History of Celebrity Conference, IHR

At the end of March, on the ominous day of Brexit, researchers from North America and Europe gathered at London’s Institute of Historical Research for the ECR conference on the History of Celebrity with Prof Antoine Lilti (EHESS) as the keynote speaker. Revolutionary Researchers had already held a reading group on Lilti’s work Figures publiques, l’invention de la célébrité, and so it was an excellent chance to build on this and hear contributions from across the globe. In the first panel, ‘Thinking Celebrity in the Eighteenth Century’, Ariane Fichtl examined how Revolutionaries modelled themselves on antique ‘celebrity’ figures, whilst Gabriel Wick gave a fascinating analysis of celebrity through place and space, studying the Duc de Chartres at the Palais Royal and at Monceau, and the role of public celebrations in early celebrity culture. Blake Smith then spoke on Anquetil Duperron, the ‘celebrity scholar’, investigating the networks which sustain celebrity status and this can be preserved or lost. The second panel, ‘Celebrity Bodies’, started with Chris Haffenden’s paper on Jeremy Bentham, subtly analysing how contemporaries portrayed Bentham as a celebrity and how the philosopher participated in the preservation and regulation of his own image. Jessica Hamel-Akré continued the focus on Britain with the celebrity case of Ann Moore, the Fasting Woman of Tutbury. Hamel-Akré looked at the local level of celebrity and how new medical analyses, primarily by men, surveyed and controlled these medical celebrities. Meagan Mason also used the lens of medicine, especially the new pseudo-sciences of phrenology and physiognomy which allowed the public to “know” celebrity musicians. Prof Antoine Lilti then gave a lecture on his seminal work on celebrity, distinguishing between the notions of glory, reputation and celebrity, the latter being the uncontrolled spread of image beyond reputation, which has lead to his critique of the Habermasian public sphere. For Litli, this public sphere is not critical, but rather fascinated by gossip and public and private lives. Prof Colin Jones extended Lilti’s analysis of Habermas: the latter maintained that a collective conscious was central to the public sphere but Lilti’s research shows the public sphere to be based on human subjectivity, and he praised Lilti for using a historical anachronism as a historical tool. Dr Emrys Jones then shared his response to Litlti, especially from a British perspective, exploring the link between celebrity and intimacy, and touching upon ‘unwilling celebrities’. The final panel was then dedicated to the post Revolutionary period: Lewis Hughes’s paper looked at Victorian celebrity interviews held in the domestic sphere and their emphasis on ‘normality’ and daily routine; Holly Grout explained Mistinguett’s attempt to separate her public and private personas in her memoirs, reflecting and refracting elements of the celebrity self. Following this literary vein, Thibaut Casagrande took the genre ‘le roman d’actrice’ as a tool to correct the image of celebrities.


The translation of Lilti’s Figures publiques. L’Invention de la Célébrité appears later this year: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1509508732.html

CfP: Connected Histories and Memories: French Emigrants in Revolutionised Europe

Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands), 19-20th June 2017


Keynote speakers: Professor Simon Burrows (Western Sydney University, Australia); Professor Kirsty Carpenter (Massey University, New Zealand); Dr. Karine Rance (Université Blaise Pascal, France)


Since the publication of the collection of essays on Emigration in Europe edited by Kirsty Carpenter and Philip Mansel in 1999, our knowledge of the emigrant community and that of European responses to the French Revolution have dramatically progressed. The historiography on the subject was renewed with pioneering studies on the Counter-Revolution and Anti-Enlightenment as well as new analysis on the nobility and the heterogeneity of migratory projects. Scholars have ventured into the memorial and literary landscape of emigration, at times articulating literary criticism around the question of trauma and refuge. Research into gender proved to be a fruitful way to challenge previous conceptions of the émigré figure. With this conference, we aim to approach emigration using the notions of connection, transfers and transnationalism, as well as cultural innovations, relating the current knowledge on emigration to studies on the connections between the émigré community and the host country. In particular, we would like to discuss the formation of political and national consciousness deriving from the encounters between the emigrant and their host communities.

