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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

Enlightenment (in a time of crisis): France

9th July 2020, 16:30 to 17:45

This workshop is part of a series of online events arranged in lieu of the full Durham Early Modern Conference, which will return 6-8 July 2021

Speakers and Abstracts

Chair: Nicole Reinhardt (Durham University)

Linda Gil (Institut de Recherche sur la Renaissance, l'âge Classique et les Lumières -IRCL, Montpellier)

« Divisos orbe Britannos ». Posthumous Voltaire in England: circulation of the book and controversial reception.

When in 1779 Beaumarchais bought the project of the Complete Works of Voltaire from the bookseller Panckoucke, he first thought of setting up his printing press in England, land chosen both for technical (quality of printing material - typography and paper available locally), political (absence of prior censorship, freedom of printing) and commercial reasons (England, he thinks, represents a market potentially favorable to the dissemination of Voltaire's Works). For strategic and political reasons (war between France and England) and other logistical complications, Beaumarchais' choice ultimately fell on Germany, but he always counted on the possibilities of marketing the edition in Britain. What do we know about the distribution of this edition in England? The first documents that we have been able to find indicate serious commercial difficulties and opposition to the distribution of this edition. On the basis of these first elements, we wish to develop our investigation into the networks of printers and booksellers involved, in an attempt to understand what were the material bases for the circulation of French books in England and to try to assess the scope of this first polemical posthumous reception of Voltaire and of the French Enlightenment.

Gregory Brown (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

“Rediscovering the French Enlightenment in the embers of the Occupation : Origins of the critical edition of the Voltaire correspondence and the rediscovery of the French Enlightenment, 1944 - 1954”

This paper would provide an historical analysis of the origins of the first critical edition of the Voltaire correspondence, in the wake of World War II. Drawing upon archival sources, it will trace the efforts of Theodore Besterman to launch the project from London even as the war continued to rage on French territory. It will discuss the role of various state and non-governmental international agencies, including the British Foreign Office, the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, UNESCO and the city of Geneva not only to subsidize the project but to reconstruct an Enlightenment ideal of international scholarly collaboration. It will also discuss the importance of new bibliographic standards and of new information technology, notably microfilm, in making this work possible. Finally, it will explain the significance of this effort not only for the establishment of an international network of scholars but also for the distinctly interdisciplinary approach taken in the post-war era that came to define our contemporary understanding of the French Enlightenment.

William Nelson (University of Toronto)

“Time and the French Enlightenment,”

The presentation will focus on ideas and experiences of time in eighteenth-century France in order to show what they can contribute to our understanding of the Enlightenment. It will also reflect on what Enlightenment ideas of time can contribute to the growing body of scholarship focused on the historical study of time