Francois Mitterrand's youthful background left little to presage that he would be elected as the first left-wing president of the Fifth Republic. He was born in 1916 in west central France in the small village of Jarnac, near Cognac in the Charente departement. This region of France was in many senses representative of the country as a whole during the early twentieth century: rural, Catholic, bourgeois and conservative. He grew up in a family of eight children within which his mother, a devout Catholic, reputedly exercised a powerful influence. Little concrete can be drawn from what we know of Mitterrand's childhood and youthful experience: Mitterrand was an average provincial adolescent from a bourgeois family. Those who knew him during this period assert that he was pious, of above average intelligence, romantic, with a consuming passion for literature.1