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Bayard Group

Table of contents 

Overview

This profile deals with the Bayard publishing group of France.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • the group
  • studies

Introduction

The French Bayard group encompasses newspaper, magazine and book publishing in Europe and the Americas. It is of interest as an example of the religious press, albeit with a less stellar reputation than the CS Monitor.

The Bayard corporate site is here.

The group

Paris-based Bayard is the fifth largest press group in France in terms of circulation. It publishes over 95 newspapers and magazines in Europe, North America and other regions.

It is owned by the Roman Catholic Assumptionist order. The order was established in France by the Venerable Emmanuel d'Alzon (1810-1880) during the middle of the 19th century, gaining some notoriety for its strident opposition to modernism, the antisemitic tenor of its flagship publications under the Bonne Presse umbrella - in particular La Croix and Pelerin - and the vehemence of its attacks on Alfred Dreyfus.

In the 1890s it was perhaps the largest press group in France, with well over 100 papers and a circulation of several hundred thousand for the flagships, with operations in Belgium (the Societe Belge de Libraire) and Geneva through Victor Palme's Societe Generale de Librairie Catholique.

Bayard has shifted focus from that time, when it became known as the publisher of paranoid tracts such as Edouard Drumont's La France juive and La fin d'un monde and boasts that it was "proudly the most anti-semitic publisher in France".

Bayard has an alliance with the Belgian Roularta group, particularly for publishing seniors magazines in Belgium, Germany and Norway (eg Lenz, Plus and Vi Over 60).

It is the French leader in four markets: children's publications, the "over-50's press", hunting and fishing magazines and the religious press. Bayard Editions, Bayard Poche and Terrail have a catalogue of over 1,200 titles, with around 8 million books sold in 1999 (up from 4.5m in 1996).

Bayard Presse International - directly and through licensees - publishes 28 magazines for children in Canada, Australia, Francophone Africa, Germany, China, Belgium and the Netherlands, Spain, the US, UK, Hong Kong, Italy, Poland and Korea.

The group has been expanding its interests in North America through commercial acquisitions (it now owns the best-selling parochial publication Catholic Digest, 23rd Publications and Canadian publisher Novalis).

Studies

The literature on Bayard and the Assumptionists is uneven, ranging from hagiography to equally emphatic denunciations of their early history.

For publication activity prior to 1900 see Pierre Sorlin's lacerating La Croix et les Juifs (Paris: Grasset 1967) and volume II of Theodore Zeldin's superb France 1848-1945 (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1977). Jean-Denis Bredin's The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus (New York: Braziller 1986) offers sobering quotations from La Croix and Pelerin.

Michel Winock's Nationalism, Anti-Semitism & Fascism in France (Stanford: Stanford Uni Press 1998), David Kertzer's The Pope Against The Jews (New York: Knopf 2001) and Roger Williams' Henri Rochefort: Prince of the Gutter Press (New York: Scribners 1966) offer a view of Drumont and clerical publishing in his era.

Like many institutions the Order has glided past an apology for its activities during the belle epoque; we note that it wasn't until 1995 that the French Army formally admitted that Dreyfus had been framed as part of a military conspiracy which ended in the deportation of an innocent man and was partly founded on a false document.

There are perspectives in the Histoire Générale de la Presse Française (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1969-1976) by Claude Bellanger, Jacques Godechot, Pierre Guiral & Fernand Terrou and in The Government & the Newspaper Press in France, 1814-1881 (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1959) by Irene Collins.

Josef Altholz' The Religious Press in Britain 1760-1900 (New York: Greenwood 1989) and Bernard Palmer's Gadfly for God: a History of the Church Times (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1991) offer a point of reference.