Scott Haine Photo #2(Part one) W. Scott Haine, professor and historian of food and sociability at the College of San Mateo, CA, was educated at the University of California, Berkeley (B.A.), and the  University of Wisconsin at Madison (M.A. and Ph.D). Professor Haine has published widely on the history and culture and customs of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France.

In 2013, Scott presented to critical acclaim at the Western Society for French History his paper Group infusion: Crowd Culture Revealing the origins of Simone de Beauvoir’s café life and the entry of France into WWII. He is currently at work on a new project on cafés during the period 1934-1946 and writer Simone de Beauvoir and her intellectual involvement in Paris during WWII.

Scott is a member of The Society of French Historical Studies and the online branch of this organization, and of H-France, an organization of scholars interested in French history and culture. He teaches online at The University of Maryland University College and online and face-to-face in the  San Mateo Community College District just south of San Francisco, CA. Scott now lives on the San Francisco, CA, peninsula during the summer when teaching face-to-face, and in Passaic, NJ, and in Paris. For more information on W. Scott Haine, please contact him at

Photo: (from the left) habitue of Le Falguiere Café in Paris; Fred, the owner of the café; and Scott Haine.


AWP: In your research, do you explore the holdings of French archives and libraries for photos, paintings, and illustrations of American women in Paris cafés

WSH: “Café archives” seldom exist in any archive or museum, and library subject catalogs skim the surface (note my comments on Hemingway’s work). Tragically, in some cases potential café archives, such as Susanna Barrows found at the French National Archives, have been thrown out when archivists believed that preserving cartons of police reports on café conversations was not necessary. So for archives as much as for literature you must have nimble eyes and scan a great deal of plausible materials.

AWP: Do you feel you’ve brought a scholar’s point of view to a territory that had, for the most part, been popular culture and media territory in the accounts of French culture?

WSH: I am part of a generation that is the first to explore systematically the social life of cafés and drinking establishments. I cannot give a complete bibliography here. I will just list some key works in English. Thomas Brennan in his study of 18th century Parisian working class taverns was one of the first to publish a full-length study, Susanna Barrows’ early published articles on the question of alcoholism and the role of the café in French life, and Patricia Prestwich pioneered in the study of French temperance organization and medical activism. My study of Parisian working class café life rounded out this early wave. We all are in debt to Michael Marrus, who published an article on “Social Drinking in the Belle Époque” back in 1974. Increasingly the French academic historians are also working in this rich field but because the café has for so long been so integral to French life and because the French temperance movement never became a major player in this nation of wine drinkers, the café had never been seen as a separate field of study. Now as the numbers continue to decline the nation wonders what has happened.

As the world’s and France’s archives and libraries become fully digitized, almost certainly many more books will be written on these venues of ordinary life.

AWP: Why was now the right time to publish your paper Group infusion: Crowd Culture Revealing the origins of Simone de Beauvoir’s café life and the entry of France into WWII? Did you feel a need to share a particular time and place?

WSH: I have finished and published The Thinking Space, an overview of European intellectual café life and so it is logical to turn to elaborating on some particular intellectuals and their relation to and in places such as the Café de Flore. Working on Simone de Beauvoir also ties in perfectly with finishing up the more general study on WWII and café life and regulation.

AWP: When you started writing about Occupied Paris, did you have a sense of what you wanted to do differently from other authors whose work you had seen?

WSH: No one has written on cafes during this era so I saw it as a perfect topic: a short but decisive period when the number of cafés in Paris and France began a long decline, but when these establishments also helped incubate not only political but also intellectual resistance to fascism.

I have come to believe that historians should either focus on one period and study many topics or choose one topic and study many eras of its existence. I have chosen to do the latter.

AWP: What things do you feel haven’t been said about the Occupation and Liberation of Paris that you are trying to explore in your work now?