This inter-disciplinary event will particularly welcome early career researchers and scholars who have studied or shown an interest in the French émigré community in any European context or beyond. It is open to those researching alternative and trans-national histories of exile in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Participants are invited to give papers, in English or in French, on the following themes:

  • Emigrés, exiles and refugees? Questioning the designations of individual migrants and their community
  • Foreign archival repositories and the renewal of sources on emigration
  • Host discourses on emigration and the creation of an émigré national consciousness
  • Towards a connected history of emigration and the counter-revolution in Europe and the World
  • Against the tide: alternative migratory projects and ruptures with the politically and culturally-dominant émigré group
  • Studying emigration in the twenty-first century
  • The émigré novel and memoirs in the long eighteenth century literary landscape

–   Any other topic relevant to the conference


Please email abstract of 300 words by 5th April 2017 to: l.philip@westernsydney.edu.au and j.reboul@let.ru.nl


More information on the organisation of the conference and accommodation arrangements will be provided to participants in due course.

Call for Papers: Early-Career Researchers Day-Conference on the History of Celebrity


Keynote Speaker: Professor Antoine Lilti, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Venue:            Institute of Historical Research, London

Date:               Wednesday 29th March 2017

Time:              10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Deadline for abstracts: 15th February 2017

Among the most significant recent contributions to ‘celebrity studies’ and the early history of celebrity is Antoine Lilti’s Figures publiques. L’Invention de la célébrité (1750-1850). The English translation forthcoming in 2017 is eagerly awaited. Professor Lilti will give the keynote address, entitled ‘Public figures and private lives: the invention of Celebrity’, at this day-conference in which postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers are invited to contribute papers.

Lilti’s Figures publiques offers a genealogy of the concept of celebrity in French, British and North American societies dating back to the eighteenth century when it emerged alongside notions of increased selfhood and personal authenticity. This emergence, Lilti also shows, was linked to a ‘media revolution’ that democratised access to portraiture, and a growing taste for biographies, autobiographies and private lives. Lilti revisits Jürgen Habermas’s notion of the ‘public sphere’, but argues that while the development of new forms of ‘publicity’ may have facilitated rational debate and criticism, it also stimulated prurient curiosity and trivia. In the new, affective and intimate relationship now conjoining celebrities and their public, members of the general public wanted to meet and become acquainted with famous people, and thought about them in a familiar, informal manner. Celebrities too had to accept that the expanded public would comment and criticise them, and they thus had to contend with detractors as well as fans.

This day-conference seeks to offer an overview of the history of celebrity from the beginnings sketched out by Lilti and through to the present day. How has celebrity been understood? What forms has it taken? Can we detect stages in its development?

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The representation of celebrity
  • The perception of celebrity by contemporaries
  • The legacy of celebrities
  • Semantic studies on celebrity
  • How people lived celebrity
  • The representation of celebrities in print
  • Comparative studies of reputation/celebrity/glory

We particularly encourage papers from early career scholars working on Europe and North America from the eighteenth century to the present.

The conference is co-organized by Anaïs Pedron (Queen Mary University of London,a.c.pedron@qmul.ac.uk) and Dr Clare Siviter (Université Blaise-Pascal, clare.siviter@univ-bpclermont.fr). The workshop is generously funded by the Society for the Study of French History, the School of History and the Eighteenth-Century Seminar at Queen Mary University of London.

The deadline for submissions is 15th February 2017. Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent to the conference organisers at queenmaryfrenchforum@gmail.com

Attendance is free. There is no registration fee but due to limited space, advance registration is required.

Please send enquiries to queenmaryfrenchforum@gmail.com.

