France is a light-hearted nation… This classical common belief is echoed repeatedly throughout the eighteenth century and bears witness to the deep axiological, scientific and ethical upheavals which this volume explores. By analysing the importance of, and issues at stake in, these transformations, the articles gathered within tell the story of another age of Enlightenment: the story of an age of lightness.
Le petit-maître et la dame en l’air, engraving, c.1780. Source: Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Lightness is at the crux of how the French eighteenth century represents itself both in contrast with previous centuries and through parallels between European nations.
[Attr. to James Gillray], Politeness, ca 1779. Hand coloured engraving. The Trustees of the British Museum.
The notion of lightness therefore constitutes an essential paradigm of the historiography that developed immediately after the French Revolution. The intellectual heirs of the eighteenth century do not only find in this period an age of reason, progress, Enlightenment and citizens’ rights; they also feel, at times, contempt, at other times, nostalgia for the alleged lightness of its mores, the futility of its taste or the frivolity of its childish ways. Between the industrious bourgeoisie of the 19th century exploiting the voluptuous representations of fêtes galantes and the fascination of our own 21st century for the delightful frivolity of Marie-Antoinette’s era, the 18th century in its lightness has never lost its charm. Yet, crucially, it also challenges the progressive narrative of the history of reason and usefulness in the definition of the very values on which our community is built.
It is therefore particularly revealing to analyse the concepts and values associated to the notion of lightness in the 18th century. Such an approach yields breakthroughs in understanding why, and to what extent, this idea of lightness has been related to the French national character in general as well as, more particularly, to its eighteenth century.
Richard Newton, British servants with Honesty and Fidelity against French servants with Perfidy & Impudence (detail), 1795. Hand coloured etching. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Le Siècle de la légèreté: émergences d’un paradigme du XVIIIe siècle français offers an interdisciplinary perspective that bridges multiple fields of study related to the question of lightness. The fifteen chapters deal with paintings, morals, sciences, political history, literature, technology as well as economics. Together, these articles reveal the complexity of the notion of lightness in the eighteenth century by proposing not only new and original analyses of well-known sources (Hogarth, Fontenelle or Voltaire) but also discoveries of texts and objects less often studied (such as La Morlière, le Père Castel, Octave Uzanne, carriages or perfumes).
The critical and historiographical approach taken by this collection challenges preconceived notions and other prejudices, and unveils the national, diplomatic and at times existential concerns which contributed to the construction of the representations of eighteenth-century France. Far from proposing yet another traditional thematic approach, this volume offers the analysis of an endogenous and problematic paradigm around which multiple visions of humanity and of the world are articulated; it aims to offer a contribution to the renewal of eighteenth-century studies. Whilst it transforms how we look at a key moment in the construction of modernity, it also lays bare the sources of the fascination exerted by the French eighteenth century.
Jean-Alexandre Perras (Institut d’études avancées de Paris) and Marine Ganofsky (University of St Andrews)
Liverpool University Press is delighted to announce a new series in Ancient History, spearheaded by series editors Colin Adams (Liverpool), Fiona Hobden (Liverpool), Cristina Rosillo-López, (Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla) and Susan Mattern (Georgia), supported by an international editorial board.
Liverpool Studies in Ancient History is a major new international series showcasing high quality research and representing the dynamism and vibrancy of the study of ancient history today. The series will focus on the history of the Greek and Roman worlds, particularly through the lens of politics, economy, culture and society. Volumes will be of interest and importance to an international readership, through their empirical research, interpretative approach and emphasis on what interaction between different types of evidence can tell us about the development of ancient societies.
LUP editorial director Alison Welsby said “An exciting new series by exceptional and enthusiastic series editors, Liverpool University Press is proud to launch Liverpool Studies in Ancient History, which demonstrates not only our strong commitment to Ancient History but also our mission to publish high quality research for the academic community.”
