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Resources for French Culture

Types of Resources Available

Please direct all comments or requests for information to Paula Carns, Librarian for French Language and Literature (333-0076) • pcarns@illinois.edu

Atlases & Gazetteers

Coulet du Gard, René. Dictionary of French Place Names in the U. S. A. Newark [Del.]: Éditions des Deux Mondes, 1986.

Brief background information on American place names of French origin (e.g. Baton Rouge, LA; Allouez, MI). Includes physical features (e.g. Beaucoup Creek, IL). Place names are listed alphabetically by state, with an index at the end of the volume.

Atlas général Larousse . Paris: Larousse, 1978.

This atlas is now over 25 years old, but in contrast with many international atlases, which give place names in English or in the language of the country depicted, this volume shows only the French names regardless of the country (e.g. North Dakota = Dakota du Nord). For this reason it may be helpful to native speakers and students of French.

Fordant, Laurent. Atlas des noms de famille en France . Paris: Archives et Culture, 1999.

A French language resource which chronicles the geographical dispersion of surnames throughout France. It lists the most popular 1000 names and how they have changed rank in the last century.  It also addresses the influx of non-French names into the country. Statistics are given for France as a whole, individual regions, and individual departments.

L'Atlas géopolitique & culturel de Petit Robert des noms propres. Paris: Dictionnaires le Robert, 1999.

This atlas contains 80 world and regional topical maps, such as of population, economy, cultural aspects, etc. The maps and accompanying diagrams are easy to read.


Business French

For more on business correspondence, see Correspondence in French below.

Gaeng, Paul A. Le m onde de l'entreprise française: initiation au langage des affaires . 3rd rev. ed. Wilhelmsfeld: Egert, 2001.

Divided  into two parts of several chapters each: (1) the functions and characteristics of commerce in France, and (2) the "partenaires" of commerce: banks, the stock exchange, postal and transport services, etc. Study questions are provided in an appendix, and a glossary is included.

Harrap's French and English Business Dictionary . Edited by Françoise Laurendeau-Collen. London: Harrap, 2005.

This dictionary is designed as a "basic translating tool" for business terms. The English section is based on British English, and there is a separate section on American business terms and expressions. Ideally, the latter would be integrated into the entries for easier consultation. Between the English-French and French-English sections, there are pages of potentially useful information: abbreviations, acronyms, a sample balance sheet for a company, and an English-French glossary of legal and contractual language.

Geoghegan, C. and J. Gonthier Geoghegan. Handbook of Commercial French . London: Routledge, 1988.

Lists English business vocabulary (both nouns and verbs) alphabetically, giving the French equivalent and example sentences. For example, under credit: What is their credit status? = Quelle est leur situation financière?

Neuhaus, Karsta and Margret Haltern, in association with the British Chambers of Commerce. Business Companion's France . New York: Cassell, 1992.

Focused on the British businessman, the first part of this volume furnishes vocabulary, common phrases and useful addresses for various topics (sales contracts, insurance, etc.) The second part, "First Contacts", emphasizes communicating in various situations, such as in restaurants. The last part supplies supporting information, including a brief list of business newspapers and magazines, model letters, and a bilingual glossary.

Williams, Stuart and Nathalie McAndrew-Cazorla. Manual of Business French: A Comprehensive Language Guide . London: Routledge, 1996.

This is truly a manual which supplies sample documents rather than a programmed guide to learning. There are no exercises or lists of vocabulary. Sections include: sample dialogues for business situations (with English translations); 80 samples of business correspondence; rules of business practice; a brief reference grammar; and a bilingual glossary. A useful distinction is made between French and Belgian business practice.



French Correspondence . Edited by Natalie Pomier. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.

A slim volume including sections on (1) general advice for business and personal correspondence; (2) protocol for using the telephone, minitel, and email; (3) sample letters, without English translations; and (4) sample classified ads, with abbreviations interpreted and translated.

Oudot, Simone. Guide to Correspondence in French: A Practical Guide to Social and Commercial Correspondence . Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1985.

Covers personal and commercial correspondence. Sample letters are in French, and a vocabulary list below each letter translates key terms into English.

Williams, Stuart and Nathalie McAndrew-Cazorla. French Business Correspondence . London: Routledge, 1996.

Eighty sample letters in French and English. This volume is a chapter excerpted from the Stuart and McAndrew-Cazorla volume described above, under Business French.


Scientific & technical dictionaries

Delamare, Jean and Thérèse Delamare-Riche. Dictionnaire français-anglais des termes de médecine = English-French Dictionary of Medical Terms . 3rd rev. ed. Paris: Maloine, 1992.

A straightforward bilingual presentation of entries for medical terms. There are approximately 500 pages of entries in each of the two halves.

Harrap's science dictionnaire: anglais-français, français-anglais . London: Harrap, 1985.

