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French Cycling A Social and Cultural History by Hugh Dauncey


French Cycling A Social and Cultural History by Hugh Dauncey

French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History aims to provide a balanced and detailed analytical survey of the complex leisure activity, sport, and industry that is cycling in France. Identifying key events, practices, stakeholders and institutions in the history of French Cycling , the volume presents an interdisciplinary analysis of how cycling has been significant in French society and culture since the late Nineteenth century. Cycling as Leisure is considered through reference to the adoption of the bicycle as an instrument of tourism and emancipation by women in the 1880s, for example, or by study of the development in the 1990s of long-distance tourist cycle routes. Cycling as Sport and its attendant dimensions of amateurism/professionalism, national identity, the body and doping, and other issues is investigated through study of the history of the Tour de France, the track-racing organised at the Velodrome d'hiver in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and other emblematic events. Cycling as Industry and economic activity is considered through an assessment of how cycling firms have contributed to technological innovation at various junctures in France's economic development. Cycling and the Media is investigated through analysis of how cyclesport has contributed to developments in the French press (in early decades) but also to new trends in television and radio coverage of sports events. Based on a very wide range of primary and secondary sources, the volume aims to present in clear language an explanation of the varied significance of cycling in France over the last hundred years.


The style of writing is clear and accessible to a reader new to the subject, but the multiple dimensions of this work mean that even those readers with specialist knowledge of one kind or another are likely to find much of interest. -- Edward Nye Hugh Dauncey, French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012. vi + 290 pp. Notes, bibliography, and index. $99.95 U.S. (cl). ISBN 978-1-84631-835-1. Reviewed by Christopher S. Thompson, Ball State University. In this first scholarly book-length study of one of France's most important sports, Hugh Dauncey promises the reader an interdisciplinary analysis of how cycling has been significant in French society and culture since the late nineteenth century (p. 1). As he rightly points out, cycling is far more than just a sport, it is a ludo-sporting-utility practice (p. 4), which makes it arguably a more complex activity than other sporting or recreational practices that are, in essence, just games or sports (p. 4). This is a crucial point: unlike, say, soccer balls, bicycles have had and still have their utilitarian applications, both military (through World War I, particularly) and civilian (transportation and commuting). Moreover, in addition to its athletic dimension (road, track, and, more recently, mountain bike [VTT] competitions), cycling has always included a significant leisure component, such as riding in city parks or out in the countryside. Finally, perhaps more than any other physical activity, cycling has been intimately linked with the development and economic prospects of important commercial and industrial interests: going back to its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, the fortunes of cycle manufacturers, of course, but also of manufacturers of tires, clothing, components, and accessories have been inextricably tied to the popularity of cycling itself. As Dauncey demonstrates, that popularity has, especially since World War II, ebbed and flowed, declining in the immediate postwar period in large measure as a result of the development of inexpensive motorized vehicles (notably the Velo Solex), before experiencing a resurgence in recent decades following the invention of new forms of cycling and the implementation in large French cities of public bicycle provision schemes (such as the ubiquitous Velib's in Paris), motivated by ecological concerns and the desire to improve the quality of life in large, congested urban environments. Confronted by the dauntingly multifaceted nature of French cycling, Dauncey adopts a case-study method, the analysis of a carefully chosen selection of topics representative of the principal social, cultural, economic, sporting, and political dimensions of the activity (p. 6). These case studies, in turn, are focused on five essential themes: leisure, recreation and sociability; utility; industry, commerce, and technology; sport, competition, and media; and 'identity