Fiona Hobden speaking on behalf of all the series editors said “We are delighted to be launching our new Ancient History series with Liverpool University Press. The series aims to capture the complexity and diversity of the ancient Greco-Roman world, and to trace trends and transformations within and across regions and time. Working with our international editorial board, we hope to showcase innovative approaches to and fresh perspectives on the history, politics, society, and culture of the ancient world.”
Commissioning editor Clare Litt said “I am very excited to be working with a fantastic editorial team on this series, which will showcase the very strong research being carried out, not just in Liverpool but around the world.”
Further information on the series, including on submitting a proposal can be found here.
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To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we’ve curated a list of recent work by our brilliant female authors. Keep reading to find out more about some of the key titles by women from across our disciplines!
Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov movement she founded represent a revolution in the name of tradition in interwar Poland. The new type of Jewishly educated woman the movement created was a major innovation in a culture hostile to female initiative. Naomi Seidman provides a vivid portrait of Schenirer that dispels many myths.
Moving Histories explores the story of Irish female emigrants in Britain, from their working lives to their personal relationships. Using a wide range of sources, including some previously unavailable, Jennifer Redmond’s book offers a new appraisal of an important, but often forgotten, group of Irish migrants.
Middlebrow Matters is the first book to study the middlebrow novel in France. It asks what middlebrow means, and applies the term positively to explore the ‘poetics’ of the types of novel that have attracted ‘ordinary’ fiction readers – in their majority female – since the end of the 19th century.
Linda Yuretich translates the mid-12th-century Synopsis Chronike by Constantine Manasses, covering a history of the peoples of the East, Alexander the Great’s conquests, the Hellenistic empires, the Trojan War and early empire until the reigns of Constantine I in the East, finally focusing on New Rome and its emperors.
Doyeeta Majumder investigates the political, legal, historical circumstances under which the ‘tyrant’ of early Tudor drama becomes conflated with the ‘usurper-tyrant’ of the commercial theatres of London, and how the usurpation plot emerges as one of the central preoccupations of early modern drama.
In The Unfinished Revolution, Karen Salt examines post-revolutionary (and contemporary) sovereignty in Haiti, noting the many international responses to the arrival of a nation born from blood, fire and revolution. Using blackness as a lens, Salt charts the impact of Haiti’s sovereignty—and its blackness—in the Atlantic world.
The paperback version of the second edition of Marianne Elliott’s award-winning and highly acclaimed biography of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-98), the founder of Irish Republican nationalism, published earlier this month. Elliott has updated the work with new scholarship, new historical insights and fresh insights, making it a crucial publication for all scholars and readers of Irish history.
Virginia Smith’s A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost, represents the first systematic attempt to catalogue and explain all of the references to science and natural history in Frost’s published poetry.
A pious expedient between philosophy and anti-philosophy can be found in some eighteenth-century novels. The collected essays in this volume edited by IsabelleTremblay study how French novels of the Catholic Enlightenment contributed to the great debates of the eighteenth century and to the transmission of ideas. They also aim to restore those novels to the literary constellation of the age.
To further celebrate female authors, we’ve curated a collection of books in our Writers and their Work series which are written either by a female author, or have a female as their subject. View the collection on our website.
Marvel’s blockbuster “Black Panther,” which recently became the first superhero drama to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, takes place in the secret African Kingdom of Wakanda. The Black Panther, also known as T’Challa, rules over this imaginary empire – a refuge from the colonialists and capitalists who have historically impoverished the real continent of Africa.
But fans of the box-office hit might not realize that they don’t need to look to the make-believe world of the Black Panther to find a modern-day black kingdom that aspired to be a safe haven from racism and inequality.
The fictional kingdom has a real-life corollary in the historic Kingdom of Hayti, which existed as a sort of Wakanda of the Western Hemisphere from 1811 to 1820.
The Haitian Revolution led to the creation of the first free black state in the Americas. But the world was hardly expecting a former enslaved man named Henry Christophe to make himself the king of it.
Media accounts from the era, some of which I’ve collected in a digital archive, serve as a window into a brief period of time when the kingdom stood as a beacon of black freedom in a world of slavery. Yet, like Wakanda, the Kingdom of Hayti wasn’t a utopia for everyone.