WSH: The study of café life during the 1940s is vital to understand the interface and interrelationship between public and private life in this period, when these concepts, along with the very existence of the nation, were thrown into question. In the book I am doing with Donna Evleth we shall be able to outline a “history of conversations” across the Occupation in Paris and explore how the topics did not change as the war drew to its end and liberation (or the destruction of Paris) appeared on the horizon. We are asking: how did the emotions of Parisians ebb and flow? How did their actions react first to defeat, then years of occupation and then to the possibility and then reality of liberation? Beneath the banal surface of an informal institution serving the daily needs of food, drink, and recreation dwelt an on going drama for the soul of a world capital. The world followed and was elated when the “City of Light” indeed renewed itself by taking a vital hand in its own liberation. We shall show how the café was a nucleus of this renewal.

AWP: In general, what opportunities or challenges do you experience as an American writer in Paris?

WSH: The main challenge is to get as much done as I wish to each time I am in Paris. With something like the study of the café, constant observation is key but cannot be accomplished unless you live permanently in the place of study. Nevertheless, having a distance from my subject does provide a key perspective and gives me fresh eyes upon each return. You also become plugged into a sort of oral tradition of the café, in terms of stories about the Auvergnats of Paris (running both the coal and the wine industries) having the sorts of connections among their confreres that allowed them to keep cafés warm during WWII, that has not really made it into the history books yet. And you also see ordinary customers and local historians and archivists making connections between the Auvergnats—coming from the mountainous region of South Central France and having traditions of thrift and commerce—and the Kabyle,who have also gone heavily into the café trade and who come from a similar mountainous region in North Africa.

AWP: Do you keep a journal? 

WSH: I have not been keeping a formal journal but have been recording a large number of oral interviews and have been giving conference papers steadily over the past thirty years. As a result, most of the key points I have found in café life have been recorded. More recently, of course, in extensive emails and articles I collect in Google documents and emails. But no, I should have taken a copious journal but have never found the time. I felt that the key points of café life would rise to the surface of my mind and that those points would be key. When you begin to look at café life closely you see an infinity of transactions, whether between patronsor waiters and customers or customers with each other and passersby. It would take a super computer to properly analyze such hive life activity.

AWP: Could you talk about your process as a writer?

WSH: I have thought a lot about this while writing the introduction to The Thinking Space. I think a key for any creative activity is to combine intense study and concentration with periods of rest and relaxation. This alternation seems to allow the mind and body to digest and synthesize what we have learned and then produce something new. Naturally, each person will have their own unique ways of creating these alternations, but many have found café life to be an integral part of this process. Indeed, in the café one can read, concentrate, relax, and then have that magic moment. As I became more interested in intellectuals in cafés I decided to duplicate as much as I could their habits (aside from smoking and heavy drinking) and have found that it is effective.

AWP: You live and work in the U.S. and Paris. How has this experience, coming from the practice of scholarship in San Francisco and New Jersey to become a writer in Paris, changed your world?

WSH: The cliché of travel broadening is true. Living and teaching now in multiple places, the San Francisco Bay Area and greater New York City and Paris, constantly challenges my assumptions about everything from the economy to how a microwave works. I now have a better sense of what is meant by the term “rootless cosmopolitan,” though I would find it pretentious to call myself one. But what it has helped to do is give me more of a sense of how de Beauvoir and Sartre wanted to live not so much “at home” as “in society,” and how they saw café life as an ideal way to accomplish this.

AWP: What is it about writers and Paris?

WSH: The beauty, history, and centrality of Paris across 2000 years now has in part been a creation of the writers who have celebrated its pleasure. So I think it is not at all surprising that writers continue to flock to a city that is always a little bit on edge, because the French in general, and the Parisians in particular, I find have a worried edginess about themselves and their culture that always inspires more reflection.


AWP: Some men and women are predisposed, each in their own way, toward a passion for Paris: through fantasy, family or cultural context. How did your interest in Paris unfold?

WSH: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s with both my mother and father being latent Francophiles. They never journeyed to Paris, but my mother copied writer’s observations on the joys of smelling fresh coffee and roasting chestnuts on the terraces of cafés, and my father played the accordion after dinner imagining he was on a Paris street accompanying Edith Piaf or Yves Montand. My older cousin was at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement and marveled at the befuddlement of the university police and administration at the then-innovative forms of protest such as occupying a building or office. Like so many, he marveled at the Paris protests of 1968. By the time I entered college (1969-1970), the United States had witnessed the largest student strike (so far) in response to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the shooting of student demonstrators at Kent State University. Thus when I settled into a college major I decided to do history, and France was the first choice as far as a nation to study. I had always had an affinity with France and French history from doing reports on this land which spans both the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. But one of my great regrets is taking courses in its marvelous language too late to escape a horrid accent. In 1970 Berkeley and so many universities, alas, dropped their language requirements for graduation (perhaps an unfortunate byproduct of the protests).