. 7). As the above ambitious agenda suggests, the book's greatest strength is the scope and comprehensiveness of its coverage. Dauncey's choices are generally well-conceived, although there is, perhaps inevitably, the occasional somewhat perplexing inclusion or omission. French Cycling is organized chronologically into eight chapters, in addition to an introduction and a conclusion, with the periodization largely determined by technological and other trends in French cycling, although occasionally, notably in the case of the interwar period, the chronology coincides with broader historical developments and a more conventional periodization. A key focus of Dauncey's study, especially early on, is on what he refers to as French cycling's sports-media-industrial complex (p. 45). For those familiar with the history of French cycling, this will come as no surprise, but Dauncey is justified in emphasizing this crucial nexus in the development of cycling in France. From the sport's earliest period, media entities (notably the sporting press, and later radio and television), cycle and related manufacturers, and the sport's governing organizations collaborated to promote cycling, implementing a variety of strategies, most notably the organization of races, to fuel the nascent interest in the bicycle, whose modern variant was invented in the late 1860s. They also, however, at times found themselves at cross purposes, as when the organizer of the Tour de France sought to defuse the influence of major cycle manufacturers, who sponsored the top teams and star riders in the race during the 1920s as a means of promoting their wares, by turning in the 1930s to national and regional teams whom the race organizers supplied with bicycles. The contributions and experiences of a fourth group of actors, cycling clubs, are also explored, as Dauncey examines the various motivations--economic and social--that converged to create and sustain this new sporting and leisure activity. The Tour de France and other forms of cycling competition receive their due, but Dauncey intelligently avoids the trap of an overemphasis on races and the Tour in particular. As his study convincingly demonstrates, a social and cultural history of French cycling is about much more than the sport's most famous races. That said, as he addresses the issue of identities, he takes the time to offer brief vignettes of certain postwar racers (Vietto, Robic, and Bobet in the 1940s and 1950s; Poulidor, Anquetil, and somewhat curiously, Thevenet from the late 1950s to the late 1970s), who, he argues, were seen by the French public to personify certain traits or values. His most original section on competitive cycling is his treatment of France's track successes beginning in the 1960s--notably the exceptional career of the sprinter (and later national coach) Daniel Morelon--which were part of the new emphasis in the Fifth Republic on sporting achievement ( la France qui gagne ) in the wake of France's poor showing at the 1960 Olympic Games, which de Gaulle had deplored as inconsistent with his vision of la grande nation. Dauncey is especially good on the institutional, economic, and commercial history of French cycling. He effectively addresses the institutional battles that occurred at various junctures of cycling's history, as stakeholders and federations with diverging visions of cycling's future in France (and internationally) competed for control over one or more of its facets (competition, cyclo-tourism, et cetera). Dauncey's examination of the rise, and at times decline, of manufacturers is compelling. He covers, of course, the successful pioneers of cycling's early phase, such as the Compagnie Parisienne, a now familiar part of the history of French cycling. Particularly interesting is his treatment of innovative postwar French firms (Look, Time, and certain niche frame manufacturers), who managed to adjust to international competition and prosper. Globalization, predictably, has not spared the French cycle industry, and only those businesses willing to adapt have survived. Dauncey also covers the significant impact of the sporting goods megastore Decathlon ( a fond la forme ) over the last few decades on the French cycle industry and bicycle sales. These more recent developments have received less attention from historians of cycling, and Dauncey is to be commended for broadening our understanding of the commercial dimension of French cycling, and for bringing it up to the present day. Dauncey's treatment of postwar developments in French cycling is especially valuable as he addresses subjects that have received less attention from scholars to date. There are fascinating sections on new forms of cycling after World War II, including velo cross and mountain biking, the latter in particular a manifestation of the growing appeal, especially among middle-class French, of so-called Californian sports, which emphasize innovative technologies and the individual's engagement with nature, and provide a strategy of social distinction for cyclists not interested in the more conventional (often lower-class) Sunday road ride. Dauncey's chapter on the bicycle and environmentalism is compelling, as he traces the recent vogue for public bicycle provision programs from the pioneering example of La Rochelle to initiatives in Paris, Strasbourg, and Lyon. In so doing, he rightly emphasizes the growing role of the state (which has in recent years appointed a Monsieur Velo to lead efforts at planning cycling- friendly programs and policies), as well as the increasing involvement of municipal and regional governments in developing and implementing a range of initiatives that promote and facilitate the activity. The work does have some shortcomings. Dauncey, a senior lecturer in French at Newcastle University, chooses to open each chapter with a very brief (one to two pages) historical summary of the period under consideration, based on a few secondary sources. Thereafter, in the chapters themselves, there are numerous references to sociopolitical or socioeconomic changes, but these remain too often vague and undeveloped. As a result, Dauncey misses opportunities, especially in his chapters on pre-World War II France, to make more deeply contextualized connections between the world of French cycling and the broader society of which it is a part. For example, although he mentions pre-World War I Republicanism, he fails to relate the proliferation of cycling (and other) clubs in France at that time to the Third Republic's ideology of Solidarism and its corollary, associationism. Dauncey's treatment of gender, a central issue