting talking point. Instead, for me, as I have already mentioned in previous blog posts and in seminars, transnational history has an important political dimension. Its purpose not only to explore connection within the world, but also to remind the reader that it is there and has been for hundreds of years.

[1] Dalya Alberge, Notre Dame fire: UK ready to share conservation expertise, 20 May 2019, <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/20/notre-dame-fire-uk-ready-to-share-conservation-expertise>[22 May 2019]

[2] Karen Zraick, Niraj Chokshi, Black churches destroyed by arson see huge spike in donations after Notre Dame fire, 18 April 2019, <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/black-church-fire-arson-attack-crowdfunding-notre-dame-donation-a8873576.html>[22 April 2019]

[3] Aditya Chakrabortty, The billionaires’ donations will turn Notre Dame into a monument to hypocrisy, 18 April 2019, <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/18/billionaires-donations-notre-dame-france-inequality>[22 April 2010]

From the Embers

One thought on “From the Embers

  • April 26, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    I really like your comments on, the idea of transnational symbols. For my project I also am looking at the permeation of ideas and symbols in transnational space. Radio freedom was used by the ANC to spread the message of the liberation movement, black nationalism and anti colonialism across Southern Africa. Similarly the news of the incaceraton of Mandela and the stripping of Desmond Tutus passports was used to inspire a transnational movement across the west to oppose Apartheid.
    One of the things that interested me so much about the nitre dame for was how strongly propel identified with a building. Despite ether incredible wealth of the Catholic Church and France as a developed nation, the vast majority of the funds came from private individuals. It’s also quite intrestinf to contrast the speed with which the money was raised to other charitable events. I read online that the amount of money raised to rebuild Notre Dame would be enough to clean the great plastic block which is floating around the ocean. At the risk of mentioning the “I” word once more, it’s fascinating to see what people build their identity around. One of the conclusions I have come to is that identity is far more powerful than I had previously credited it being. In my project this is something I am currently wrestling with, as non state nationalist actors and movements interact with states which at points have supported and undermined their shared and seperate goals.

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