Treats the physical, earth, and life sciences. The life sciences include animals, plants, and bacteria, but medical and pharmaceutical terms are omitted. As this is a translation dictionary, definitions of the terms are not given.



Dictionnaire de biographie française . 19 volumes published to date. Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1933-2001.

Michaud. Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne . 45 vols. Paris: Delagrave, 1843-1865. Also available through Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Hoefer, Jean-Chrétien. Biographie universelle . 46 vols. Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 1852-1866.

Archives biographiques françaises . Edited by Susan Bradley. 1,065 fiches with paper index. London: K.G. Saur, 1988.

"Fusion dans un ordre alphabétique unique de 180 des plus importants ouvrages de référence biographiques français publiés du 17e au 20e siècle"--Jacket. Accompanied by: Liste des sources.

Dictionnaire des intellectuels français: les personnes, les lieux, les moments . Edited by Jacques Julliard and Michel Winock. Paris: Seuil, 1996.

An alphabetical arrangement of entries not only on people but on organizations such as publishers and educational institutions which have contributed to the intellectual climate of France. The people were chosen for their interdisciplinary influences. The 1-2 page articles include references to books by and about the intellectual discussed. Indexes provide access by type of entity: person, publishing house, etc.


Almanacs & statistical indexes

CIA World Factbook on France

Information on geography, current demographics, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues.  A well-respected source that is frequently updated.

Quid? Paris: R. Laffont, 1963-.

A French almanac with a wealth of current facts and statistics as well as general and historical information. Organized by subject, with an index. It is impossible to list here all of the topics covered, but as examples one may find a quick review of French terms used in differential equations, or perhaps a list of best-selling books in France.

L'état des régions françaises: Un panorama unique et complet. Paris: La Découverte, 2003.

Following an introductory section that analyzes the general characteristics of France and its role in Europe, this work includes studies of each of France's 22 metropolitan regions and overseas territories, providing maps, statistics, and essays on the current social and political trends in each region. The work includes a list of dozens of related websites as well as a detailed index and is intended for use by teachers, students, local French elected officials, and the general public.

Current National Statistical Compendiums: France. Washington, D.C. Congressional Information Service, 1970- .



French-English Gastronomy Dictionary

Includes a long, alphabetized list of food/culinary terms, especially Provençal dishes, as well as several recipes.


Guides & Handbooks

Fénié, Bénédicte et Jean-Jacques. Dictionnaire des pays et provinces de France . Éditions sud ouest, 2000.

This fascinating source describes the former provinces of France, which subdivided the country until the creation of départements in 1789. Arranged alphabetically, each entry lists the names given to the area since Gallo-Roman times, facts about the area, and describes the geography of the area. An important source for the study of the history of France.

Turner, Barry, ed. France Profiled:  Essential facts on society, business, and politics . New York:  St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Part of the SYB (Statesman's Yearbook) Factbook series (which includes similar guides to Germany, Italy, and China), this work provides information on France's territory and population, description of the 23 administrative regions within the Hexagon, key historical events and a chronology, a "cultural briefing" on painting and sculpture, architechture, literature, music, and cinema, facts on major French cities, information for travellers, and similar information on France's departments and territories overseas.  Also includes small maps of France and the city centers of Paris and Toulouse.  Intended for business research, school and college projects, and ready reference.

Fallon, Stephen, Daniel Robinson, and Richard Nebesky. France : A Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit . 2nd ed. Hawthorn, Vic. : Lonely Planet, 1997.

This is a comprehensive travel guide which first provides general information on France and transportation, then reviews locations by region and major cities. Some historical background is given for each, as well as practical advice on restaurants and so on.

More travel guides in the collection

Clébert, Jean-Paul. Les hauts lieux de la littérature française . Paris: Bordas, 1990.

Describes 100 sites that have inspired French authors throughout the centuries, with color photos, small maps, and quotations from famous French writers.  Includes indexes of authors and places.  Of interest to those who would like to learn more about the relationship between the geography of France and its best-known literature.  Fans of 19th-century French literature should also consult Colette Becker's Les hauts lieux du romantisme en France (Paris: Bordas, 1991; call number 914.4046 B388h; Literatures & Languages Ref.)

Aplin, Richard. A Dictionary of Contemporary France . London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1999.

An English-language alphabetical guide to terms, concepts, places, people, institutions and acronyms related to France. Particularly good for Anglophones attempting to untangle the complexities of terminology in the French governmental and educational systems.

Editeurs et diffuseurs de langue française 2002 . Paris, Electre, 2002.

Arranged alphabetically, this source list the names, contact information and specialties of publishers and distributors of French language books. Particularly useful are the lists of publishers by specialty, ISBN, and country and a separate list of distributors.


