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Revolution and Enlightenment in France

Simon Schama, 20 December 1979

The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the ‘Encyclopédie’ 1775-1800 
by Robert Darnton.
Harvard, 624 pp., £13, September 1979, 0 674 08786 0
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... No walnuts, no Enlightenment, it seems. For, as Robert Darnton tells us in his epic chronicle of the Life and Times of the quarto edition of the Encyclopédie, it was nuts and resin from the Midi together with Paris turpentine and linseed oil which made the ink (six monstrous 250-livre barrels) which primed the type which printed the 36 million sheets which comprised the quarto which lowered the price which Spread the Word which overthrew superstition which disarmed the Old Regime and inaugurated the rationalist millennium ...

Hangover

Peter Pulzer, 9 January 1992

The Singing Revolution: A Political Journey through the Baltic States 
by Clare Thomson.
Joseph, 273 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7181 3459 1
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Berlin Journal 1989-90 
by Robert Darnton.
Norton, 352 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 393 02970 0
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AnEstonian Childhood: A Memoir 
by Tania Alexander.
Heinemann, 168 pp., £6.95, October 1991, 0 434 01824 4
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... neighbours. Nevertheless East Europeans are apt to marvel, Miranda-like, at their brave new world. Robert Darnton interviewed, among others, Reinhard Becker, the local councillor responsible for the environment in Bitterfeld, East Germany – surely the most thankless municipal job in Europe. When Becker visited his West German twin town he was ...

A Touchy Lot

Lynn Hunt: Libelling for a Living, 11 March 2010

The Devil in the Holy Water, or, The Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon 
by Robert Darnton.
Pennsylvania, 534 pp., £23, December 2009, 978 0 8122 4183 9
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Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech 
by Charles Walton.
Oxford, 348 pp., £32.50, February 2009, 978 0 19 536775 1
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... 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 against Marie Antoinette (leaving aside for the moment the rather different outcomes for the two women)? True, Hillary was not accused of committing incest with her child, but she was linked with various financial scandals and even portrayed as ordering the murder of the deputy White House counsel Vince Foster (who committed suicide in 1993) in order to cover up her transgressions ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... used to describe above all the work of Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984). Microhistorians have turned to the verbatim records of interrogations kept in the law courts of early modern Europe (or at least those parts of Europe where Roman law procedures were followed) to reconstruct the ...

Devouring the pangolin

John Sutherland, 25 October 1990

The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Faber, 393 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 571 14423 3
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... Robert Darnton’s reputation was founded on his monumental The Business of Enlightenment (1979). In this study of ‘the life-cycle of a single book’ Darnton tracked the creation, manufacture, distribution and reception of the fourth edition of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, 1775-1800 ...
Literature and Popular Culture in 18th-Century England 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 215 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0981 6
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Eighteenth-Century Encounters: Studies in Literature and Society in the Age of Walpole 
by Pat Rogers.
Harvester, 173 pp., £22.50, April 1985, 0 7108 0986 7
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Order from Confusion Sprung: Studies in 18th-Century Literature from Swift to Cowper 
by Claude Rawson.
Allen and Unwin, 431 pp., £30, August 1985, 0 04 800019 1
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Jonathan Swift 
edited by Angus Ross and David Woolley.
Oxford, 722 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 19 281337 4
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... makes them seem like Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta, respectively. In The Great Cat Massacre (1984) Robert Darnton described a night in Paris in the late 1730s when two apprentice printers went on the hunt for cats and staged a mock-trial before hanging them, to the raucous delight of their apprentice colleagues: the episode, as ...

Poor Devils

Peter France, 2 December 1982

The Literary Underground of the Old Regime 
by Robert Darnton.
Harvard, 258 pp., £11.55, November 1982, 0 674 53656 8
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... modern age – such is the view propagated in different guises by the French republican tradition. Robert Darnton’s objective, in this collection of essays, is to disturb the serenity of the dinner party, to bring the historian of ideas or the literary scholar down from the noble summits to the murky depths of Enlightenment. His particular concern is ...