Antoine Lilti is one of the foremost social and cultural historians of eighteenth-century France and the Enlightenment. He is attached as directeur d’études to the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Among his many publications are Le Monde des salons. Sociabilité et mondanité à Paris au XVIIIe siècle (2005), translated as The Society of Salons : Sociability and Worldliness (Oxford University Press, 2015) and Figures publiques. L’invention de la célébrité (1750-1850), (2014; English translation forthcoming, 2017).

Professionalization and Networks Study Day

Earlier this summer, we had the pleasure to welcome Dr. Rebecca Dowd Geoffroy-Schwinden for the final Revolutionary Researchers event of the year. The morning started off with Rebecca’s lecture followed by a discussion, and then three shorter presentations by UK PhD students in the afternoon.

We had discussed Rebecca’s thesis, ‘Politics, the French Revolution, and Performance: Parisian Musicians as an Emergent Professional Class, 1749-1802’ during our reading group in March and so Rebecca’s visit was a fantastic opportunity to carry on our conversation and we are very grateful for her visit. In both sessions, the themes of networks and professionalization dominated, especially the methodology we should adopt as scholars to trace such individuals and institutions. Rebecca explained how the Revolution purposefully demolished and established institutions, but that these ‘new’ entities often carried on from their predecessors. Although musicians were the only artists to not have an authoritative institution before the Revolution, Rebecca showed that a less formal network existed prior to 1789 in the form of masonic lodges. Even during the ancien régime, musicians were able to transform their status through these lodges: instead of being church servants, they now played alongside amateurs, in a body of players from differing social ranks. Within this institution, all were supposedly equal. Rebecca argued that this experience transformed musicians’ status in the new Revolutionary institution of the Conservatoire. This institution’s members had often been masons, and having belonged to such an establishment greatly helped a musician’s chances not only of gaining a position in the new Conservatoire, but of holding on to his position during the budget cuts of the late 1790s. It was a formative experience in a musician’s quest to become a professional. As PhD students, it was very beneficial for us not only to continue the discussion from March but to see how Rebecca’s research had developed over her time as an Early Career Researcher.

Maïa Kirby then gave a presentation entitled ‘The Democratic Sphere: Communications to the French National Assembly’s Committee of Research, 1789-1790’ where she presented her impressive database built from information from over 12,000 archival documents, originating from all over France and sent to Paris. Maïa’s paper was particularly revelatory, because although many of the letters were denunciations, attempting to unseat elements of the ancien régime, they offer us a new view of how the revolution was carried out at the municipal level. Stacie Allan then spoke to us about networks of female authors such as Madame de Staël and Claire de Duras during the early nineteenth century and their political engagement. Although women are traditionally side-lined in these narratives, Stacie demonstrated not only how they interacted in the political sphere through their novels, but how women could be politically engaged when correcting and influencing male productions, which Simone de Beauvoir continued to do with Jean-Paul Sartre well into the twentieth century. Finally, Clare Siviter’s presentation returned to show how theatrical continuity and rupture can be traced through the ‘Registres de la Comédie-Française’ project. As Rebecca had shown with her case study of continuity and rupture, this database reveals that many elements of the ancien régime lasted into the Revolution, allowing the discussion to return to methodological questions of what such an approach reveals or hides and how we as researchers should treat such questions.

Rebecca Geoffroy-Schwinden, ‘Politics, the French Revolution, and Performance: Parisian Musicians as an Emergent Professional Class, 1749-1802’, Thesis, Duke University, 2015

This term’s reading group was dedicated to the notion of the ‘emergence of a professional class’, for which Jonathan chose Rebecca Geoffroy-Schwinden’s recent doctoral thesis. The aim of this session was to help us think about this phenomenon within our own Revolutionary artistic communities at the centre of our research.


We agreed that this was a conceptually useful and stimulating approach, which emphasised how informal ancien régime relationships became institutionalised by the Revolution. In her third chapter, which was the focus of our discussions, Geoffroy-Schwinden uses the history of the Conservatoire as a ‘history from below’ instead of the traditional top-down approach, she investigates French actors outside of France, and how musical activity whilst in emigration could licence an émigré’s return: the regime had an inherent belief in music’s didacticism.