History & General Contemporary Culture

All periods

Français!  notre histoire, nos passions Carl Aderhold and Renaud Thomazo, directors.  Larousse/Vuef, Oct. 2003.

A wonderful introduction to French history as well as contemporary culture, with beautiful illustrations and photographs. Includes a general index of topics, events, and historical figures.

Dictionnaire d'histoire de France Perrin . Edited by Alain Decaux and André Castelot. Paris: Librairie Académique Perrin, 1981.

This is a hefty volume of nearly 1100 large-format pages. The articles are arranged alphabetically and are encyclopedic in length, with many drawings, diagrams and photos (mostly black and white). An aid to situating an historical event or figure before undertaking more extensive research.

Chronique de la France et des Français . Edited by Jean Favier et al. Paris: Larousse, 1987.

Uses a journalistic approach to explain the history of France from prehistoric times to 1986. The year-by-year order of articles and their newspaper-like arrangement on the page accompanied by multiple images create the journalistic effect. At the end of the volume there are a series of short articles on each of the French provinces and territories, as well as genealogical charts of the royal houses and a one-page list of governments since the Revolution.

Creating French Culture:  Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

This online exhibit by the Library of Congress traces the history of the relationship between French politics and culture from Charlemagne (8th/9th century) to Charles de Gaulle (20th century) "through the prism of more than 200 magnificent 'treasures' on loan from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris." Includes images of title pages and illustrations from manuscripts, objects (such as a throne and medallions), and paintings.

L'histoire de France

This website offers information on French history in reverse chronological order, from the 20th century back to the 17th century, and also includes more general historical overviews.

16th-18th centuries

Dictionnaire de l'Ancien Régime: royaume de France, XVIe-XVIIIe siècle . Edited by Lucien Bély. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996.

The focus of the entries in this volume is on concepts and institutions of the Ancien Régime rather than on individual persons. Indexes allow the reader to relate specific persons, places and ideas that do not receive separate treatment to the established entries, which are arranged alphabetically. The 1-2 page articles are scholarly and without illustrations, signed by university professors. They include bibliographical references and cross-references to related articles in the volume.

Dictionnaire européen des Lumières . Edited by Michel Delon. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997.

This volume has essentially the same characteristics and methods of consultation as the Dictionnaire de l'Ancien Régime reviewed above. However, its coverage includes not only France but all of Europe.

19th century

Dictionnaire du XIXe siècle européen . Edited by Madeleine Ambrière. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997.

Entries cover France and other European countries in the 19th century. Some entries are for specific persons, whereas others are for concepts and institutions. The introduction gives separate overviews of art, history, etc. during the period. A chronological table compares events in different disciplines as they co-occurred throughout the century, and analytical tables provide thematic access to the entries. Indexes are separated by category (person, place, etc.) rather than combined in a general index.

20th-century history and culture

La vie quotidienne des Français au XXe siècle:  un siècle d'émotions et de passions, 1900-2000 .  Paris: Booster, 1999.

Traces French history and culture throughout the 20th century, with essays and about 2,000 photos and illustrations.  Following an introduction to the general trends and developments of the century, there is a chapter for each decade divided into four sections:  "Émotion," "Actualitées," "Petit journal de la vie quotidienne," and "Événements et tendances."  Concludes with a chronology of major events.

Contemporary French Cultural Studies . Edited by William Kidd and Siân Reynolds. London: Arnold, 2000.

A series of essays discussing such issues as "How the French present is shaped by the past," French cultural policy, French education, culture and identity in France today, and French media at the turn of the 21st century.

The Cambridge Companion to Modern French Culture . Edited by Nicholas Hewitt.  Cambridge University Press, 2003.

A collection of essays on the history and culture of France in the 20th and early 21st centuries.  Begins with a chronology of historical events from 1900 to 2002.  Includes such topics as architecture, the mass media, consumerism, language, religion and politics, literature, music, the visual arts, and cinema.  The index lists topics, events, and historical figures.

French culture and society : a glossary.  Edited by Michael Kelly.  London: Arnold, 2001.

An alphabetically-arranged guide to historical, social and political topics, and ideas and movements in culture from A.B.C., "the most successful PARIS MUSIC-HALL venue from the 1930s to the 1950s," to ZINEDINE ZIDANE, "currently France's most famous and popular FOOTBALL (soccer) player."  Within entries, words in all-caps indicate cross-listings.  Includes a fairly extensive bibliography.

La vie quotidienne des français au xx e siècle: un siècle d'émotions et de passions . Paris: Booster, 1999.

An overview of France and the French in the 20th century through words and images. Organized by decade, this history covers all levels of society and all sorts of events.

La Résistance et la Géographie de la France

Links to information on the French Resistance during World War II, information on the student revolution of May 1968, as well as geographical and general cultural information.  Includes some pedagogical exercises.



Dictionnaire de culture générale. Under the direction of Frédéric Laupies. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2000.

