Celebrate Bastille Day with these readings on the French history.
What can the history of fashion tell us about Ancien Régime credit markets and economies? In Credit, Fashion, Sex: Economies of Regard in Old Regime France, Clare Haru Crowston examines “economies of regard” in which reputation depended on fashionable appearances and sexual desire. Credit was both a central part of economic exchange and a crucial concept for explaining dynamics of influence and power in all spheres of life. Contemporaries used the term credit to describe reputation and the currency it provided in court politics, literary production, religion, and commerce.
Volume 38, issue 1 of French Historical Studies, features a forum, “Thermidor and the French Revolution.” One of the central purposes of this forum is to call into question the distinctiveness of the Thermidorian moment. The essays that follow highlight continuities across 9 Thermidor that joined supposedly antithetical political cultures, calling into question traditional ways of periodizing the Revolution and suggesting how much we remain under the Thermidorians’ sway when we accept their mythmaking as the foundation of our historical categories. Hence this forum intends not just to reexamine the Thermidorian moment but to reshape the contours of the First Republic. Essays in this forum suggest how much the First Republic remained a coherent political entity despite the dramatic events of 9-10 Thermidor. Read the introduction, made freely available.
How did the Bastille itself come to symbolize the Old Regime? The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom by Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink and Rolf Reichardt use a semiotic reading of the Bastille to reveal how historical symbols are generated; what these symbols’ functions are in the collective memory of societies; and how they are used by social, political, and ideological groups. Other titles on the French Revolution include Revolutionary News: The Press in France, 1789–1799 by Jeremy Popkin, The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775 by Steven Laurence Kaplan, and Soldiers of the French Revolution by Alan Forrest.
For additional reading, check out this editorial, “Questioning the Global Turn: The Case of the French Revolution,” by David A. Bell, featured in volume 37, issue 1 of French Historical Studies.