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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Welcome to my first blog

Hello and welcome to my first ever posting.

The blog has three areas to cover:-

1. A discussion of the strategy of fortifying the borders of France, from Vauban to Maginot.

2. My visits to those fortifications, in particular to the UNESCO World Heritage listed sites of Vauban.

3. General observations on French history and politics, England cricket team, film, theatre, opera and classical music, jazz, food, policiers and any other arty-farty topics that come to mind.

Vauban, full name, Sébastien le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban, Marshall of France, Inspector-General of Fortifications. It was Vauban who formalised French fortresses and their building into a defence strategy, the Pré Carré. Vauban's strategy was the cornerstone of French defence policy, through the levée en masse, the works of Séré de Riviere and into the Maginot Line era. There is no definitive list of Vauban's works but there is a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing of twelve of his best sites.

The Maginot Line (La Ligne Maginot) is named after André Maginot, a decorated World War One hero who became very popular in the twenties after he became Minister for Pensions. In 1929 he was appointed as Minister of War and lobbied very hard to acquire the finances for the work.

This blog has come about following a discussion with my hairdresser, Derek. He has cut my hair since my partner and I moved to York in 1994 and he shares my interest in France and in the 14-18 Western Front.  In June 2011 I took early retirement from the UK Civil Service and we were talking about my plans for all the free time I would have. I told him about my plans to visit the UNESCO Vauban listed sites and some of the late 19th century forts and Maginot Line ouvrages. Derek opined I should write a blog about my travels. So here I go.

In addition, I will try to explain the Vauban system of defences, in a very basic way, how I understand it. Over the next few months, I hope to show how the various fort designers fit together over the three hundred years of 1650 - 1950. My interest in French politics and history, particulary military history, covers that same three hundred years period. I specialise in studying the Third Republic (1870 - 1940).

I would like to hear from anyone with similar interests, I believe there are at least two of us, so please get in touch.

To end, here is a photograph taken in Besancon, in Eastern France, of a householder who has his/her own piece of Vauban fortifications.

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