British Government Aid to French Émigrés and Early Humanitarian Relief during the French Revolution

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Kirsty Carpenter Massey University, New Zealand

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Britain sheltered thousands of French refugees fleeing the Revolution. Relief organized on their behalf was unique at the time because it included both charitable and government-funded aid to temporary foreign residents. Resources were channeled through nongovernmental voluntary bodies in the French community and distributed by Jean-François de la Marche, the exiled Bishop of Saint Pol de Léon. The emigrants of the 1790s were agents of their own survival, but they also depended on diverse forms of support in host countries. That story has clear parallels in our own time. Eighteenth-century British relief also served as a precursor for subsequent humanitarian funding for victims of war and persecution.

Contributor Notes

Kirsty Carpenter is Associate Professor in History at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. She is the author of Refugees of Revolution: The French Émigrés in London 1789–1802 (1999) and co-editor of The French Émigrés in Europe and the Struggle against Revolution 1789–1815 (1999) with independent London-based author Philip Mansel. She specializes in the role of women writers in exile and is the author of The Novels of Madame de Souza in Social and Political Perspective (2007). She received her MA and PhD in History from Paris I, Sorbonne, and was appointed Chevalier dans l'ordre des palmes académiques in 2021. Email:

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