Serenading the President: John Adams, the XYZ Affair, and the 18th-Century American Presidency

Sentiment began to change in earnest in the wake of the decision to publicize the XYZ dispatches during the spring of 1798. Behold the chief who now commands,Once more to serve his country stands.The rock on which the storm will beat,But arm’d in virtue, firm, and true,His hopes are fix’d on Heav’n and you. Joseph[…]

Robespierre, the Duke of York, and Peisistratus during the French Revolutionary Terror

Pisistratus’s story as a tyrant of Athens offered a powerful script for interpreting Robespierre’s actions, and a cue for resistance. Dr. Simon MacdonaldFellowInstitut d’études avancées de Paris Abstract Maximilien Robespierre was deposed on 27 July 1794/9 Thermidor Year II when the charge that he was a tyrant burst spectacularly into open political discussion in France.[…]

Tyrant of Languedoc? Nicolas de Lamoignon de Basville in Public and in Private

Basville’s private correspondence reveals aspects of his character that deepen our understanding of the intendancy in the old regime. On 11 November 1703, the intendant of Languedoc, Nicolas de Lamoignon de Basville, wrote in private to his brother in Paris on the subject of the maréchal then commanding royal forces in the Cévennes, Nicolas de[…]

Memories of Fear in the Early French Revolution

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” These words could have been reasonably spoken at almost any time during the French Revolution, as actual and imagined threats seemed both constant and ubiquitous.[1] This was certainly true of the days surrounding the storming of the Bastille. In the evening of Sunday, July 12, 1789,[…]

Counterfeiting in 18th-Century France: Political Rhetoric and Social Realities

Dealing in false coinage was said to undermine the king’s prerogative to issue currency, illegally reproduce his image, and threaten the economic viability of the state. Introduction In a monarchy that was theoretically absolute, an attack on the king was the most heinous of crimes, and was accordingly punished with the most final of sentences. Lèse-majesté was[…]

The Privilege of Liberty: Challenging the Society of Orders in Bourbon France

Privilege was the beating heart of that society of orders known as Bourbon France. Privilege was the beating heart of that society of orders known as Bourbon France. The privileges of the nobility, clergy, and king were only the apex of a structure of privilege that reached into many provinces and affected nearly all cities[…]

Controlling Public Opinion in France’s Old Regime: Did the King Care what the Peasants Thought?

The politicization of the French peasantry before and during the Revolutionary period has been the topic of much debate. Introduction On a chilly day in late November, a peasant named Jean Marrot, who lived in the village of Brassac in the Pyrenees mountains south of Foix, went for a walk in the woods near his[…]

The Cult of France and its King: Political Theory in the Mazarinades during the Fronde, 1648-1653

The concept of absolutism – the divine right to rule – dominated the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in France and elsewhere. Louis XIV’s famous “L’État, c’est moi” of 1661 summarizes candidly the concept of absolutism, the political theory that appeared to dominate the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The concept of its divine underpinnings was an[…]

Maximilien Robespierre, a Violent Flash in the Populist Pan

His name is associated with the Reign of Terror which claimed thousands of lives of “enemies of the Revolution.” Introduction Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (May 6, 1758 – July 28, 1794) was one of the primary leaders of the French Revolution. His supporters knew him as “the Incorruptible” because of his austere moral[…]

Louis Garneray and Topographical Painting as Border Control in 19th-Century France

Exploring how topography was deployed as an instrument of French state formation in Louis Garneray’s Vues des Côtes de France. While the phrase ‘topographical images’ often calls to mind lush green landscapes, this article addresses a less familiar but very pertinent site of the topographic: ports. Specifically, Louis Garneray’s depiction of the ports of France in[…]

Patronage, Politics, and the “Rule of Law” in Early Modern France

The law’s “brooding presence” was very real to political actors in early modern France. Old Regime France, David Bell has observed, was a “judicial society” where “the experiences of the law courts were central to the way in which political action was conceptualized.”[1] Theorists distinguished the king’s “absolute power” from the rule of a tyrant by[…]

The Hearth, the Cloister, and Beyond: Religion and the Nineteenth-Century Woman

In the nineteenth century, domesticity and maternity became the primary cultural expectation for French women. In the nineteenth century, domesticity and maternity became the primary cultural expectation for French women. The new ideals, most of which could trace their roots back to Rousseauian rhetoric, supported the gendering of education and family life and consigned women[…]

Liars, Atheists, and Libertines: The Politics of Dishonor in the Wars of Louis XIV

Calling the French liars, atheists, and libertines, undoubtedly evoked a general sense of immorality and disrepute. In 1684, an anti-French propaganda pamphlet featured a conversation between a German and an Englishman, who were both curious to hear the latest news from a French acquaintance. Their conversation began with a parody of French politeness and refined[…]

The Battle of Waterloo and the Literary Response

The extensive response in the British press was unprecedented. Abstract Although Europe had celebrated the end of the Napoleonic Wars with the defeat of the French armies and the abdication of the emperor on 11 April 1814, Napoleon escaped and again rallied his troops against the British and Prussian armies. His defeat at Waterloo on[…]

The Napoleonic Wars

The Napoleonic wars illustrate how warfare, seemingly the most conventional object of history, defies history’s most conventional questions. Abstract Trying to locate the Napoleonic Wars as an event, or a constellation of events in time and space, only reveals the historical dislocations produced by war on a global scale. Like many of the wars of[…]

On 1793 and the Aftermath of the French Revolution

Many British radicals interpreted the early events of the French Revolution in mythic terms – akin to the Christian apocalypse. In 1789, many British radicals interpreted the early events of the French Revolution in mythic terms, as signs that a cataclysmic event, akin to the Christian apocalypse (entailing the renovation of the fallen world), was at hand—and that, paradoxically, human beings[…]

Versailles’ Drinking Water and the Last Service of the Marly Machine, 1859–1963

Since the foundation of Versailles by King Louis XIV, the city often lacked water. In 1859 Versailles and its more than twenty neighboring communities were presented with the new Marly Machine—a hydraulic pump that formed the cornerstone of Versailles’ drinking water supply. This event reinforced the dependence of Versailles on the Seine River and the[…]

An Endless Sediment Story: The First Five Decades of the Canal de Marseille

Up until this epoch, water resources consisted of an old and damaged medieval aqueduct. Operational since 1847, the 80 kilometer long Canal de Marseille, built by famous Swiss civil engineer Franz Mayor de Montricher, has allowed great improvement in the water supply in the city of Marseille, southeast of France. Indeed, during the first quarter[…]

Five Things to Know About French Enlightenment Genius Émilie du Châtelet

Here are five things to know about this groundbreaking, tragic figure. You probably haven’t heard of Émilie du Châtelet. But without her contributions, the French Enlightenment of the 1700s would have looked much different. Here are five things to know about this groundbreaking, tragic figure. She was a polymath who ignored the gender norms of her[…]

Voltaire: An Example of Enlightenment Censorship

Criticism of the monarchy in the press was suppressed during this period. By Jennifer Hight Introduction The Age of Reason, also known as the Enlightenment, emerged from the Protestant Reformation and emphasized reason and individualism, which was a new thought process.[6] This Enlightenment caused many new writers, philosophers, and artists to question the traditional authority.[…]