By the time I had finished at UC Berkeley, I had written a senior honor’s thesis on the life and writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau concerning the human faculty of the imagination and its relation to community life (both actual and utopian). This central figure of the Enlightenment synthesized, I now see, both my sentimental and political passions that had drawn me to the Hexagon. My interest in the history of French community life took a social historical turn in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin Madison when I studied under Professor Edward T. Gargan, who specialized in the new social and cultural history being developed by the Annales School. I became especially enamored of the work on sociability as a transformative tool of political culture in Maurice Agulhon’s, The Republic in the Village: The People of the Var from the French Revolution to the Second Republic.

Over the past decade my main teaching has been done at The University of Maryland University College, where I am now adjunct professor of history, but I have taught in the College of San Mateo community college district, primarily at Canada College, and have continued to teach periodically at Holy Names College in Oakland California. As a teacher I have been selected by Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 1998, 2004 and 2005, and I have also been nominated and made it into the final rounds for teaching awards at the University of Maryland University College. The World of the Paris Cafe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 and paperback 1998) received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for publication in 1995 and was later in the running for the award of Urban History Association’s prize for Best Book in Non-North American Urban History (for publications between 1995 and 1996). My History of France (Greenwood Press, 2000) was selected by the library book review journal Choice as an outstanding academic title for 2001. I also published with Greenwood a book on French Culture (The Culture and Customs of France, 2006) and a collection of essays on European intellectual cafés, of which I was one of the editors, and wrote the introduction and an essay on Jean Paul Sartre, “Jean-Paul Sartre: cafés, ontology, sociability, and revolution in occupied Paris, 1940-1944” with Ashgate Publishers: The Thinking Space: The Café as a Cultural Institution in Paris, Italy and Vienna (2013).

AWP: What is the best part about living in Paris?

WSH: The convenience of the concentration of libraries, archives, bookstores, cafés, and museums all connected by broad boulevards and scenic side streets and laced and graced underground by the Métro. It is also a walking city and I always lose weight when I am here.

AWP: Describe your own “Paris.” 

WSH: Essentially the Left Bank from the end of boulevard Montparnasse to the rue Mouffetard and down to the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

AWP: Name the single book, movie, work of art or music, fashion or cuisine that has inspired you.

WSH: A great but very hard question when so many influences shape who we become. After much thought, I will mention a figure that may surprise you: the modern French composer Claude Debussy. His haunting, and much more varied than most listening realized, music  never ceases to amaze and to my own mind really invokes the atmosphere of the Belle Époque and the Chat Noir cabaret that he frequented. (Though we see virtually no mention of cafés in his letters, but then there is virtually none in those of Toulouse-Lautrec either.)

AWP: What is the last book you read? 

WSH: I have gone back to my roots in graduate school with a book by the French Medieval annaliste historian, Jacques le Goff, on whether historians should cut history into “tranches.” (Faut-il vraiment découper l’histoire en tranches?) (Paris: Seuil, 2014). Ironic, is it not, that “tranche” is immediately associated now with the world of finance rather than the evolution of history. But Le Goff’s reflections after working in the field of history for over sixty years provide a reconsideration, shortly after the start of the new millennium, of the relationship between periodization and globalization. For this grand master of the French historical method globalization consists of two steps: communication and absorption. To my mind the café is at the center of both processes in the contemporary world.

AWP: Tell us something we don’t know about Paris.

WSH: In my opinion Paris allows 21st century humanity to get off their screens and out into urban space. The classic flâneur of the 19th and 20th centuries is becoming a post modern hunter gatherer who lives off of the urban landscape and reconnects their mind and body by walking and talking within the dense urban enivronment with the sounds, sights, smells and sociability of the palpable city. This is a vital antidote to sitting in front of screens all day usually with tunnel vision and and a cramped body. Paris is simply too big and vital to become a museum, and cafés ensure that creativity continues to sprout as experiences of the sheer tactile joy of a real place and time rather than a simulation.

