Radicalism and Reaction

Required reading:

Peter Fritzsche, “Specters of History: On Nostalgia, Exile and Modernity,” American Historical Review, 106:5 (December 2001).

François Furet, “The Tyranny of Revolutionary Memory,” in Bernadette Fort, ed. Fictions of the French Revolution (Northwestern University Press, 1991).

Darrin M. McMahon, “The Future of the Past: The Restoration Struggle Against the Enlightenment,” in Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001), Chapter 5.


Edmund Burke, “Reflections on The French Revolution” (1791)

François-René Chateaubriand, “Historical, Political, and Moral Essay On Revolutions, Ancient and Modern” (1815)

Joseph de Maistre, “The Divine Origins of Constitutions” (1810)

Klemens von Metternicht, “Political Confession of Faith”(1820)

Seminar Topics

From the very start, the French Revolution was a controversial event that invited numerous interpretations in its immediate aftermath. In examining both primary and secondary sources, seminar discussion will look at how intellectuals and statesman responded to the traumatic events of the French Revolution and what their interpretations reveal about the post-revolutionary period. In particular, we will consider what role the French revolution played in the making of modern conservative thought and politics.

Questions to consider:

  1. What arguments did conservatives use against the French Revolution?
  2. What alternatives did they suggest in making a case against revolutionary government?
  3. What impact did the Revolution have on people’s general perceptions of society?
  4. How did the French Revolution continue to influence events in France and Europe after its conclusion?

Further Reading:

Jennifer Ngaire Heuer, “Did Everything Change? Rethinking Revolutionary Legacies,” The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution, ed., David Andress. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Laure Philip and Juliette Reboul, eds., French Emigrants in Revolutionary Europe: Connected Histories and Memories (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

Laure Philip and Juliette Reboul, eds., French Emigrants in Revolutionary Europe: Connected Histories and Memories. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Beatrice de Graaf, Ido de Haan, and Brian Vick, eds., Securing Europe after Napoleon: 1815 and the New European Security Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Beatrice de Graaf, Fighting Terror after Napoleon: How Europe Became Secure after 1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Adam Zamoyski, Phantom Terror: Political Paranoia and the Creation of the Modern State, 1789-1848. London: Basic Books, 2015.

Michael Broers, Europe After Napoleon: Revolution, Reaction and Romanticism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996.

David Laven and Lucy Riall, eds., Napoleon’s Legacy: Problems of Government in Restoration Europe. New York: Bloomsbury, 2000.

Peter Fritzsche, Stranded in the Present: Modern Time and the Melancholy of History. Harvard University Press, 2010.

Jon Klancher, “Romantic Criticism and the Meanings of the French Revolution,” Studies in Romanticism, 28:3 (Fall 1989): 463-493.

Marilyn Morris, The British Monarchy and the French Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Frederick C. Beiser and Pamela Edwards, “Philosophical Responses to the French Revolution,” The Cambridge History of Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century (1790-1870), eds., Allen W. Wood and Songsuk Susan Hahn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 601-22.