A new kind of kingdom
On Jan. 1, 1804, an army led by former enslaved Africans in the French colony of Saint-Domingue staved off France’s attempt to bring back slavery, and declared themselves independent and free forever.
The leader of the revolutionaries, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, had defeated Napoleon’s famous army and made himself emperor of the newly-renamed Haiti.
But in October 1806, Dessalines was assassinated by political rivals, leading the country to be divided into two separate states: General Henry Christophe named himself president of the northern part of Haiti, while General Alexandre Pétion governed a completely separate republic in the southern and southwestern part of the country.
In March 1811, President Henry Christophe surprised everyone when he anointed himself King Henry I and renamed the northern republic, the Kingdom of Hayti. Henry I soon had a full court of nobles that included dukes, barons, counts and knights to rival that of royal England.
Haiti’s first and only kingdom immediately attracted the attention of media outlets from around the world. How could there be a republic on one side of the island and a monarchy on the other, they wondered? Was the new black king trying to mimic the same white sovereigns who had once enslaved his people, others asked?
The edicts establishing the royal order of Haiti were immediately translated into English and printed in Philadelphia, while many American and British newspapers and magazines ran celebrity profiles of the Haitian king.
One newspaper described him as “the elegant model of an Hercules.” Another described him as “a remarkably handsome, well-built man; with a broad chest, square shoulders, and an appearance of great muscular strength and activity.”
The ‘First Monarch’ of the ‘New World’
In 1813, construction of the opulent Sans-Souci Palace – meaning literally “without worry” – was completed.
The palace was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1842; today, its remains have been designated a world heritage UNESCO site.
During its heyday, the palace dazzled.
There were the elegantly manicured gardens and a unique, domed cathedral. The structure was flanked by a dramatic double staircase leading to the entryway and two arches detailed with etchings and inscriptions. One acknowledged Henry, rather than Jean-Jacques, as the country’s “founder.”
There were also two painted crowns on the principal palace façade, each of which stood at 16 feet tall. The one on the right read “To the First Monarch Crowned in the New World.” The one on the left said “The Beloved Queen Reigns Forever Over Our Hearts.”
Newspapers around the world reprinted articles from the monarchy’s official newspaper, the Gazette Royale d’Hayti, detailing the royal family’s lavish dinners, replete with bombastic speeches and lengthy toasts to famous contemporary figures such as King George III of England, U.S. President James Madison, the King of Prussia, and the “friend of humanity,” the “immortal” British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.
The Gazette also recounted the decadence of Queen Marie-Louise’s August 1816 official birthday celebration, which lasted for 12 days and had 1,500 people in attendance. On the final day of the party, 12 cannons fired after the Duke of Anse toasted the queen as “the perfect model of mothers and wives.”
A free island in a sea of slavery
There was much more to King Henry’s reign than luxurious parties.
On March 28, 1811, King Henry installed a constitutional monarchy, a move lauded by many in the British elite. The famous British naturalist Joseph Banks championed Henry’s 1812 book of laws, titled the “Code Henry,” calling it “the most moral association of men in existence.”
“Nothing that white men have been able to arrange is equal to it,” he added.
Banks admired the code’s detailed reorganization of the economy, from one based on slave labor to one – at least in theory – based on free labor. This transformation was wholly fitting for the formerly enslaved man-turned-king, whose motto was “I am reborn from my ashes.”
The code provided for shared compensation between proprietors and laborers at “a full fourth the gross product, free from all duties,” and it also contained provisions for the redistribution of any land that had previously belonged to slave owners.
“Your Majesty, in his paternal solicitude,” one edict reads, “wants for every Haytian, indiscriminately, the poor as well as the rich, to have the ability to become the owner of the lands of our former oppressors.”