with regard to French cycling identities (and an important aspect of the cultural history of physical activity in general), is incomplete and sporadic, perhaps a victim of his case-studies approach. In a section devoted to female cycling prior to World War I (pp. 35-42), he references briefly but leaves out any analysis of the key debate about bloomers for female cyclists. In general, debates in the late nineteenth century over the social, cultural, medical, sexual, and political advisability of female cycling (p. 205) are insufficiently developed. The period's medical debates about cycling are also addressed rather superficially, with little or no mention made of the huge prewar controversy over fatigue, nor of the debate between the advocates of moderate exercise and the proponents of more demanding physical training. The popularity of cycling's early heroes is not explored critically: why did so many French, particularly before World War II, see in endurance cyclists individuals to celebrate and emulate? Dauncey frequently mentions the divide between amateurism and professionalism in his early chapters, but the various arguments of both sides in this essential debate are never fully developed; as a result, the impact of notions of social class and respectable conduct (including while cycling) are neglected. In these instances and others, a deeper appreciation of the broader context beyond the world of French cycling would have served Dauncey's reader well. There are also some errors. Dauncey states that the Second Empire starts in 1848 (p. 15), the result no doubt of a typo or oversight. More troubling is Dauncey's assertion that the average speed of the winner of the men's Tour de France of 1984 was admittedly EPO-assisted (p. 214). Such a claim, which is false--EPO entered the peloton at the turn of the 1990s--suggests a superficial understanding of the important issue of doping (many racers at the time were doping, but not on EPO). Certain of Dauncey's judgments are questionable. A lengthy section devoted to the controversial female cycling champion Jeannie Longo exaggerates both her popularity and her impact. Now in her mid-fifties and apparently still determined to compete at the highest level, Longo has been irredeemably tainted by doping cases and allegations (indeed, her continuing competitiveness at such an advanced age is virtually inexplicable absent sustained and extremely effective doping); moreover, women's cycling remains marginal in France today. Meanwhile, Dauncey's claim, in an otherwise persuasive and nuanced section on Lance Armstrong, that the relationship between Armstrong and the Tour has defined the culture of sport in France in the contemporary period (p. 233) seems overblown. If any individual(s) or achievement(s) defined the culture of sport (a phrase that requires clarification) in France during the last two decades, surely it was the 1998 World Cup triumph by the much celebrated black-blanc-beur teams of Zidane and company. Historians are also likely to take issue with some of Dauncey's characterizations and interpretations. Chapter three begins: France in the 1890s was politically relatively stable, even though the Third Republic...was still challenged by threats from the extreme right, and was shaken to the core by the national drama of the Dreyfus Affair (1894-99) (p. 44). These seem mutually exclusive propositions. How could France be both relatively stable and shaken to the core by the Dreyfus Affair? Dauncey himself seems confused about the impact of the Dreyfus Affair on the nation, noting at the start of the very next chapter: Following the political and social upheavals of the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s, which had for a time seemed almost to threaten the safety of the Republican regime, destabilized by attacks from the extreme right and doubting the validity of its own political, moral and social principles, France entered a period of relative calm and prosperity (p. 75). In addition to the apparent ambivalence about the impact of the Dreyfus Affair, Dauncey's reference to an entity, France, which doubted its political, moral, and social principles, is problematic. The French, as he notes, were deeply divided (and not just by the Dreyfus Affair) at that time. Members of the extreme right did not necessarily doubt their principles; they simply saw them as in conflict with those of some of their compatriots. So too did individuals occupying other places on the political spectrum. At times, then, Dauncey's desire to summarize rapidly a complex historical context leads to over-simplification that obscures or eludes crucial distinctions. He alludes, for example, to the ideological and political values...of France in general (p. 99). Moreover, Dauncey occasionally endows with agency entities that are not historical actors, as when he notes a growing definition by the Tour [de France] itself of elements of French identity (p. 88). The Tour of course defines nothing; various groups in French society have used the race to promote, among other things, their vision for France, their values, and their interpretation of French history. The above reservations notwithstanding, Hugh Dauncey is to be commended for taking on such an ambitious project and for the impressive range of subjects that he integrates into his engaging and informative history of French cycling in all its forms. H-France Review Vol. 13, No. 124 Hugh Dauncey is to be commended for taking on such an ambitious project and for the impressive range of subjects that he integrates into his engaging and informative history of French cycling in all its forms. H-France Review Vol. 13, No. 124 Such is the familiarity of French cycling that it might easily be regarded as always already known, if not necessarily understood. The cultural centrality of the Tour de France has ensured not only the event's instant recognition as a marker of la francite', but also its appeal to such diverse champions as Louis Aragon and Antoine Blondin, as well as to such incisive analysts as Roland Barthes, in Mythologies (1957), and Georges Vigarello, in Pierre Nora's Les Lieux de me'moire (1992). Writing in English, Eugen Weber (1970, 1971), Geoffrey Nicholson (1978), Richard Holt (1981) and, most recently and comprehensively, Christopher S. Thompson (2006) have similarly engaged with the moral and material complexity of France's great bike race, widely regarded as a touchstone for the nation's mental cartography and collective memory. This focus on societal 'deep structures
has previously led Hugh Dauncey, with Geoff Hare, to characterize the event as

