Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) at the Extremes of the French Third Republic
Chapter 2 “Le Drapeau dans le Fumier”
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On April 11, 1899 Gustave Hervé was appointed professor of history at the Lycée of Sens in the department of Yonne, one of the most rural in France. Sens, itself, was one of the few urban centers in this primarily wine growing region. Hervé had been employed in the educational institutions of the Third Republic since 1890 as a pion and professor. He had previously taught at the lycée in a temporary position from January until October 1896. By 1899 his socialist ideas of a reformist and conventionally Blocard variety were clearly in evidence but that was soon to change. The faculty at the lycée was split between clericals and Republicans; administratively, it was a secular institution, but, in fact, the lycée’s curriculum was strongly influenced by the clergy of the area.1 Apart from his classroom duties teaching the largely middle class students of Sens and the nearby regions, Hervé also set up a Popular University for workers in Sens. In 1912 he recalled the episode in this manner. “After having instructed the sons of the bourgeoisie, I considered it not only my right but my duty to instruct workers and peasants who had not had the means to avail themselves of facilities at the lycée … The Popular University of Sens was one of my chairs.”2
Victor Méric described this period at Sens as a sort of double life for Hervé.
“A few weeks after his...
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