AWP: Your life is extraordinary. What’s next?

WSH: I am now working on another volume of my study of Paris cafés, this time focusing on a short but key period in the 20th century, 1934 to 1946, when the number of cafes reached their numerical apogee in France and their cultural zenith in the life and writings of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Indeed, the autobiographical, philosophical and literary work of the author of The Second Sex are so richly detailed on café life that I hope to do a book length study of her café life shortly.

Finally I wish to explore café life in the long twentieth century (1914 to 2014) within the context of the rise of urban planning and the transformation of the French population via the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial society and one that is increasingly multicultural. During World War I the French Chamber of Deputies injected fears about the alcoholic degeneracy seemingly caused by café life in a wide range of discussions on organizing the nation for war. The upshot was that France and Paris would be better off if there were more hospitals in the future than cafés. In many ways, with the current number of cafés in France officially standing at 33,000, their dream has come true. Yet is French life and culture better off for this decline? Juxtaposed with the plans and actions of urbanists, in this study I will show the amazing range of cultural, class, gender, and ethnic and racial subcultures that emerged and are emerging in French and Parisian cafés with the dramatic economic and demographic changes since 1968. Though the number has diminished, the functions of these informal theatres of daily life remain ever vital. 1789-1914 W. Scott Haine

Acknowledgement: Bailey Roberts, Linguistics student at Macalester College and English editor for A Woman’s Paris. 

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post French Impressions: Marilyn Yalom’s “How the French Invented Love” a tradition of courtly and romantic love that reaches back into the 12th century. Marilyn Yalom’s latest book, How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance, shares condensed readings from French literary works—from the Middle Ages to the present—and the memories of her experiences in France. The French have always assumed that love is embedded in the flesh and that women are no less passionate than men. 

French Impressions: Alice Kaplan – the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. Author and professor of French at Yale University, Ms. Kaplan discusses her new book, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the process of transformation. By entering into the lives of three important American women who studied in France, we learn how their year in France changed them and how they changed the world because of it. (French

French Impressions: Harriet Welty Rochefort’s “Joie de Vivre” taking pleasure in the small things (part one). Harriet’s latest book, Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French, investigates the French way of enjoying life. It is preceded by two light-hearted but informative books, French Toast, and French Fried, and completes a trilogy about her adopted country’s charms and foibles in a breezy, exuberant style, and with genuine affection for the inhabitants of her adopted country. (Part two)

Café Culture in Paris, by Parisienne Flore der Agopian. The café, writes Flore, is a pleasurable way of sitting unbothered for hours on end with a book, with friends, or jut watching all sorts of people coming and going. Le Café de Flore, one of the oldest and most prestigious in Paris, where you can meet or observe its famous clientele among the Parisians, tourists and waiters dressed in their black and white uniforms as if they were still in the 1920s. To Flore, Café de Flore is almost mythical, legendary—a real institution. (French)

Museum tearooms in Paris. Parisienne Flore der Agopian invites us to visit some of the most enchanting tearooms in Paris: Café du Musée de la Vie Romantique, its courtyard garden a step back into the 19th-century; Café Jacquemart-André, decorated and furnished in late 19th-century style; and La Flottille, in the garden of the Château de Versailles in front of the Grand Canal. Including a list of Museum tearooms, cafés and restaurants in Paris. 

A dinner party: what makes the French so French. On a recent trip to France, Jacqueline Bucar, French teacher and immigration attorney, shares the dinner party conversation at the home of some of her friends––a conversation that was like no other she could ever imagine in the States…

Photo-ready in Paris: not what you might expect. Barbara Redmond takes you from Café de Flore to rue Bonaparte to Place de Furstenberg in Paris as fashion photographer and author Frédérique Veysset’s Nikon clicked frame after frame, shooting faster and a lot, in the action without posing. Fixing on a place and time that was Paris. (French)

A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre

We are captivated by men and women, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Text copyright ©2014 W. Scott Haine. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.