Geoffroy-Schwinden’s work created much discussion and forced us to reflect on our own approaches. Fabio, who has worked on both real and imaginary networks around Cherubini advocated for a more contextual approach; Jonathan wanted to look at the relationships not just between composers, but between composers and librettists, and how the wider network, which invariably involved the Church, the military, and other teachers in the Conservatoire impacted on these friendships and the works themselves. What about the international scene and how did the identity of ‘French’ fit into this? Essentially, we just wanted to know more about our own and different case studies.


This brought us onto a more detailed methodological dialogue, reflecting on topography. Cosmin rightly argued that such an approach was necessary to underline the social context at the time which can all too easily be left aside but that such approaches could run the risk of generalising. In our interdisciplinary environment we wanted to know how topology differs between the disciplines, both now and at the time. The principle question was simply how do we do this? How do we track these networks and measure their impact? How do we move beyond the institutions which are at the basis of our studies? This harked back to our discussions on the Revolution as a moment of continuity or rupture. Was 1789 really such a moment of rupture?

‘Revolution Under a King: French Prints 1789-92’, UCL Art Museum, London

After the Napoleonic exhibitions which have dominated the scene recently, it was very refreshing to return to some earlier, Revolutionary prints and we are very grateful to Dr. Richard Taws for welcoming us to the UCL Art Museum and giving us a guided tour.


Whereas the Terror attracts the most British attention, the curators, Emeritus Professor David Bindman and Dr. Richard Taws, wanted to focus on the period before this, whilst Louis XVI was still alive. The exhibition displays an intriguing collection of prints, from those of the three Estates, to the women marching on Versailles, the hidden silhouettes of tobacco boxes, Louis XVI for target practice, and contemporary political figures to name but a few subjects. However, whilst we might be familiar to some of these prints, this exhibition puts them into context. For example, in the ‘Réunion des trois ordres’ we are used to the image of the third estate carrying the noble and the clergyman, but in this example there are three etchings printed together: that we know well, but also one where all three estates embrace each other and where the third estate rides the back of the noble, who is dragged by the clergyman, all three men donning cockades: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/obl4he/frenchrevolution/1_reunion_de_trois_ordres.html We were forced to reconsider our assumed knowledge: in ‘Il faut en goûter’ the traditional revolutionary bonnet is green instead of red. Is the bonnet an earlier form of Father Christmas whose subsequent marketing has made us think of him as dressed in red?


Dr. Taws talked in depth about revolutionary print culture animating a rich discussion. He explained about print culture at the time, about the speed of printing and appropriation of former images with the change of events, but also how a normal household could own between 4 and 6 such prints, and whilst a print might lend itself to a certain reading, this interpretation was in no means unified. The objects we see set behind glass become astonishingly alive.


The democratic side of these objects was fascinating. Taws described how minor or side-lined artists could make a name for themselves as salon culture became more democratic. These images in turn allowed people to engage more actively in politics: they recognised political figures, the most famous example of which would be the recognition of Louis XVI at Varennes after his flight from Paris. This complimented our discussions from December on Lilti’s Figures publiques, l’invention de la célébrité, where Lilti pays significant attention to the role of images in the rise and democratisation of celebrity.


The most thought provoking point though was the role prints played in how Revolutionary events were historicised, for example by creating a cult around the Bastille, or by pre-producing prints for political events before they had actually occurred. These images significantly impacted on the contemporary, and our, understanding of the French Revolution.


More information on the exhibition can be found at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/uclart/visit/exhibitions/Revolutionunderaking and there is an excellent blog: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/tag/revolution-under-a-king/

‘Social Theories’ Reading Group

There were about 10 of us in attendance for our Reading Group on ‘Social Theories and the French Revolution’, with most of the group travelling only a short distance across campus to find the room (although for those of us with a little further to travel this was something of an adventure!). Once we’d settled in and caught up, we began by discussing what we already knew about the work of the writers we’d be discussing that day: Habermas (The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere) and Lilti (Figures publiques). There was an interesting range of perspectives! Some, like me, were not really familiar with their work; others, like Kate found themselves recalling well-buried facts from previous studies; some were well acquainted.

