Title page for ETD etd-1113101-205213

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Auerbach, Stephen
Author's Email Address auerbach@ku.edu
URN etd-1113101-205213
Title "Encourager le Commerce et Répandre les Lumières:" The Press, the Provinces and the Origins of the Revolution in France: 1750-1789
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David Lindenfeld Committee Co-Chair
Dena Goodman Committee Co-Chair
Christine Kooi Committee Member
Katherine Jensen Committee Member
James Bennett Dean's Representative
  • french press
  • the enlightenment
  • eighteenth-century france
Date of Defense 2004-11-02
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines the political, intellectual, and cultural significance of France's provincial newspaper press, called affiches, published between 1750-1789. Combining the histories of the press, provincial life, and the public sphere, this dissertation explores the ways in which the affiches became an indispensable part of local economic, cultural, and intellectual life while at the same time articulated a world view that was antithetical to the tenets of monarchical absolutism.

The first part of the dissertation focuses on the origins, form and contents of the provincial press. Faced with the twin obstacles of laws governing censorship and privilege, provincial newspapers eschewed political content and focused instead on forging networks of commerce: both economic exchange and the exchange of ideas. From this apparently nonpolitical and nonideological space the provincial papers were able to launch a systematic critique of absolutist society. The papers created a space where a community of individuals could come together outside their corporate existence and participate as equals. In the pages of the local papers, absolutist distinctions based on corps, état, and ordre had no resonance.

The second part of the dissertation focuses in on the port city of Bordeaux and its two local papers. Like other provincial papers in France, Bordeaux's papers were collective endeavors. Yet, the community that was fashioned in the pages of the Bordelais papers was necessarily an imagined community. It was not long, however, before the imagined community was transformed into an actual community. In 1784, the founders and editors of the Journal de Guienne formed a sister-organization, the Musée de Bordeaux. The musée provided the institutional base for many of the impulses encouraged by the local papers. It was open, socially mixed, and provided a space where members could come together on an equal footing to discuss and debate the issues of the day while practicing the art of self-governance. The ideals of equality and commerce - first articulated in the Bordelais newspapers and musée - became for a brief moment in time the guiding principles of the Revolution.

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