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Practicing Prejudice in French Law and Medicine, 1920-1945

by Julie Fette

Publication Year: 2012

In the 1930s, the French Third Republic banned naturalized citizens from careers in law and medicine for up to ten years after they had obtained French nationality. In 1940, the Vichy regime permanently expelled all lawyers and doctors born of foreign fathers and imposed a 2 percent quota on Jews in both professions. On the basis of extensive archival research, Julie Fette shows in Exclusions that doctors and lawyers themselves, despite their claims to embody republican virtues, persuaded the French state to enact this exclusionary legislation. At the crossroads of knowledge and power, lawyers and doctors had long been dominant forces in French society: they ran hospitals and courts, doubled as university professors, held posts in parliament and government, and administered justice and public health for the nation. Their social and political influence was crucial in spreading xenophobic attitudes and rendering them more socially acceptable in France.

Fette traces the origins of this professional protectionism to the late nineteenth century, when the democratization of higher education sparked efforts by doctors and lawyers to close ranks against women and the lower classes in addition to foreigners. The legislatively imposed delays on the right to practice law and medicine remained in force until the 1970s, and only in 1997 did French lawyers and doctors formally recognize their complicity in the anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy regime. Fette's book is a powerful contribution to the argument that French public opinion favored exclusionary measures in the last years of the Third Republic and during the Holocaust.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xiv

...Many people have helped me with this book. Herrick Chapman at New York University and Gérard Noiriel at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales have been invaluable mentors since its inception. Herrick Chapman incarnates the ideal role model: honest, committed, and passionate about rigorous scholarship. it is impossible to take stock of the ways in which he has fostered my academic growth...

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pp. 1-5

...In France between the two World Wars, lawyers and doctors complained that their professions were overcrowded, especially, they claimed, with foreigners and naturalized citizens. Activists rallied their fellow professionals to form a social movement and lobbied for state intervention to exclude undesirable competitors from the professions. These lobbying efforts were successful...

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1. The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Exclusion in the Professions

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pp. 6-29

...The nineteenth century was a period of major change for both doctors and lawyers. The medical and legal fields were disputed turf on which several types of practitioners battled for clientele. To gain a monopoly, doctors tried to diminish the influence of other healers. Lawyers were not as intent on eliminating other legal practitioners but instead concentrated their battles for professional dominance in a few strategic areas...

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2. Defense of the Corps: The Medical Mobilization against Foreigners and Naturalized Citizens

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pp. 30-68

...The decade of the 1920s was one of enormous postwar recuperation, demographic growth, and modernization. Rebuilding and repopulating the country were top priorities, and France attracted thousands of immigrants with opportunities for work. In 1927 the French government passed a major nationality law that liberalized nationality and naturalization requirements...

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3. The Art of Medicine: Access and Status

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pp. 69-89

...Although the movement to exclude foreigners during the interwar years was the most important manifestation of medical protectionism, doctors pursued other strategies for professional survival that call into question the notion that the anti-foreigner movement arose simply from xenophobia. Merging protectionism with professionalization, doctors strove to reduce the number of medical graduates...

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4. The Barrier of the Law Bar

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pp. 90-107

...During the interwar years, the decree of 20 June 1920 defined the rules of access to the legal profession. Lawyers themselves had lobbied for such legislation to back up their internal rules with the force of law, but the bars still deemed themselves “masters of their registry” (maîtres de leurs tableaux), in charge of granting access to the profession...

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5. Citizens into Lawyers: Extra Assimilation Required

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pp. 108-132

...Unlike doctors in the years between the wars, lawyers already possessed an airtight barrier against foreigners in their field through the formidable tool of the law bar. French nationality was required for bar membership. But beginning in the 1920s, recently naturalized French citizens became the new target of lawyers’ exclusionary sentiment...

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6. Lawyers during the Vichy Regime: Exclusion in the Law

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pp. 133-161

...After the Nazi invasion of Poland, France declared war on the Third Reich in September 1939, but months of what became known as the “phony war” followed. In May 1940 Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France. Over 4 million women, men, and children fled their homes in France and pushed southward in a great exodus...

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7. L’Ordre des Médecins: Corporatist Debut and Anti-Semitic Climax

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pp. 162-202

...The medical profession as a whole responded to Pétain’s accession to power with enthusiasm, for many reasons. Pétain chose a doctor, Bernard Ménétrel, as his personal secretary and chief of propaganda. With his privileged access to the head of state, Dr. Ménétrel received hundreds of letters from doctors who hoped his place at Vichy would enhance the medical profession’s prestige and meet their personal needs...

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Conclusion: Postwar Continuities and the Rupture of Public Apology

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pp. 203-216

...This book has analyzed a social movement from genesis to crystallization. The mobilization against foreigners and naturalized citizens in the professions was initiated and led “from below.” The legislation restricting access to law and medicine was instigated by lawyers, doctors, and students. They pressured parliament and government to satisfy their demands, and their mobilization prospered in the near absence of correctives by state actors...


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pp. 217-280


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pp. 281-304


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pp. 305-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780801463990
E-ISBN-10: 0801463998
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801450211
Print-ISBN-10: 0801450217

Page Count: 314
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1