and intellectual climate at the national level, the everyday clashes between the parti du maire and the parti du curé became increasingly politicised, and anticlericalism emerged as the one banner under which the burgeoning but disparate republican movement could unite.
For, if the triumph of Ultramontanism in the French church was an affront to the liberal mind, so too was the church's consistent identification with the forces of political reaction. Time and again - under the Restoration, after the June Days of 1848, during the Second Empire and under the 'Moral Order' of the 1870s - the church sided with the enemies of liberalism and republicanism. Anticlericalism, at one level, was a response to what the French left, self-conscious heirs of the revolutionary tradition, came to view as an aggressive and unacceptable 'clericalism'. At another and deeper level, however, anticlericalism needs to be understood as far more than a direct and legitimate reaction to clericalism. There is a real sense in which 'clericalism' was an invention of anticlericals, and anticlericalism, certainly in its most extreme forms as expounded by the likes of Proudhon, Paul Bert and Emile Combes, a mythic and fanatical ideology based on a highly partial interpretation of French history. Anticlericalism had a dynamic all of its own which owed little or nothing to the actual behaviour of churchmen. Mythic anticlericalism, in short, was a continuation of the 'culture war' started under the Revolution - a refusal to accept that the Revolution was over while there remained unfinished business with the church.
As a word, the term 'clericalism' only came into common usage in the 1870s. Before then, opponents of the clergy spoke of their 'tyranny' or 'despotism' or 'contempt for the civil authorities'. What is clear, however, is that throughout the nineteenth century priests were confronted both at village level and at the level of national politics by opponents who, usually in the name of popular sovereignty and an essentially republican idea of the nation, were determined to set limits to ecclesiastical authority. The clergy, on the other hand, rejected any interference in their mission to save the souls of the faithful. From popes to humble parish priests, while always recognising the legitimate authority of the established power, the church categorically refused to renounce a public role for religion on the grounds that religion was a social, not an individual phenomenon. It was the church's business to reconstruct a Christian social order and the church therefore claimed the right to exercise influence on national life. Increasingly, however, and especially from the 1860s, republicans advocated a completely secular vision of the social order and affirmed their adhesion to the idée laïque - the organisation of society on a totally secular
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