Effervescence

Alan Ryan, 9 November 1989

Burke and the Fall of Language: The French Revolution as Linguistic Event 
by Steven Blakemore.
University Press of New England, 115 pp., £10, April 1989, 0 87451 452 5
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The Impact of the French Revolution on European Consciousness 
edited by H.T. Mason and William Doyle.
Sutton, 205 pp., £17.95, June 1989, 0 86299 483 7
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The French Revolution and the Enlightenment in England 1789-1832 
by Seamus Deane.
Harvard, 212 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 674 32240 1
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... literary event. Indeed, it was a literary event in a good many different, though related ways. As Robert Darnton has emphasised, it was a literary event in that it unlocked the printing presses and called forth a torrent of newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and essays. Where France possessed no uncensored newspapers before 1789, almost two hundred ...

Out of this World

David Armitage, 16 November 1995

Utopia 
by Thomas More, edited by George Logan, Robert M. Adams and Clarence Miller.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £55, February 1995, 0 521 40318 9
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Utopias of the British Enlightenment 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Cambridge, 305 pp., £35, July 1994, 0 521 43084 4
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... new Cambridge edition is an elegant reminder of its Latinity, its humanism and its seriousness. Robert M. Adams’s classic translation – which has surely become the most widely-read English version since Ralph Robinson’s of 1551 – accompanies a modernised Latin text that retains the elaborate paraphernalia of the early editions: the map of the ...

To kill a cat

Anthony Pagden, 21 February 1985

Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part One: I Grandi Staii dell’Occidente 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 463 pp., lire 45,000, July 1984, 88 06 05695 6
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Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part Two: II Patriotismo Repubblicano e gli Imperi dell’Est 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 1040 pp., lire 55,000, July 1984, 88 06 05696 4
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The Great Cat Massacre, and Other Episodes in French Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Viking, 284 pp., £14.95, July 1984, 0 7139 1728 8
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Rousseau, Dreamer of Democracy 
by James Miller.
Yale, 272 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 300 03044 4
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... historian’s task, in the very subjects it studies, Venturi’s history could not be more unlike Robert Darnton’s new book. Venturi is interested in how great events were understood by great, or at least highly articulate, minds. Darnton is concerned with apparently insignificant events – not the American ...

Knowledge Infinite

D.J. Enright, 16 August 1990

The Don Giovanni Book: Myths of Seduction and Betrayal 
edited by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 127 pp., £6.99, July 1990, 0 571 14542 6
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... the grateful monarch would abdicate in his favour, can only be attributed to plain lunacy. Robert Darnton reports on the autobiography of an itinerant glazier, born in Paris in 1738, a low-life Lovelace who outstrips all the window cleaner/travelling salesman jokes with his 64 seductions. If Jacques Ménétra is so extensively successful that he ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... propagated Scottish notions of liberty, improvement, politeness and sentimentality. Rather as Robert Darnton a generation ago diverted scholarly attention from the philosophes to the printers, engravers and booksellers of Paris in The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the ‘Encyclopédie’, so Sher looks through all that Scottish ...

Cobban’s Vindication

Olwen Hufton, 20 August 1981

Origins of the French Revolution 
by William Doyle.
Oxford, 247 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 19 873020 9
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... and wealthy non-nobles, who were able to buy their way into a nobility which conferred privilege. Robert Forster showed us how astute and businesslike the nobility of Toulouse and Burgundy were in the running of their estates. Chaussinand-Nogaret revealed the closeness of the ties between the world of high financiers, who easily married their daughters into ...

Frets and Knots

Anthony Grafton, 4 November 1993

A History of Cambridge University Press. Vol. I: Printing and the Book Trade in Cambridge, 1534-1698 
by David McKitterick.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £65, October 1992, 0 521 30801 1
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... and rhythms of the printers’ working lives. In the wake of brilliant studies by McKenzie, Robert Darnton and others, McKitterick reconstructs the economics of book production: the costs of type, copper plates and paper, the sizes of editions, the prices per sheet of the resulting books (slightly lower than London ones). Moving from the warehouse ...

When in Bed

David Blackbourn, 19 October 1995

Reflections on a Life 
by Norbert Elias.
Polity, 166 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 7456 1383 7
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The Civilising Process 
by Norbert Elias.
Blackwell, 558 pp., £50, March 1994, 0 631 19222 0
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... Elias wrote about the invention of childhood before Philippe Ariès, about cat-massacres before Robert Darnton. Countless virgin territories that he mapped out have since been thickly settled. His analysis of court life and the ‘royal mechanism’, further elaborated in a later book on The Court Society(1969), remains fruitful not only to those ...

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