The release next week of the 'Dictionary of Foreigners who Made France' (Dictionnaire des étrangers qui ont fait le France), comes at an opportune time.
As France continues its soul searching over national identity, immigration and its place in the world order, the book is seen as a reminder of the influence foreigners have had in making France the country it is today.
From the world of politics to business, and the sciences to sport, the work pays homage to 1,112 people born outside France who came to play a huge role in the country, including Salvador Dali and Maurice Garin, the first ever winner of the Tour de France.
“France has been and remains a very attractive country for economic reasons, but also because it offers a refuge in terms of liberty,” historian and editor of the book, Pascal Ory told AFP this week.
“France also attracts artists because it is a country that gives great importance to culture. The movement of immigration will continue despite the multiplication of barriers,” he added.
“It shows that even if in historical terms, most foreigners have not been warmly welcomed, integration will always win through.”
From a total of 1,112, The Local has picked 10 of the most influential foreigners that made France what it is today. Click on the link or the picture below to see the selection.
The dictionary was presented this week to France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who as a Spaniard by birth, is a living example of a foreigner having a huge influence over modern France.
To qualify for inclusion in the book, the only criteria – and it was strictly adhered to – was being born abroad.
“We had to be strict, if not we could have ended up following racist logic,” said Ory.
So don’t expect to see French national hero Zidedine Zidane – who captained France to World Cup glory – included in the book, as he is from Algerian origin, but was born in Marseille.
And when it came to question of what does “made France” really mean the authors who chose the entrants preferred to look at “language and culture” rather than the concept of just living in France.
This made for some surprise entrants, not all of whom, it has to be said, are well known figures.
Furthermore, the role of several communities as a whole are acknowledged, such as the Senegalese dockers who came to Marseille after World War Two and British engineers during the industrial revolution.
To purchase the book CLICK HERE.