Henry’s stated “paternal solicitude” even extended to enslaved Africans. While the Constitution of 1807 had announced that Haiti would not “disturb the regimes” of the colonial powers, royal Haitian guards regularly intervened in the slave trade to free captives on foreign ships that entered Haitian waters. An October 1817 issue of the Gazette celebrated the Haitian military’s capture of a slave ship and subsequent release of 145 of “our unfortunate brothers, victims of greed and the odious traffic in human flesh.”
Too good to be true?
Yet life in the Kingdom of Hayti was far from perfect.
Henry’s political rivals noted that people frequently defected to the southern Republic of Haiti, where they told stories of the monarch’s favoritism and the aristocracy’s abuse of power.
Worse, Henry’s famous fortress, the Citadelle Laferrière, was, according to some accounts, built with forced labor. For this reason, Haitians have long debated whether the imposing structure, which was restored in 1990, ought to symbolize the liberty of post-independence Haiti.
Henry’s dreams of a free black kingdom would not outlive him. On Aug. 15, 1820, the king suffered a debilitating stroke. Physically impaired – and fearing a fracturing administration plagued by the desertion of some its most prominent members – Haiti’s first and only king killed himself on the night of Oct. 8, 1820.
Despite some questions about living conditions in the Kingdom of Hayti, its ruler can still be recognized as a visionary. Even one of his most ardent rivals from the south, Charles Hérard Dumesle, who often referred to Christophe as a “despot,” nonetheless praised the remarkable “new social order” outlined in the Code Henry. Dumesle appeared to lament that the king’s “civil laws were the formula for a social code that existed only on paper.”
For all those who still dream of black liberation, strong – if ultimately flawed – leaders, like both the King of Hayti and Black Panther, have always been central to these visions.
King Henry was even depicted as a sort of superhero in his time. As one article from 1816 noted of Henry,
“History demonstrates that no people has ever done anything great entirely by themselves; it is only ever in collaboration with the great men who become elevated in their midst that they raise themselves up to the glory of accomplishing extraordinary deeds.”
Marlene Daut is Associate Professor of African Diaspora Studies, University of Virginia. She is also the author of Tropics of Haiti.
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This year Liverpool University Press will be 120 years old.
The UK’s third oldest university press, after Oxford and Cambridge, came into being on the 4th October 1899 with its founding Secretary/Director an Irish immigrant to Liverpool ‘possessed (of) a semi-divine inspiration, being endowed with a fertile imagination and a robust constitution,’ who left school at the age of 14 but rose off the back of an aptitude for languages to become the University Librarian and a globally recognised expert on the Romani. John Sampson’s threads of migration, Ireland, languages, Romani Studies and Liverpool are of course still in evidence in LUP’s publishing today, so too the founding memorandum’s specification that ‘the work of the Press shall maintain a high standard of excellence.’
John Sampson, founding Secretary (Director) of Liverpool University Press
Across 2019 we will be celebrating and exploring 120 years of LUP through events, blog posts, partnerships, archival research, an elegant anniversary logo, the hashtag #LUP120 and the opportunity to read some of our books and journals for free.
As with the scholarly communities it serves, LUP’s fortunes waxed and waned over many decades but the unfailing commitment of Press staff, authors and editors, and a wider community of scholars who understood the distinctive and important contribution of university press publishing, have helped to lay the strong foundation on which LUP stands today. Publishing more than 100 books a year, 33 journals and a number of digital products, and still the only university press to have won both The Bookseller and IPG awards for Academic Publisher of the Year, Liverpool University Press has been widely acclaimed for its willingness to embrace change. To that end, we have chosen to celebrate the future as well as the past in 2019 with the strapline ‘Forward-looking for 120 years.’
At a time when scholarly communication is undergoing scrutiny and the higher education policy sands are shifting, the importance of university presses has been largely under-articulated and we hope that this milestone anniversary is an opportunity to remedy that. For, as the introduction to The University Press of Liverpool: A Record of Progress, 1899-1946 (LUP, 1947) makes clear: ‘This is a continuous story which, in the main, is a tale of high ideal… There can be no better advertisement of a University than a University Press steadily producing books of high standing and sending them all over the world.’
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