This dictionary offers a wealth of information on a range of cultural topics of concern today. The selected subjects reflect contemporary Western culture in general and French culture in particular. The first part is dedicated to modes of thought (feminism, socialism, and racism); the second, personages and figures (Lancelot, Macbeth, and Clio). The entries are lengthy, comprehensive and include a short bibliography. The book is a useful reference tool for individuals who want to learn more on a particular subject and for students doing an academic project.

Dictionnaire mondial des Littératures . Sous la direction de Pascal Mougin et Karen Haddad-Wotling. Paris: Larousse, 2002.

This French reference book has brief biographic author entries, essays on literature of various languages and genres. There is a bibliographic index and an index of entries by country or language.

Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture . Edited by Alex Hughes and Keith Reader. London; New York: Routledge, 1998.

This encyclopedia is intended to aid those looking for material on a wide range of subjects pertaining to present-day French culture, including art, cinema, economic issues, education, food and wine, intellectual life, literature, media, music, performing arts, politics, transport and technology. The length of entries varies with importance of topic. Every entry has a bibliography for further reading.

Kibler, William W. and Zinn, Grover, A., eds. Medieval France: An Encyclopedia. New York; London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1995.

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia covers the political, economic, social, religious, intellectual, literary and artistic history of France from the the 5th to the 15th centuries. Entries are arranged alphabetically and written by experts in the field.

Dictionnaire Européen des Lumières .  Sous la direction de Michel Delon.  Paris: Presses Universitaires de France: 1997.

A French dictionary of places and ideas in the age of Enlightenment.  Each entry has a short essay on the topic with cross-references and bibliographies.  An index of proper names connects people to ideas and places; people themselves are not entries.  A thematic index is included as well.

Encyclopaedia universalis. 23 vols. + 4 vol. "Thésaurus-Index" + 1 vol. "Chiffres du Monde". Paris: Encyclopaedia Universalis, 1996.

A standard encyclopedia (not just of France), it is organized very much like the popular Encyclopedia Britannica. The Thésaurus-Index provides brief articles and references to longer treatments in the 23 main volumes. Illustrations are mostly black and white. The "Chiffres du Monde" volume is like a yearbook:  the first section gives economic summaries for countries in essay form, while the second section has entries for each country with small black and white maps and the kinds of information ordinarily found in a gazetteer.

Le Petit Robert des noms propres . Nouvelle édition refondue et augmentée. Paris: Dictionnaires le Robert, 2000.

A concise, one-volume dictionary of proper names, particularly of people and places, illustrated with color pictures.


Indexes to Popular Periodicals

Repère: Index analytique d'articles de périodiques de langue française . Montréal: Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec, 1994- [from 1984-1993 under title Point de repère].

Indexes French, other European, and Canadian francophone periodicals, a list of which is given at the beginning of the volume. The bibliographical references to articles are listed under an alphabetical arrangement of subjects (descriptors). There is no author/title access, except for citations of book reviews. Articles must be at least a page in length to be indexed.


Quotation & Proverb Dictionaries

Dictionnaire des citations françaises . Edited by Pierre Oster et al. Paris: Le Robert, 1970, 1978.

More than 16,000 quotations are arranged under the name of the French author, and authors are listed chronologically. An index provides direct access to the page for a particular author, and a second index allows one to find quotations by topic and keyword. The 1970 edition covers the Middle Ages through the 1930's, while the 1978 edition includes the 1940's.

Montreynaud, Florence. Dictionnaire de citations françaises et étrangères. Paris: Nathan, 1985.

Coverage is international; quotations from other languages are translated into French. Uses an alphabetical arrangement of 365 topics, from ABSENCE to VOYAGER, under which citations are classed. At the end of each topic are cross-references to other related quotations classed elsewhere. Includes an index, making consultation by author possible.

Le Grand dictionnaire des citations françaises . Edited by Jean-Yves Dournon. Paris: Acropole, 1982.

This compilation includes approximately 10,000 quotations from France only. They are listed under 1,547 key words which constitute the alphabetical arrangement of the volume. An index provides access by author name.

Montreynaud, Florence, Agnès Pierron and François Suzzoni. Dictionnaire de proverbes et dictons . Paris: Le Robert, 1980.

Divided into three parts: (1) about 2000 French proverbs, (2) about 1500 French sayings (dictons), and (3) about 6000 proverbs from other languages translated into French. A distinction is made between the proverbe,  which has a metaphorical sense, and the dicton, which is not metaphorical and which often consists of a rhyming couplet (although proverbs can rhyme too). Within each of the three parts the citations are organized thematically and assigned a number; consultation by key words in the proverb or saying is possible through the index. Be sure to look for the number of the citation in the right section of the body of the work (indicated by an abbreviation in the index, for example:  A = Africa).