After this initial time, we began by discussing Habermas’ concept of the ‘public sphere’ in terms of its ‘creation’, to explore whether we felt it was something which could be manufactured. Jonathan suggested that the two terms perhaps meant something different, with ‘creation’ relating to socio-political spheres, and ‘manufacture’ to cultural spheres. Naturally, we also had to discuss the possibility of multiple public ‘spheres’ existing concurrently: was it possible, for example, that the flood of counterfeit and contraband imported prints was responsible for establishing a ‘public sphere’ of consumers who were below or ‘outside’ the official sphere of the nation state? Christie suggested that the cultural ‘public sphere’ was often over looked in favour of a socio-economic focus, but pointed towards our reading of Lilti’s work as a possible theoretical bridge ‘out’.

We also spent some time discussing the differences we perceived in public spheres across national boundaries, with a particular focus on the French and British states. It was suggested that during the long ‘revolutionary’ period, the creation and development of public spheres was more controlled than in France. Stacie posited that in France the Revolution had drastically altered the public sphere in a way which Britain never experienced with its gradual development of legal discourses and legislative frameworks. Jonathan argued that to be able to draw an effective comparison, we needed to think in terms of transnational public spheres.

Some discussion of the issue of gender was also had, and Stacie suggested that women had their own ‘private public sphere’ during this period, but we should not think that they were limited to it. After all, Tabatha pointed out that by being active within their own private sphere, they naturally participated in other spheres: as consumers, for example, they helped to drive the fashion and domestic industries. Stacie added that women indirectly participated in political debates by wearing certain items in public, such as the Indian shawl banned by Napoleon. We discussed the (in)famous story of French citizens attending the ‘red lace’ ball towards the end of the Revolution, which commemorated the victims of the guillotine, but Kate thought that this might only be apocryphal.

Jonathan mentioned that he had found examples of how fashion items had definitely caused political problems on the stage of the Opéra Comique, as the archives hold ominous letters from the Minister of Police threatening to shut the institution down if it continued in this vein. So the ‘cultural sphere’ we concluded could have great impact on the political, which seemed like a nice conjunction.

Having had several mentions of archival discoveries so far, Kate pointed out the importance of oral records. Often things wouldn’t make it into the press, but later records would mention threads of discourse as gossip. We agreed that French Revolutionary society was on the cusp of becoming a written society, but that it maintained a strong oral culture which carried a tremendous amount of power. This fed into Habermas’ anecdote about the power of memory, demonstrating how the minutes of British Parliamentary debates could initially only reach the public sphere thanks to the exceptional memory of one journalist (taking notes was banned in the public box). Jonathan brought up the chansonniers who caused the Revolutionary government a great deal of anxiety, because they were able to spread political sentiment without leaving any written record.

Nevertheless, as Tabatha argued, preserved written records or objects are a powerful and useful means of tracing the public sphere. Often these were in the ‘cultural sphere’, but this in turn had significant implications for the ‘socio-political sphere’.

This seemed to neatly bring us back to our earlier discussion about the difference (and possible competition) between two spheres: the cultural and the political. Upon reflection, this seemed to recur in all of our discussions about Habermas and Lilti: we didn’t feel we could talk about the ‘public sphere’ insomuch as the ‘public spheres’.

