James Allen

Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale

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Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale


For the past several years, I have been at work on my latest publication, A Civil Society: The Public Space of Freemason Women in France, 1744-1944 (Nebraska 2022). This monograph studies the vital contribution made by women activists, a surprisingly large number of them affiliated with freemasonry, in the history of modern France's third sector. As a consequence, the highly centralized French state became a more liberal republic, one fostered by a more open society and a more engaged public culture. For further discussion of these particular developments, see the publisher's blurbs at

My current book-length project is an English translation of Élaine Brault's À l'ombre de la croix gammée (1943, In the Shadow of the Swastika), a gripping account of the early years of Germany's occupation of Paris. Brault was a journalist, union-organizer, Parti Radical member, Freemason, pacifist, and social activist on behalf of children and young adults until the war. After escaping from occupied France to Algeria -- a fascinating story in itself -- Brault reached London where she joined the Free French Forces in July 1941. Her contribution to the liberation of France first took her to Brazzaville, Cairo, Lebanon, Moscow, and Algiers before landing in Marseilles with the First Free French Army Corps in September 1944.

Brault's memoirs of wartime Paris were written on various, odd scraps of paper, which she turned over to the American adventure-story writer, Hassoldt Davis, to arrange for an edited version to be printed in Cairo. Very few copies of Brault's work have survived, even though it captures well a gendered perspective on France's surrender and Germany's occupation. A properly annotated translation of her work richly deserves publication in light of recent scholarship on gender relations and women in France during the war, including that by the scholars Hanna Diamond and Sébastien Albertelli. The intended audience for this annotated edition is the general reader as well as undergraduate students in French literature and history.