Skip to main content

The American Enemy

The History of French Anti-Americanism

Georges-Louis Buffon, an eighteenth-century French scientist, was the first to promote the widespread idea that nature in the New World was deficient; in America, which he had never visited, dogs don’t bark, birds don’t sing, and—by extension—humans are weaker, less intelligent, and less potent. Thomas Jefferson, infuriated by these claims, brought a seven-foot-tall carcass of a moose from America to the entry hall of his Parisian hotel, but the five-foot-tall Buffon remained unimpressed and refused to change his views on America’s inferiority.

Buffon, as Philippe Roger demonstrates here, was just one of the first in a long line of Frenchmen who have built a history of anti-Americanism in that country, a progressive history that is alternately ludicrous and trenchant. The American Enemy is Roger’s bestselling and widely acclaimed history of French anti-Americanism, presented here in English translation for the first time.

With elegance and good humor, Roger goes back 200 years to unearth the deep roots of this anti-Americanism and trace its changing nature, from the belittling, as Buffon did, of the "savage American" to France’s resigned dependency on America for goods and commerce and finally to the fear of America’s global domination in light of France’s thwarted imperial ambitions. Roger sees French anti-Americanism as barely acquainted with actual fact; rather, anti-Americanism is a cultural pillar for the French, America an idea that the country and its culture have long defined themselves against.

Sharon Bowman’s fine translation of this magisterial work brings French anti-Americanism into the broad light of day, offering fascinating reading for Americans who care about our image abroad and how it came about.

“Mr. Roger almost single-handedly creates a new field of study, tracing the nuances and imagery of anti-Americanism in France over 250 years. He shows that far from being a specific reaction to recent American policies, it has been knit into the very substance of French intellectual and cultural life. . . . His book stuns with its accumulated detail and analysis.”—Edward Rothstein, New York Times
“A brilliant and exhaustive guide to the history of French Ameriphobia.”—Simon Schama, New Yorker

Read an excerpt.

536 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Culture Studies

History: European History, General History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages


"The dangers of clumsy translations and cultural misunderstandings are central to the arguments Philippe Roger makes in his timely and wise book. Roger sets out to show that French anti-Americanism has been less a product of genuine antagonism than the result of a series of misunderstandings. To Roger’s dismay, these misunderstandings—sometimes wilful, but often based on genuine confusion—have come to play a central role in French identity. . . . The American Enemy is a shrewd and deft analysis of French cultural history which unmasks a great many absurdities, past and present."

Andrew Hussey | New Statesman

"Monumental. . . . A vast but highly readable presentation of every form of French criticism of America. . . . Roger’s survey is grand in scope and genial in language."

D.W. Ellwood | History Today

"[The] book has many strengths but collapsing the complex web that is French anti-Americanism into a workable theoretical framework may be his greatest contribution. His introduction is probably the smartest and most responsible ten pages ever written on the subject of French anti-Americanism. Anyone at all interested in the subject, or in any aspect of French history, should read it. . . . [His work] is highly readable and accessible, without sacrificing scholarly integrity."

Seth Armus | H-France Reviews

"You think you know all about French anti-Americanism? Think again. Better still, read Philippe Roger’s elegant The American Enemy."

Eugen Weber | Key Reporter

"A feast of a book, cooked a point and served with considerable panache. . . . Roger’s sardonic voice is irresistible."

Alex Danchev | Times Higher Education Supplement

"A brilliant polemic, whose wit and historical digging capture both the persistent and platitudinous qualities embedded in French writing on America. Disturbing, but also intensely amusing, Roger will force his audience to think not only about France, but about the United States, and the legacies that come with massive power."

Michael Miller | American Historical Review

"A short review can hardly do justice to the erudition, irony, and wit on display in Roger’s ’genealogy’ of anti-Americanism. The chronological scope alone is remarkable. . . . One hopes that American readers will see this book not as a means for confirming their own prejudices about France but as a wise guide for thinking about how xenophobias of all kinds travel from one generation to the next."

Herrick Chapman | Journal of Modern History

Table of Contents

Part I - The Irresistible Rise of the Yankee
1. The Age of Contempt
2. The Divided States of America
3. Lady Liberty and the Iconoclasts
4. From Havana to Manila: An American World?
5. Yankees and Anglo-Saxons
6. Portraits of Races
7. "People of Enemy Blood"
8. The Empire of Trusts: Socialism or Feudalism?
Part II - A Preordained Notion
9. The Other Maginot Line
10. Facing the Decline: Gallic Hideout or European Buffer Zone?
11. From Debt to Dependency: The Perrichon Complex
12. Metropolis, Cosmopolis: In Defense of Frenchness
13. Defense of Man: Anti-Americanism Is a Humanism
14. Insurrection of the Mind, Struggle for Culture, Defense of the Intelligentsia


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

French-American Foundation: French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press