Pierre Baillot and Violin Pedagogy in Paris, 1795-1815

Congratulations to  Diane Tisdall, who also submitted her thesis very recently! We wish you all the best going forward with it. You can find the abstract below:

“My dissertation focuses on Paris from shortly after the French Revolution to the end of the First Napoleonic Empire (1795-1815). It concentrates on the professionalisation of violin teaching and learning in Paris in the period, using as a case study Pierre Baillot’s initial Conservatoire classes. The Directory government’s interest in creating practically-trained students, useful to la patrie, led to the inauguration of the Conservatoire in 1795, alongside specialist schools such as the science-based Ecole Polytechnique. The issue of music as a trade – métier – rather than an art-form beloved of the Ancien Régime, and within a cultural landscape marked by Napoleon’s fascination with Italian culture and aesthetic preference for vocal music, led to a turbulent first two decades at the Conservatoire. My detailed institutional history thus aims to contribute to existing scholarship on the early Conservatoire while also tracing how violin training related to contemporary cultural and educational change.

Pierre Baillot (1771-1842) was the most eminent European violin pedagogue of the early nineteenth century. One of the first violin teachers at the Paris Conservatoire, his classes ran for nearly fifty years. His violin manuals – Méthode de violon (1803) and L’Art du violon (1834) – remain a comprehensive and vibrant analysis of early nineteenth-century performance. With the help of the Conservatoire archives, press reviews and his own correspondence, I suggest that Baillot attempted, unlike many of his contemporaries, to overcome a fiercely-protected and oral pedagogical tradition. Rather than perpetuating a web of whispered secrets, he perceived music to have a strong social function; Baillot was happy to provide the means for his pupils to supersede him. By putting pedagogical integrity before his ego, Baillot proved the ideal teacher to propagate the Conservatoire’s national musical syllabus.                                         

As shown by Cynthia Gessele, the chaotic transfer in governments and ensuing legal loophole enabled the Conservatoire to keep its artistic independence from the newly-formed National Institute of Sciences and Arts. Maintaining internal control also enabled the Conservatoire administration to preserve its independence from the new Directory government, apart from in financial matters. Whilst Gessele is the first to provide a political history of the Conservatoire, she does play down (by inference) the institution’s relationship with the state. But was the Conservatoire really an independent institution? Were the rules and regulations actually followed? In 1900, Constant Pierre published a valuable body of work on the Conservatoire, opening the door on its archives to researchers: his books are a stepping-stone to finding the answers to such questions. But still, over a hundred years later, the dust on this admittedly labour-intensive, at times frustrating, but ultimately fascinating material, has barely been blown away. Even the scholarly editions brought out to commemorate the bicentenary of the Conservatoire’s foundation shied away from examining its full riches.

Whilst improved access to the archives makes for an easier navigation through the material – the Histoire de l’enseignement de la musique en France au XIXe siècle (1795-1914) (HEMEF) digitisation project is proving of great value to my research – all the resources require processing before a clear and detailed account of the first twenty years of the Conservatoire can be written. Such a project is sadly too large for one thesis. In my examination of the violin department, however, I attempt to initiate a move towards this goal as I weave my archival research through historian Jerrold Seigel’s theory of a ‘network of means’ – the drawing together of a group of disparate people to create a benchmark of technical competence, and so creating social power for the network itself and (some of) the people within it. Seigel’s statement that people, and their actions, are crucial to a network’s existence, may seem obvious but as studies in music education have highlighted, teachers and their pupils remain a relatively unexplored area of research.

This is why Baillot’s Conservatoire career features in my institutional history. Usually presented by scholars as an individually mighty pedagogue, as a (mostly) self-taught violinist, he would not have been able to generate or sustain a musical career without an involvement with the institution. Analysing his responsibilities at the Conservatoire, such as syllabus-setting, repertoire creation and of course, teaching, I show how his unorthodox musical training and aesthetical preferences informed his pedagogical ideology whilst attempting to fit within the newly-constructed institutional framework. We see that Baillot’s almost immediate veneration, as well as his constant financial struggle, were bound to the fortunes of the Conservatoire, in addition to the changing critical and public perceptions of performing excellence.”

