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The Age of Cultural Revolutions

Britain and France, 1750-1820

Colin Jones (Editor), Dror Wahrman (Editor)

Available worldwide
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Paperback, 306 pages
ISBN: 9780520229679
January 2002
$31.95, £21.95
In this vanguard collection, a stellar group of internationally known scholars explores a key period in the making of the modern West. Although the long-standing notion of "dual revolutions," economic in Britain and political in France, has been vigorously challenged in recent years, these authors find that "revolutionary" is an apt description of the important cultural transformations that took place in both France and Britain at the onset of modernity.

The essays, by social and cultural historians as well as by literary scholars, range over many critical themes within this cross-cultural revolution: class, politics, and the nature of social change; gender and identity; race and imperialism; and the reach of the cultural imaginary. Combining primary research with theoretical reflection, each chapter makes a fresh and compelling contribution to the rethinking of these crucial years in world history. The Age of Cultural Revolutions, a superb distillation of the interdisciplinary perspectives of culturally sensitive experts, is revolutionary in itself and will be a valuable model for scholars and students interested in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain and France, European cultural history, and historical method.
Contributors: David Bell, James Chandler, Paul Friedland, Carla Hesse, Colin Jones, Thomas Laqueur, Sarah Maza, Michael McKeon, Gareth Stedman Jones, Carolyn Steedman, Barbara Taylor, Dror Wahrman, Kathleen Wilson
Colin Jones, Professor of History at Warwick University, is author most recently of France (1999) and coauthor of The Medical World of Early Modern France (with Laurence Brockliss, 1997). Dror Wahrman is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, Associate Editor of the American Historical Review, and author of Imagining the Middle Class (1995) and the forthcoming Cultural History of the Modern Self.
“This is a rich collection, offering stimulating examples of cultural approaches to a period which . . . seems now to have witnessed a cultural and political revolution.”—Mike Rapport History
"This superb collection of essays brings together the most exciting new work in cultural and literary history. Although the authors focus on the various cultural revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the significance of their investigations extends far beyond that moment. They show how the major categories of modern social life took root in this era, but they emphasize the surprising and often paradoxical ways those developments took place. Nothing about the experience of class, gender, race, nation, sentiment or even death was pre-ordained. These essays will enable readers to take a fresh new look at the origins of modernity."—Lynn Hunt, editor of The New Cultural History and coeditor of Beyond the Cultural Turn

"This is a valuable and provocative set of essays. Differing markedly in subject matter, they are linked by their intelligence and concern to re-assess early modern English and French histories, and the differences conventionally drawn between them, in the light of current work on language, class, race and gender."—Linda Colley, author of Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837
List of Contributors


David A. Bell is Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Lawyers and Citizens: The Making of a Political Elite in Old Regime France (1994), which won the Pinkney Prize of the Society for French Historical Studies, and The National and the Sacred: The Origins of Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century France (forthcoming). He is currently working on a project entitled "Napoleon and the Cult of War."

James Chandler is George M. Pullman Professor in the Department of English and a member of the Committee on the History of Culture at the University of Chicago. He is author, most recently, of England in 1819: The Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism (1998) and coeditor of Questions of Evidence: Proof, Practice, and Persuasion across the Disciplines (1994). He is currently at work on the New Cambridge History of English Romantic Literature, as well as on a book about the sentimental in theater, print, and cinema.

Paul Friedland is Assistant Professor of History at Bowdoin College. He is the author of the forthcoming book Political Actors: Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution and is currently working on a study of executioners and the logic of executions in old regime France.

Carla Hesse is Professor of European History at the University of California, Berkeley, and the cochair of the editorial board of Representations, an interdisciplinary journal in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. She has published extensively on the literary culture of the French Revolution and is the author of Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris (1991) and The Other Enlightenment: French Women and the Problem of Modernity (forthcoming).

Colin Jones is Professor of History at Warwick University. His books include The Charitable Imperative (1989), Reassessing Foucault (coedited with Roy Porter, 1991), and The Medical World of Early Modern France (with Laurence Brockliss, 1997). He is currently completing a history of eighteenth-century France for The New Penguin History of Modern France. His next research project is on the cultural history of the mouth and smiles.

Thomas W. Laqueur is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author most recently of Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (1990) and is completing a book about death and modernity.

Michael McKeon is Professor of English Literature at Rutgers University. He is the author of Politics and Poetry in Restoration England (1975) and The Origins of the English Novel (1987) and the editor of Theory of the Novel (2000). His essay in this volume is the subject of his current book project.

Sarah Maza is Professor of History and Jane Long Professor of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. Her work focuses on the cultural history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France, with an emphasis on the study of the social imaginary. Her most recent book is Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Célèbres of Prerevolutionary France (1993). She is currently completing a book-length essay on the construction of the "bourgeoisie" in French politics and culture between 1750 and 1850.

Gareth Stedman Jones is Professor of History of Political Thought at King's College, Cambridge. His publications include Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship between Classes in Victorian Society (1971) and Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History, 1832-1982 (1983).

Carolyn Steedman is Professor of History at Warwick University. Her books include The Tidy House (1982), Landscape for a Good Woman (1986), Childhood, Culture, and Class in Britain: Margaret MacMillan (1990), Past Tenses (1992), and Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1980 (1995).

Barbara Taylor teaches history at the University of East London and is director of the international research project "Feminism and Enlightenment, 1650-1850: A Comparative History." She is the author of Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the 19th Century (1983) and other articles on the history of early feminism. Her new book, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination, will be published in 2001.

Dror Wahrman is Associate Professor of Cultural History at Indiana University and the associate editor of the American Historical Review. He is the author of Imagining the Middle Class: The Political Representation of Class in Britain, c. 1780-1840 (1995) and several publications on the history of Palestine and early photography in the Middle East. He is completing a book on the eighteenth-century origins of modern understandings of identity, entitled A Cultural History of the Modern Self.

Kathleen Wilson is Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Her book The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture, and Imperialism in England, 1715-1785 (1995) won prizes from the Royal Historical Society and the North American Council on British Studies. Her forthcoming book, The Island Race: Englishness, Empire, and Gender in the Eighteenth Century, addresses questions of identity and modernity within the oceanic intercultures produced by British imperialism. Her current project is entitled "Theater, Culture, and Modernity in the English Provinces, 1720-1820."

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