100 speeches that marked the 20th century

COVER Lanneau DicoursAs Geoffroy Matagne, an FNRS research fellow in political science at the University of Liege, underlines in his introduction, “Discursive practices constitute a significant part of political practice. They are inherent to the exercise of power”. Presenting 100 speeches which have marked the last century (1) is thus perfectly justified, as much from a political as an historical perspective. This was the brainchild of editor André Versaille when he relaunched an editorial business under his own name.

Hervé Broquet, director of CREP and head of teaching at the Royal Military School, Catherine Lanneau, head of FNRS Research and European history at the University of Liege (see also the article France in the eyes of the French-speaking Belgians) and Simon Petermann, Honorary Professor of Political Science at the University of Liege, author the papers introducing these speeches. They briefly cover the political and historical context in which they were made and show the consequences they could have had. They claim that many speeches, such as Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin’s crimes, made hardly a ripple at the time and only produced their effects in the long term. Where necessary, supplementary information clarifies specific points: expressions, proper names cited in speeches, etc.

It is difficult to hold up any one of these speeches above the others. But we can cite the order of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in March 1917; Mahatma Ghandi’s speech on non-violence of 23 March 1922, the famous declaration by Robert Schumann of the 9th of May 1950, Nixon and Gorbachev’s leaving speeches (1974 and 1991 respectively) or Kennedy’s famous ‘new frontier” speech of the 15th of July 1960.

BROQUET H., LANNEAU C. et PETERMANN S. (éd.), Les 100 discours qui ont marqué le XXe siècle, André Versaille Editeur, 2008.