'a premodern contest in a post-modern context'
in their edited volume The Tour de France, 1903

-2003 (London: Frank Cass, 2003, p. 1). However, as Dauncey underlines at the outset of this erudite but always engaging monograph: 'The Tour is cycling, but cycling is not just the Tour

. 1-4). Consequently, his survey not only gives appropriate attention to la grande boucle but also, crucially, to la petite reine, the miraculous machine that makes the entire sporting spectacle possible. So, on the one hand, Dauncey guides us authoritatively through the 'sports-media-industrial complex

. 45) central to the practices and discourses of French cycle sport since the launch of the Tour de France in 1903; on the other, he charts clearly and concisely the broader history of cycling as both leisure activity and utilitarian practice, showing it to be quite as worthy of his sensitive scholarly attention. The real strength of Dauncey's wide-ranging, innovative book is to locate this most iconic of elite French sporting events within a broader landscape of mass participation, juxtaposing professional competition and varieties of individual practice persuasively and elegantly. Lance Armstrong, whose ultimate and comprehensive disgrace came just too late for inclusion in Dauncey's historical narrative, rubs shoulders with city commuters as the book's final chapter explores 'French Cycling in Quest of a New Identity'. Impressively interdisciplinary, this work's particular strengths include the sustained attention given to gender issues, untold stories and forgotten figures, and countercultural phenomena. We thus read of the moral and medical debates surrounding female cycling in the later nineteenth century, as well as the chronic undervaluing of multiple champion Jeannie Longo a hundred years later; we learn of the wartime demise of L'Auto (the conservative forerunner of L'E

, and the post-war rise and fall of the Communist Miroir du cyclisme; and we discover the proto-environmentalist cycle-tourer 'Ve'locio
(Paul de Vivie)

