Sunday, 14 October 2018

English-speaking Radicals and the French Revolution (Thursday 25 October)

The French Revolution is one of history's cataclysmic events. Its actions and consequences were observed, celebrated and feared widely beyond the realm of France. This month's Historical Association Bath Branch lecture, to be given by Peter Jones, Emeritus Professor of French History at the University of Birmingham, focuses on the responses of English-speaking radicals to the Revolution and its aftermath.

Reporting news of the French Revolution in July 1789 the London Chronicle proclaimed 'In every province of this great kingdom the flame of liberty has burst forth' but it warned that 'before they have accomplished their end, France will be deluged with blood'.

For some Britons the Revolution was seen, at least at first, as a belated attempt by the French to establish a constitutional monarchy as England itself had done a century before.

The English Chronicle or Universal Evening Post asserted that 'the hand of JUSTICE has been brought upon France'.

Recollecting the events of 1789 in The Prelude (1805) William Wordsworth wrote 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive'.

Both Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man (1791-2) and Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) took inspiration from the upheaval in France to advocate republicanism and equal rights.

In the United States, in April 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first president. It seemed to many Americans that the events in France three months later validated the American Revolution itself.

What do the events of 230 years ago and the intellectual responses to them teach us about the ways in which we think about the radical movements and turning points of our own times? Please come to Professor Peter Jones's lecture on Thursday 25 October to stimulate your own thoughts.

Mike Short