Rebecca Powers: “Representations of le travail under the July Monarchy (1830-1848)”

Many congratulations to Rebecca Powers, a member of the Revolutionary Researchers network, who has recently finished her PhD at John Hopkins University. Here is the abstract of her dissertation:

“Representations of le travail under the July Monarchy (1830-1848)”

This project investigated how the ubiquitous but elusive concept of labor was operating at different levels of discourse in the 1830s and 1840s. After their contribution to the July Revolution, French workers were hoping for improved social conditions, but were promptly denied them. Their frustration came to a head in 1848, when they demanded the right to work. This moment is often considered the beginning of the labor movement in France, but I contend that it is during the years leading up to 1848 that “travail” underwent its most dramatic consecration as a modern value.

In order to better understand how the term took on such significance, I examined a variety of cultural documents, both literary and what we would today consider paraliterary, although this is a more recent distinction. I relied on Michel Foucault’s theory of discourse formation, whereby various texts contribute to an authoritative understanding of a given subject. The corpus included novels by Honoré de Balzac and George Sand; moralist inquiries by L.R. Villermé and H.A. Frégier; Jules Michelet’s historiography of the French peuple; and writings by the workers themselves, whose first-hand accounts of physical labor were becoming increasingly influential. I found a progression in the modalities of representation of work over the course of the July Monarchy: “le travail” shifted from an object of observation in Balzac, to a subject of discourse in Sand and the moralists, and finally to a political imperative in the workers’ press. Additionally, I discovered that, even as authors strove to represent labor as an observed reality, they were nonetheless highly dependent upon the imaginary types and tropes of literature, highlighting the centrality of literature in the formation of a social conscience.

May scholars before me have investigated textual instances of the emergence of a working-class identity in France, usually conceiving of 1848 as a point of rupture. Historians William Sewell, Jacques Rancière, and Joan Scott have studied popular discourse leading up to that moment, while French literary scholars Roland Barthes and, quite recently, Claire White have focused on the author’s own identity as laborer after 1848. However, before my project, the centrality of literature in the construction of a paradigm for understanding the social reality of labor before1848 had been neglected. Historians discounted the literary significance of the texts which form discourse, while most literary scholars ignored texts which did not fit an aesthetic or generic category, such as worker-writer newspapers. As a result, there was a gap to be filled as to how cultural and literary writings worked together to form the backbone of a discourse on labor which would ultimately lead to the uprisings of 1848. My research contributes to a more complete understanding of the cultural tapestry of the July Monarchy.

Le Musée de la Révolution française and le centre de documentation-bibliothèque Albert Soboul

Le Musée de la Révolution française, Domaine de Vizille

Le Musée de la Révolution française, Domaine de Vizille

Whilst at the conference ‘Collectionner la révolution française’ we had a little chance to explore the Museum’s collections and we were luckily enough to be shown the library as well as have free access to the ‘fonds ancien’. The museum is actually set in the former presidential chateau (seeing a state of the art bathroom from over half a century ago was an experience!), but most of the space has been redesigned in a thoroughly modern way to display the Museum’s fascinating collections.

The museum also has a very precious resource which might be of interest to the Revolutionary Researchers, the ‘centre de documentation-bibliothèque Albert Soboul’ with over 27,000 works. 3,000 are dedicated to history of art during the period, 20,000 to French Revolutionary historiography, 4,000 in the ‘fonds ancien’, 36,000 prints and 25,000 microfiches, not to mention the press at the time. The ‘fonds ancien’ was particularly interesting. Taking the example of poetry and theatre, the centre de documentation had some remarkable bound collections of Revolutionary plays which were deemed to be ‘political’ as well as some beautiful first editions.

What is more, the Museum and centre de documentation are able to accommodate researchers free of charge in the gothic tower (see their conditions below). Speaking to several of the academics who had worked there, they said it was a fantastic and idyllic experience, and an opportunity well worth taking up!

For more information see: http://www.domaine-vizille.fr/396-le-centre-de-documentation-albert-soboul.htm