, the Paris-Roubaix travailliste, and the pioneering role of La Rochelle as France's first ville cyclable. This fascinating history will be required reading not simply for sports specialists, but for anyone interested in the social and cultural manifestations of France's most emblematic form of personal mobility. French Studies, Vol. 68, no 2 This fascinating history will be required reading not simply for sports specialists, but for anyone interested in the social and cultural manifestations of France's most emblematic form of personal mobility. French Studies, Vol. 68, no 2 Lance Armstrong's precipitous fall from grace has thrust the scandals of the Tour de France onto the global stage yet again. The race is one of the most famous, visible, and controversial sporting events on the planet and epitomizes the French cycling. Hugh Dauncey argues, correctly, that there is much more to French cycling than the Tour and that scholars have not yet written a comprehensive history of French cycling as a social and cultural phenomenon. His book attempts to remedy the situation. Dauncey traces five interrelated stories: the history of French cycling as a leisure and social activity, as a competitive sport, as an industry, as a utilitarian mode of transport, and as a pole of identity. Chapters are ordered chronologically and broken up according to turning points in France's political or cycling history. The author addresses a portion of the five stories in each chapter and explains the interplay between French cycling's evolving history and broader historical trends. French Cycling covers some familiar territory in early chapters. Dauncey writes of the emergence of cycling clubs and cyclotouring in the late nineteenth century, the rise of France's bicycle industry and press, the invention of classic professional races like the Tour de France around the turn of the twentieth century, and the class and gender dynamics and tensions that the democratization of the bicycle symbolized in the public imagination before the Great War. The bulk of original scholarship on French cycling to date focuses squarely on this germinal phase of the sport. Dauncey offers several refreshing contributions. First, by looking at many interrelated themes and trends, Dauncey conveys the richness of French cycling's history in a way that is often lost by scholars who focus on small parts of the sport's tale. Second, he carries French cycling's social and cultural history out of the Belle Epoque, through the twentieth century, and into the new millennium. The story is one of long-term, parallel trends converging, diverging, and conflicting, and Dauncey ably chronicles the continuities that have shaped French cycling since the machine was invented. For example, we learn how the rise in the 1890s of what Dauncey calls the sportsmedia-industrial complex -- a syndicate of France's race organizers, media moguls, and manufacturers bent on profiting from cycling at any cost -- spurred cyclotourism pioneers like Paul de Vivie to spearhead an alternative cycling culture with a strong commitment to healthy living and eating, exercise in natural settings, and sociability. Dauncey explains how this tension between the professional and amateur cycling sectors continued. In the new millennium, the French public's growing disgust with doping and hyper-commercialism in big-time racing, for example, has helped fuel the resuscitation of a bicycling counter-culture that stresses leisure, recreation, tourism, and environmentalism. Furthermore, advocacy movements, with the backing of the state, have emerged and transformed cities like La Rochelle, Lyon, and Strasbourg into prototypes of environmentally-friendly commuter bicycling. We also learn about globalization's complex influences. Since the early 20th century, the French led the way in attempting to organize, standardize, and regulate international competitive cycling. Yet interest groups inside and outside France constantly challenged and rejected the authority of French cycling federations like the Union Cycliste Internationale. By the 1980s, globalization forced many of France's domestic bicycle manufacturers like Peugeot to close their doors. Meanwhile, firms like Decathlon, Look, and Time retooled themselves successfully to appeal to niche markets, and French professional cycling learned how to profit from its global preeminence. At the same time, new practices imported from elsewhere like mountain biking and triathlon racing came to dominate French leisure and fitness cycling. French Cycling does not avoid the Tour de France entirely. France's national bicycle race serves as the backdrop and battleground for many of the interrelated stories Dauncey weaves. The author acknowledges the unparalleled position the Tour occupies in the French imagination and the race's role in galvanizing innovations in French sport, business, and media since its founding in 1903. Dauncey, like other academic and lay commentators, employs Tour heroes like Louison Bobet (an embodiment of resurgent France in the 1950s), Jacques Anquetil (the technocratic champion), Raymond Poulidor (epitomizing France's heroic failure ), Jeannie Longo (France's ignored geante of cycling), and Lance Armstrong (a specter of the American Other ) as metaphors for France's postwar identity struggles and insecurities. The book has some flaws. French Cycling may irritate those who do not read French, since its many quotes from French sources are not translated. An unavoidable shortcoming of the book is its treatment of Lance Armstrong. Due to the timing of his book's publication -- late 2012, just before the embattled American cyclist admitted to doping in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey -- Dauncey portrays the Armstrong Affair inaccurately as an open case whose meaning and import are still being debated. Most important, the book's brief chapter introductions, meant to set the historical stage in which cycling's narrative in that period transpires, tend to over-simplify reality. For example, Dauncey characterizes mid-Third Republic France as stable (44) and calm (75) despite the ongoing turmoil surrounding the Dreyfus Affair. French Cycling is on its best footing when it focuses squarely on cycling history. Dauncey ties together French cycling's diversity of historical experiences and trends into a single, compelling volume. Contemporary French Civilization 39.1 Dauncey ties together French cycling's diversity of historical experiences and trends into a single, compelling volume. Contemporary French Civilization 39.1 Hugh Dauncey in the conclusion to French Cycling: A Social and Cultural History published in late 2012 by Liverpool University Press in its Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures series modestly describes the project as a rapid and necessarily selective overview of cycling and the bicycle in France . An alternative approach considered by the author was to oversee a multi-volume, multi-author in-depth study of the myriad of dimensions that make up the practice of cycling in France but for which he felt there would be limited interest from prospective publishers. The title chosen by Dauncey for the conclusion very neatly encapsulates what the book expertly achieves, that is to give a sense of cycling in France from a chosen starting point in the late 1860s right up to the present day. While pointing out, as others have already noted, that cycling is many things, varying according to both time and place , Dauncey selects five themes through which he gives us a sense of cycling in the very specific and arguably unique French context, namely as leisure, sport, industry, utility and identity. The introduction sets out very clearly the themes, chronology and framework of analysis which provide the architecture for and the rationale behind this study, followed by eight evenly weighted chapters, each corresponding to a carefully chosen time period, and a conclusion which is a model of both clarity and brevity. The opening chapter retraces cycling's search for an identity in the early years from 1869 to 1891(organised races as spectator events). Chapter 2 focuses on how sport as a vehicle for modernity and the role of specialist newspapers drove advances in cycling in the years 1891 to 1902. In the period from 1903 to 1918, encompassing the Belle Epoque and the First World War, Dauncey in chapter 3 shows how cycling was influenced by trends in industrial innovation and production, sport (the first Tour de France in 1903, utility (the bicycle as a form of military transport) and leisure (touring). The important issues for cycling between the wars from 1919 to 1939, identified by the author in chapter 4, include a variety of sporting developments (the Six Jours non-stop races at the Vel

