Theorized History

An issue of: French Historical Studies

Theorized History
Journal Issue Pages: 216 Volume 35, Number 2 Published: Spring 2012 An issue of French Historical Studies


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Friedland, P., Roberts, M. L.

The Royal Menageries of Louis XIV and the Civilizing Process Revisited

Sahlins, P.

This article examines the shift in animal spectatorship at the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV (the 1660s) from the violence of wild animal combat at the Vincennes menagerie to the peaceful display of graceful birds in the first pavilion constructed in the Versailles park beginning in 1662. I interpret the pavilion and animal collections using the sparse administrative sources and the richer literary descriptions by Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Jean de La Fontaine, and the unpublished poem of the engineer-fountaineer Claude Denis. Drawing on the theoretical work of Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault, I argue that the menagerie is best understood both as a royal claim of absolute authority and as a model of the aristocratic experience of civilité. The menagerie was less a zoo than a living metaphor of Louis XIV’s absolutism and the court society of Versailles itself.

Do We Want a Revolution without Revolution? Reflections on Political Authority

Edelstein, D.

How can we move past revisionism? This article suggests that a first step is to recognize its strengths: Furet was right to underscore the transformative effects of revolution on political culture. But his interpretation of its significance was flawed. Not only did the events of July 1789 transform the understanding of revolution that had prevailed in previous months, but this concept continued to evolve over the next four years. It gradually went from being identified with a popular "right of resistance" to becoming a future-oriented and open-ended concept, associated with state action. This transformation peaked in October 1793, when the National Convention declared "revolutionary government." At this point, revolution provided the sole political authority for the Revolution. This legacy of the French Revolution would live on in the great revolutions of the twentieth century.

The Face of Imposture in Postrevolutionary France

Johnson, J. H.

This article considers deceit and criminal disguise in the context of social upheaval that recast the terms of identity from inherited status to merit. The appearance of high-profile impostors after the Revolution produced both fear and fascination, which writers and artists were quick to exploit for a ready market. It also prepared the ground for broad distrust of professional success and social advancement later in the century. Instances of deceit from across the culture mark the shifting sense of imposture in law and the popular imagination: the arrest and trial of an escaped convict who rose in the officers’ corps by posing as a noble émigré; the corrosive appeal of the stage bandit Robert Macaire, in whom audiences found a symbol for swindlers in finance, law, and medicine; and the many masks, physical and figurative, that appear in Balzac’s Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes.

"He Who Rushes to Riches Will Not Be Innocent": Commercial Values and Commercial Failure in Postrevolutionary France

Vause, E.

While scholars have written widely on the importance of honor in postrevolutionary France, the construction of commercial honor has been little discussed. This article examines the bankruptcy and subsequent trial of the banker Demiannay in Restoration Rouen with particular attention to the role of commercial honor and dishonor in practices and discourses surrounding business failure in the early nineteenth century. A careful reconstruction of the events preceding the bankruptcy reveals th

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