Lynn Hunt

Lynn Hunt teaches history at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of The Family Romance of the French Revolution.

There is no doubt an art of political slander, as Robert Darnton terms it, and in many places something like what Charles Walton calls a ‘culture of calumny’. But in what ways are they particular to a time and place? How different, for example, are the charges of lesbianism and Machiavellian manoeuvring levelled against Hillary Clinton from those published two centuries earlier...

The centre fights back

Lynn Hunt, 22 July 1993

Thanks to David Mamet’s new play Oleanna, the distracted, bumbling and self-regarding male professor has now become the archetypal victim of political correctness. Mamet’s John is victimised by Carol, the ultimate female intellectual mediocrity who gets her revenge on his patronising didacticism by turning him in to the university tenure committee on grounds of sexual impropriety. Professors beware: the stupid, the lazy and the obtuse among the young now have shadowy but powerful ‘groups’ helping them to get back at their supercilious, ironic and knowing elders. The stakes in the perennial tug-of-war between students and professors have risen to dizzying new heights.

In 1989, François Furet was frequently hailed (or criticised, depending on the context) as the ‘king’ of the Bicentenary of the French Revolution. He seemed to be everywhere, on television, in the newspapers, and adorning the pages of almost every glossy magazine. Foreign reporters featured him in pieces on the celebration. Even his absence from the international scholarly meeting at the Sorbonne in July of that year merited a comment in Le Monde. Furet’s elevation marked the apparently definitive defeat of the Marxist interpretation as the dominant paradigm in studies of the French Revolution, a defeat which coincided with the collapse of Eastern bloc Communism. Historiography and world politics seemed to reinforce each other in uncanny fashion in the home of the revolutionary tradition, and it was as if the historian Furet had proved prescient about the future as much as the past.

Wide-Angled: Global History

Linda Colley, 26 September 2013

What is history for? What do we want it to do? In 1731, an obscure Kentish schoolmaster named Richard Spencer offered some answers. Properly to ascertain his position in geographical space, he...

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Un Dret Egal: Political Sentiment

David A. Bell, 15 November 2007

If you want to understand the origins of modern human rights legislation, Lynn Hunt claims, the place to start is not the philosophical background, or the crises that the legislation addressed,...

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More Pasts Than One

Eric Foner, 23 March 1995

Rarely has the study and teaching of history been the subject of such intense public debate as in the United States today. While America’s now-famous ‘culture wars’ originated...

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Sometimes a Cigar Is More Than a Cigar

David Nokes, 26 January 1995

A recent ‘free uncensored’ supplement to Company magazine featured a display of 29 male bottoms. ‘How’s this for bare-faced cheek!’ it proclaimed above this set of...

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Mother’s Boys

David A. Bell, 10 June 1993

It used to be that historians searched for the causes of the French Revolution in the manner of detectives on the track of a master criminal. Over the years, unfortunately, they dragged such a...

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