'hiv in Paris) but crucially the facilitation of recreation by the radical social legislation of the Popular Front in the 1930s. Chapter 5 examines the relationships between sport and society (the first post-war Tour de France in 1947 as an important symbol of a return to normality) and cycling and everyday life (competition from motorised forms of transport such as the Velo-Solex and increasingly affordable cars) in the period from 1939 to 1959, which spanned three Republics and witnessed humiliating defeat, occupation, collaboration, liberation and the forward-looking commitment to the building of a New France. The sixth chapter confers on the 1960s and 1970s the title of cycling's Glory Years and considers the particular significance of their mediatisation. Dauncey shows in chapter 7 how the twenty years from 1980 to the end of the 1990s were marked by important transformations in the areas of industry (niche French SMES becoming world leaders in high-end cycle manufacturing and the Decathlon chain as a retail phenomenon sounding the death knell of the local bike-shop), recreation (enthusiasm for mountain biking and the development of leisure cycling infrastructures) and sport (the success of French track cycling and the ever increasing internationalisation of professional road racing). The symmetry of the link back to the opening chapter is highly effective and the author in the eighth and final chapter examines how in the years since 2.000 French cycling in its multiple guises has been concerned with a quest for a new identity. Acknowledging the groundbreaking work of mainly fellow English colleagues in situating sport in the broader area of French cultural studies such as Richard Holt's Sport and Society in Modern France (1981), Philip Dine's French Rugby Football: A Cultural History (2001) and Geoff Hare's Football in France: A Cultural History (2003), Dauncey makes the point that where cycling is different to almost every other sporting activity is in the very important utility dimension to the practice whose applications are part of the everyday lives of millions of people. Going beyond the remit of providing a history of the bicycle and cycling, the author seeks to interpret what such a story can actually tell us about French culture and society and demonstrates how cycling, which continues to provide representations of tradition and modernity, has informed the growth, development and reinvention of sport and leisure practices in France and beyond. The adjective economic could easily have been added to the title such is the insightfulness of the treatment of the commercial dimensions to the senses of cycling identified, in particular in light of what Dauncey describes as the sport/media/industry complex which has so heavily influenced the practice and sport of cycling from the very beginning. In an equally impressive and understated manner throughout, Dauncey situates the issues raised in the context of the important political milestones and ideological debates of the times. Dauncey devotes a section to women and cycling in the early years as participant competitors and recreational consumers. In a subsequent chapter, the Vichy government's discriminatory attitude towards women in sport is highlighted and the concluding chapter devotes a number of sections to the place of women in twenty-first century competitive sport focusing in particular on the story of super-champion Jeannie Longo and looking at the chequered history of the Tour de France feminin. Closure in the Armstrong Affair, hinted at in the concluding chapter and which has finally come to pass as a result of the controversial cyclist's own admissions of systematic doping, has occurred since the publication of this book, proving how the story of cycling and the bicycle in French culture and society is indeed a constantly and rapidly developing one which continues to be both topical and relevant. One of the real achievements of this book is the comprehensive review and impressive synthesis of the large body of existing work in both English and French on different aspects of the many faces of the subject. The stories of a wide variety of personalities and carefully chosen case studies are expertly interwoven into the fabric of the narrative. In a piece of detective work based on limited archival materials and newspaper reports of the day, the author examines the organisation, membership and activities of one of the earliest clubs, the Veloce-club bordelais, as a model imitated by others and the influential role played by French clubs and the first national federation in the establishment of the international governing body, the Union cycliste internationale in 1900. Other interesting case studies include the Velo-cross club de Paris and alternative kinds of cycling in the 1950s, La Rochelle's pioneering velos jaunes municipal self-service bike scheme of the mid 1970s which predated the capital's Velib'
initiative by more than 30 years and the story of Cycles Follis, the Lyons

