A recent symposium held in Paris on eighteenth century French history included a paper by Kingston University historian Marisa Linton, who is one of Britain’s leading experts on all aspects of the Enlightenment and the key events and personalities of the French Revolution.
Eighteenth-century Paris, the ‘city of light’, was a focal point of the seismic movement of ideas known collectively as the Enlightenment. In 1789 France saw the outbreak of the biggest Revolution the world had yet seen. Yet what was the direct relationship – if one existed – between these two events? The question of how the Enlightenment influenced the Revolution is one that historians and political scientists have repeatedly addressed, yet in many ways that connection remains as problematic and contested now as it was for the people of the eighteenth century.
In March, 2016, Professor Keith Baker, of Stanford University, USA, Professor Antoine Lilti of the EHESS, Paris, and Associate Professor Charles Walton, of Warwick University, UK, organised a symposium on ‘Enlightenment to Revolution: Rethinking the Debate’.
Its purpose was to examine how a new generation of historians is shining fresh light on this subject. The symposium took place at the Institut d’etudes avancees de Paris (Institute of Advanced Studies in Paris). A team of leading international scholars was invited to attend and present their ideas, including Professor Stephane van Damme of the European University Institute; Professor Pierre-Yves Beaurepaire of the Universite de Nice; Professor Sophie Wahnich of the CNRS; Professor Philippe Minard of the Univesite de Paris VIII; and Professor Darrin McMahon of Dartmouth College.
Amongst the speakers was Marisa Linton, who is Reader in History at Kingston University and has published extensively on the French Revolution. Marisa was invited to present a position paper which set out the ways in which her two rersearch monographs, on the Politics of Virtue in Enlightenment France (Palgrave, 2011), and on Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013), provide new ways of understanding the dynamic relationship between the Enlightenment and the ideology and political culture of the Revolution’s leaders.
The special symposium took place in the very un-revolutionary surroundings of the beautiful Hotel de Lauzun, on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, where the Institute of Advanced Studies has made its home. Part of the purpose of the day was to offer new lines of argument and research for postgraduate students. Doctoral students from France, Germany, and the UK – including a sizeable contingent from Cambridge University – were there for the day, and contributed greatly to the event with their perceptive comments and questions.
A new generation of scholars is clearly on its way…
For more on this event, see:
Marisa Linton teaches a final year specialist course on ‘Enlightenment, Revolution and Terror’ at Kingston University. She also teaches the political culture of the French Revolution to postgraduate students at Masters and research level at Kingston. Students who take Marisa’s course get the unique opportunity to experience the cutting-edge of research on this subject – without the need to go to Paris to hear it.