“All history is contemporary history,” observed Benedetto Croce. Work on the French Revolution has often proven his insight.* In today’s globalizing climate, it is worth examining French revolutionary historians’ uneven embrace of the current historiographic trend toward transnational approaches. On one hand, scholarship has been comparatively slow to take this turn for several reasons, notably the persistent belief in the centrality of the nation. The revolutionaries themselves built claims of French exceptionalism into their construction of universalism, and historians have inherited the strong sense that the Revolution held particular power and played an integral role in constructing French national identity.
Claude Langlois's work on the French Revolution captures the experience of ordinary people in the country as a whole. Against an interpretation that sees the Revolution as resulting in a secular, modernized France, he emphasizes the ambiguity and uncertainties of the outcome. He is above all interested in assessing the impact of the Revolution on the Church. Although the Revolution had a profound impact on the personnel, landscape, finances, and politics of the Church, the Concordat created the conditions for recovery. There were restorations in pastoral care and practices but in addition, there were also ruptures, especially in the long term. Alongside a nineteenth century of unexpected piety, there were also regions and groups of low practice and indifference. The article also discusses Langlois's contributions to the political history of the coup of 1799, and to population studies.
This article argues that the term “holy” (saint/sainte) was a key word in the French revolutionary lexicon during the Terror. Its use was comparable in frequency to the terms “glorious” and “useful”. Among the many things revolutionaries regarded as “holy”—for example, liberty, equality, the constitution, the laws, and the revolution itself—by far the most often cited was the “Mountain”. Historians have assumed that “Montagne” simply referred to the deputies who occupied the upper benches in the National Convention, but an analysis of the term “holy Mountain” shows that the real significance of the name came from its analogy to Mount Sinai. Revolutionaries venerated the Mountain as a source of divine laws and as a force with the godlike capacity to punish “impious” enemies. The concept indicates an authentic religiosity among the revolutionaries, who are otherwise seen as heirs to the Enlightenment, and therefore questions the traditional opposition between Enlightenment and religion.
The Émigré Novel, Nostalgia, and National Identity, 1797–1815
Mary Ashburn Miller
In B. A. Picard’s 1803 novel Le Retour d’un émigré , Sophie, the daughter of an émigré of the French Revolution, visits the greenhouse on her father’s estate, which has been sold to a family friend. There, she approaches two large orange trees that
Palmer, Brinton, and an American Debate on the French Revolution
John Layton Harvey
How did the historical profession in America view the French democratic tradition during the international crisis of modern liberalism of the twentieth century? Although Robert R. Palmer is remembered for his historical texts, his defense of popular democracy in the historiography of the French Revolution was an important, and as yet overlooked, contribution to the intellectual defense of democratic values during the 1930s, just when Western faith in "enlightened reason" was reaching a new low. This contest becomes visible in Palmer's debate on the meaning of the Revolution and the Great Terror with the Harvard historian, Crane Brinton. Viewed in the discipline's historical context, their debate shows that, rather than a consensual support for the ideal of European popular democracy, up to the 1950s American specialists of European history were quite divided on the French republican and revolutionary experience.
This article is conceived as an overview of the career and scholarship of Claude Langlois. It emphasizes the breadth, diversity, and volume of his work, giving particular attention to four fields in which Langlois made especially important contributions. These fields to some extent mark four phases of his scholarly career-although not necessarily in chronological order. These are historical religious sociology, the French Revolution, women and religion, and theology and spirituality. The conclusion stresses the originality and independence of thought displayed by Langlois throughout his career.
The Close Relationship between the Historians Georges Lefebvre and Robert R. Palmer
For some twenty years the historians Georges Lefebvre and Robert R. Palmer maintained a "transatlantic friendship." Beginning with his translation of Lefebvre's Coming of the French Revolution, Palmer became a close friend of his French colleague, providing him with much-needed food, books, and information. In return Lefebvre published articles written by his American friend in his journal Annales historiques de la Révolution française as well as offered advice about his research. Thanks to their intellectual cooperation, the two advanced the study of the Revolution in their respective countries. Despite the considerable differences between their political outlooks—Lefebvre was a committed Marxist and Palmer was a liberal Democrat—the two men remained close friends until Lefebvre's death in 1959. Much of this article is based on the recently published correspondence of Lefebvre with Palmer.
Rethinking Éducation, Instruction, and the Political Pedagogy of the French Revolution
This article examines the political pedagogy of the French Revolution and, with that, the revolutionaries' engagement with issues of political community and communication. It proposes that while the distinction between éducation and instruction, or between the development of moral and civic character, on the one hand, and the cultivation of particular skills, on the other, was prominent in eighteenth-century pedagogy and has been influential in our understanding of the Revolution, that same distinction has obscured essential elements of the revolutionaries' pedagogical and political agendas. Attention to the proposals and practices of revolutionary pedagogy, including the revolutionary festivals, reveals that what the revolutionaries called “public instruction” was a dynamic synthesis of civic and technical training, a synthesis that was intended not to foster unquestioning obedience or the obliteration of differences among citizens, but to promote civic communication in ways that would make a participatory politics possible.
A Critical Inquiry
The Reign of Terror in the French Revolution was a traumatic event, yet the language of trauma was not available to contemporaries of the revolutionary period. This article examines how physicians, revolutionary leaders, and men of letters thought about the effects of the Terror on self and society before the advent of modern trauma-talk. It shows that, in the context of the medical and philosophical theories available at the time, many saw the Terror as a constructive and therapeutic experience. This finding should complicate how historians apply the concept of trauma to account for past experiences. Based on this proposition, this article argues that it is not that the concept of trauma can help us understand the revolutionary era. Rather, it is that the changes brought about by the revolutionary era created the conditions for the emergence of modern trauma theory.
Reflections on a Trope in Eighteenth-Century Historiography
This article attempts to explain the appeal of "terror" in the French Revolution by examining the history of the concept of terror. It focuses on historiographical representations of sovereign powers, whether monarchs or nations, as "terrors" of their enemies. It argues that the term typically connoted majesty, glory, justice and hence legitimacy. Moreover, historiographical depictions of past rulers and nations frequently emphasized the transiency of terror as an attribute of power; they dramatized decline in formulations such as "once terrible." For the revolutionaries, terror therefore provided a means of legitimation, but one that always had to be guarded and reinforced.