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Synopsis

Léon Gambetta is remembered for his heroic deeds during the Franco-Prussian War and as a founder of the Third Republic. His image is that of a leader of men in the male political universe of late nineteenth-century France. Historians have largely ignored his intense relationship with his lover, Léonie Léon. This relationship was both personal and epistolary, their face-to-face meetings complemented by daily letters, of which some 1100 survive. Using this unpublished correspondence, A Political Romance offers a new perspective on Gambetta, focusing on his ten-year relationship with Léon. Their partnership was political as well as passionate. Gambetta sought counsel from his 'wise Minerva' and building the Republic became their joint project. The letters also reveal the weight of contemporary gender expectations on the couple's thinking and behaviour and the social conventions that excluded Léon from 'respectable' circles. Foley and Sowerwine use this fascinating correspondence to provide a richer portrait than Gambetta's previous biographers, introducing the unknown figure of Léon and producing a unique glimpse into the political and cultural world of 1870s Paris.

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