Puy du Fou, a myth, a famous amusement park in France and Europe, the pride of the Vendée. Founded in 1989 by Philippe de Villiers, it operates thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers and offers a total of twenty-four attractions. Until 2020 and Covid-19 with an average of 2.1 to 2.3 million visits, the historic theme park is the second largest French park after Disneyland Paris. But today, three historians dispute the idea that the park offers historical immersion. How the story goes Western FranceFlorian Besson (medievalist), Pauline Ducret (historian of ancient Rome), Guillaume Lancereau (modern and French Revolutionist) and Mathilde Larrère (19th century history) released Thursday 24 March: Le Puy Fake.
According to them, despite the presence of “a fabulous show, we allow ourselves to abuse history” and this is “under the pretext of entertainment.” To come to their conclusions, last summer four professors “plunged” into the park for four days. Question Sunday paper, Florian Besson deplores the fact that the work of the actors “is placed at the service of speech coming from one man: Philippe de Villiers”. He explains that the former MEP is the only one who “writes the whole show”. He condemns again: “This is not about historical speech, but about political propaganda.”
A lot of mistakes”?
What annoys the other authors of this essay is that there are many school trips organized in the park: “We sell educational brochures full of errors. We can’t say anything, and especially to no one.” Florian Besson is quoted in Western France many examples of both anachronisms and untruths. He also criticizes the claim “of the existence of a genocide in the Vendée, but refuted by historians”.
Another example: a performance about Roman antiquity, based on the confrontation between “evil pagan Romans and cute Christian Gauls.” For Florian Besson, here again is a deceit: “The opposition is historically completely false. […] Christianity itself is a Roman religion […] It is a wholly nationalist, anachronistic message at the service of this fantasy of “eternal Christian France”. According to historians, the same anti-Republican message will be presented in multiple shows.
Reviews since the book’s release
The authors admit that they did not contact the management before writing their book, because, they say, this was not their “approach”. “We suspected their response. This is the one they are giving us now, claiming to entertain and scream for a false judgment,” begins Florian Besson. Thus the political approach, especially after Philippe de Villiers formalized his support for Eric Zemmour in the 2022 presidential election. “Foreigners are systematically presented as a threat in a religion where it was widely practiced before being repressed. On the other hand, Catholicism is ubiquitous,” explains Florian Besson in Western France.
Their dual discourse is alarming in several respects, these historians argue: “If we want to offer History and if we want to play the card of realism, in this case we must be honest, present real historical spectacles, with sources, nuances. performances, being aware of historiography. If obvious, Florian Besson recalls in JDD that we should “remain nuanced” because everything “doesn’t fit in people’s heads”, he regrets that the audience leaves the park with such ideas. “It is false, stupid and a little dangerous to make people believe that France was beautiful and peaceful as long as it was Christian.” Since the book’s release, historians have been attacked on social media, in particular Mathilde Larrère, columnist for Mediapart and Stop, for portraying and supporting Jean-Luc Mélenchon. But they assure that not all are among the authors. Puy du Fou did not want to react to our colleagues.
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