-based artisan frame builders and bike shop, run by the Follis family and which finally closed its doors in 2007 after over 100 years in business. In anticipation of the 100th Tour de France first run by the newspaper L'Auto in 1903, it is appropriate that an event which continues to fascinate the French public would be carefully studied in light of its overarching position in the ecological system of cycling in France . Dauncey manages the almost impossible task of finding the appropriate space for a national institution which has such a unique prominence in the mental imagery of French cycling . Despite succinct paraphrasing of the many passages quoted in French which exceed a line or two in length (the one liners and terminology are expertly translated) non-French speakers won't be in a position to appreciate how well chosen and illustrative of the points being made these references to original sources actually are. Unusually for a book on cycling, there are no illustrations whatsoever and a price tag of (GBP) GBP70 makes it an expensive purchase. While this work represents something of a culmination of the author's passionate interest in French cycling, based on the number of on-going projects in the pipeline or being prepared for publication referred to in the course of the book, whether in the context of the long established and successful partnership with Geoff Hare, a variety of collaborations with experts in specialist areas or Dauncey going solo (a study of BMX riding and an analysis of the Lance Armstrong story through the prism of Barthes's Mythologies), a lot of ground-breaking research and expert commentary and analysis is yet to come. Experts will acknowledge the scholarship and enthusiasts will enjoy an academic work which is both accessible and a really good read. Honoured by the French Education Ministry in 2003 with his appointment as Chevalier dans l'ordre des Palmes academiques, Hugh Dauncey brilliantly continues his distinguished vocation of doing great service to French culture and this book confirms his reputation as an authority on the practice of cycling in France. European Studies in Sports History, Volume 6 Experts will acknowledge the scholarship and enthusiasts will enjoy an academic work which is both accessible and a really good read. Honoured by the French Education Ministry in 2003 with his appointment as Chevalier dans l'ordre des Palmes academiques, Hugh Dauncey brilliantly continues his distinguished vocation of doing great service to French culture and this book confirms his reputation as an authority on the practice of cycling in France. European Studies in Sports History, Volume 6 This book is undoubtedly the best English-language introduction to French cycling and the Tour de France. It provides a 'quick and necessary
overview, in the words of the author, of the discipline in France since the second half of the nineteenth century

. -- Patrick Gaboriau and Philippe Gaboriau French History, Vol. 29

About the Author

Hugh Dauncey is Senior Lecturer in French at Newcastle University. He has authored and edited numerous studies of French popular culture, including (with G. Hare) The Tour de France, 1903-2003: A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings and Values (Frank Cass, 2003) and France and the 1998 World Cup: The National Impact of a World Sporting Event (Frank Cass, 1999).

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Book Info

Publication date

31st October 2012


Hugh Dauncey

More books by Hugh Dauncey
Author 'Like for Like'


Liverpool University Press


290 pages


Social & cultural history
History of sport
European history



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