Dukes and princes for freedom: The role of courtiers in the pamphleteer production of the Society of the Thirty (1788-1789)
The Société des Trente was a political club formed in November 1788 around the figure of Adrien Duport. French historiography has always acknowledged the role of this group in the pamphleteer production of the “patriotic party” (G. Lefebvre, J. Egret) while recognizing that its operations were not well known. American historiography (D. L. Wick, K. Margerison) has contributed to clarify the social composition of the society that met at Adrien Duport and to analyse the content of the pamphlets produced by its most eminent members. However, French historiography has poorly integrated—even ignored—these contributions. This project primarily aims to build a bridge between these historiographies by proposing to make the first synthesis of these fragmented visions of the same object of study – prior to a renewed approach.
Within the framework of this revisionist approach, this project seeks to situate the members of the Société des Trente within the political history of the reign of Louis XVI and, in particular, from the point of view of court history by approaching the court not as a homogeneous block, but as a field of political struggle crossed by rivalries and complex alliances that the historiography of the French Revolution too often neglects. It will therefore seek to reconstruct the family and clientele networks of the ten dukes who participated in the work of the Société des Trente. It will be a question of better understanding the engagement of this part of the nobility in the opposition to despotism and to distinguish what concerns the “duty of revolt” or the adhesion to the new ideas in the active participation of this high and titled nobility to the overthrow of the Old Regime.
How these patriotic pamphlets—which weighed so heavily on the public opinion campaign in favor of the doubling of the third (1788) then on the electoral campaign of 1789—were financed and disseminated? This question is also at the heart of the project. The members of the Société des Trente were mainly nobles of the sword or nobles of the robe. Out of five commoners, a minority—two—were linked to international finance : Isaac Panchaud and Étienne Clavière (D. L. Wick). Whose fortunes contributed the most financially to the vast public opinion campaign in favor of patriotic ideas started from summer 1788 ? Was this first stage of the Revolution carried out under the patronage of an enlightened aristocracy or the financiers of London and Geneva?
Enlightenment writers’ remuneration (database)
This project seeks to shed light in a practical and concrete way—through the question of financial dependence—on the links that bind 18th century French writers to the political elite of the kingdom. It is a question of refining the cartography of the actors of the literary and scientific space by reintegrating them into patron-client networks. The project involves coordinating several campaigns to collect and insert data drawn from the available bibliographical, printed, or handwritten sources. The intention is to integrate the data from these sources into the MPCE (Mapping Print Charting Enlightment) database initiated by Simon Burrows (University of Sydney), which already includes more than 11,000 agents of the French literary field of the Age of Enlightenment. Authors’ pensions are the first step, but the database is designed to include other forms of remuneration. Beyond that, the inclusion of favorable and unfavorable interventions towards authors are intended to compliment the database with the aim of providing researchers a new useful tool.