The Birth of the Hexagon: 1962 and the Erasure of France’s Supranational History

  • Todd Shepard


In an article that appeared in Les lieux de memoires (1997), the historian Eugen Weber explained that it was not until the early 1960s that the term ‘the Hexagon’ became widely used by French writers to describe France, notably by those in the human sciences. It is somewhat difficult to convince informed observers that the seemingly self-evident description is so recent. The country does, after all, have six sides, as any map of Europe that includes political boundaries makes clear. Weber’s argument comes more sharply into view when he dates its emergence to around 1962. Although he does not directly link it to the end of French Algeria in that year, the date reminds readers that the territorial boundaries of modern France were never just European, although in 1962 the percentage of its territory outside of Europe shrunk from more than 50 percent to far less than 20 percent (with almost all of that in sparsely populated French Guiana). In 1848, the French constitution had declared that Algeria’s territory was part of France. ‘From empire to hexagon’ was how a 1981 study evoked the result of ‘decolonization’.1


French Government Universal Suffrage French Citizenship French Republic French History 
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© Todd Shepard 2016

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