The Historical Journal



THE POLITICAL USES OF SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH HISTORY IN BOURBON RESTORATION FRANCE


GEOFFREY CUBITT a1c1
a1 University of York

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Abstract

For French political commentators and polemicists of the Bourbon Restoration period (1814–30), England's history of revolution and of royalist restoration between 1640 and 1688 offered striking and suggestive similarities to the trajectory of France's own political experience since 1789. Elaborated not just in the historical writings of men like Villemain, Guizot, and Carrel, but in a host of political speeches and pamphlets and other forms of ephemeral literature, allusions to Stuart and Cromwellian history carried a potent charge in debates and polemics over France's own political prospects. Drawing on statements by politicians and writers as diverse as François-René de Chateaubriand, Louis de Bonald, and Benjamin Constant, this article explores the meanings that were read into the comparison or juxtaposition of French and English histories, the ways in which these meanings were argued and contested, and the political uses to which they were put, both by critics and by supporters of the Restoration regime. If references to the Stuarts, to Cromwell, or to 1688 were sometimes politically opportunistic, they also sometimes reflected an aspiration to comprehend France's political destiny by relating its present position to broader frameworks of historical understanding – a point which the later parts of the article seek to develop by scrutinizing the ways in which French and English histories are connected in specific writings by Augustin Thierry, Guizot, and Chateaubriand.

(Published Online February 13 2007)


Correspondence:
c1 Department of History, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD gtc2@york.ac.uk