Selected letters of Catherine the Great translated into Korean

Selected letters of Catherine the Great to Voltaire and others have recently been translated into Korean by Minchul Kim and Seungeun Lee and published by Itta.

While browsing through Electronic Enlightenment one day, I stumbled upon letters to Voltaire written by my soon-to-be queen of letter-writers, Catherine the Great. Seated on a precarious throne, the Tsarina had dreams she wanted to see realised. These she explained and advertised to Voltaire, in the hope of enlisting him in mobilising Western European public opinion in Russia’s favour. She considered herself to be surrounded by enemies: Pugachev, the nobility, the clergy, the Ottoman Empire, and after Voltaire’s death, the French revolutionary republicans. To her delight, Voltaire was happy to be her ally in her war against the Turks as well as against what they both regarded as feudal backwardness and religious fanaticism in Russia.

To the Korean public I wanted to relay the desires and anxieties of an aspiring philosopher-empress, who believed herself to be carrying the torch of Peter the Great against all odds. On her shoulders pressed heavily the burden of ruling a gigantic empire between Europe, China, and the Ottomans. I enlisted a student of the Nakaz, Seungeun Lee, as co-translator and approached an outstanding mid-sized publisher in Seoul with experience in both academic and trade books, Itta, which was already producing a book series of correspondences. The Spinozist Hyunwoo Kim, head of Itta, sat down with us, and the three of us started to pick out letters for translation. The decision was made after a long discussion to leave out the Tsarina’s correspondence with Grigory Potemkin and other Russian politicians, for two reasons. On the one hand, we liked to believe that there might be a future occasion for publishing them in a separate volume. On the other hand, more significantly, we wanted to shed light on a variety of aspects of the relationship that Catherine was trying to establish between the republic of letters and her court. We ended up selecting 46 letters in French written by Catherine to Voltaire (38), D’Alembert (4), Mme Geoffrin (2), Falconet (1), and Frederick II (1), accompanied by one of Voltaire’s letters to D’Alembert.

The collaboration was exciting. All three of us read French and English, and even at a master’s student level Seungeun possessed expertise in Russian language and history that was essential to the task. We consulted several editions including Alexandre Stroev’s from Non Lieu and Andrew Kahn and Kelsey Rubin-Detlev’s from Oxford World’s Classics. I must add that Kelsey Rubin-Detlev’s The Epistolary Art of Catherine the Great, along with Antoine Lilti’s Le Monde des salons and biographies of Catherine and Voltaire, was key to drafting the lengthy introduction for Korean readers. But most of all we ceaselessly returned to Electronic Enlightenment, even after the stage of initial translation, for annotations and links to related letters and people. All the way, Hyunwoo provided timely advice and firm support for the project.

Philippe de Lasalle’s woven portrait of Catherine (c.1771) of which a version still hangs in Voltaire’s château at Ferney (CC0 The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

It was a truly collective enterprise, driven first by the Tsarina’s praise for the poet: ‘En bonne foi Monsieur je fais plus de cas de vos écrits, que de toutes les prouesses d’Alexandre, et vos lettres me font plus de plaisir que les courtoisies de ce prince ne m’en donneraient’ (22 August / 2 September 1765). With humility (and perhaps some hidden desire for compliment) she compared what she did to help Diderot and the deeds of the vengeur des Calas: ‘Ce n’est rien que de donner un peu à son prochain, de ce dont on a un grand superflu, mais c’est s’immortaliser que d’être l’avocat du genre humain, le défenseur de l’innocence opprimée. Ces deux causes vous attirent la vénération due à de tels miracles. Vous avez combattu les ennemis réunis des hommes, la superstition, le fanatisme, l’ignorance, la chicane, les mauvais juges, et la partie du pouvoir qui repose entre les mains des uns et des autres’ (9 July / 20 July 1766). But the three of us were also aware of Voltaire’s panegyric of his admirer, for whom he wrote seventeen days before his death: ‘Que votre majesté impériale pardonne au bavardage de votre ancien serviteur de Ferney qui pourtant ne radote pas quand il parle de son héroïne’ (13 May 1778). Behind the edition, from inception to publication, was this mutual admiration between Catherine and Voltaire, which will hopefully reach a wider public in Korea, showcasing what the republic of letters had to do with the reform politics of the Enlightenment.

– Minchul Kim (Research Fellow at Voltaire Foundation / Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Global Intellectual History Unit at Sungkyunkwan)

From the VF to Vif! A ‘lively’ book series comes to life again as an online collection

In the early 2000s, the Voltaire Foundation decided to create a paperback series in collaboration with the Sorbonne University Press. It was intended (as we said in our publicity materials at the time) ‘to make available the work of the Voltaire Foundation’s authors to the widest audience in an affordable, paperback format’. Since we are known as the ‘VF’, and we wanted our new series to be lively, we called it Vif – French for ‘lively, alert, or snappy’. Nine of the snappy volumes from the Vif series will now enjoy a second life, as part of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment ONLINE ebook collection – the digital edition of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment print series.

The Vif volumes being added to Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment ONLINE are of two types: critical scholarship and primary texts. Of the former, several are collections of essays, originally aimed at advanced students preparing for the agrégation in France or competency exams in the US. These books treat, respectively, Voltaire’s influential manifesto for religious toleration, the Traité sur la tolérance; Diderot’s innovative play Le Fils naturel; and Marivaux’s journalism and theatre.


There is also a scholarly monograph by James Fowler, Voicing Desire, addressing themes of family and sexuality in Diderot’s fiction. Finally, we include an important study of Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique by Christiane Mervaud, who is the author of the authoritative critical edition of this work in the Complete works of Voltaire. An expanded version of introduction to that edition became this book and has remained the definitive study of the text.


The second set of books from the Vif being republished in Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment ONLINE are three works which are editions of eighteenth-century French texts. The first is an edition of short stories by the author Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (1711–1780). Best remembered now for writing a version of The Beauty and the Beast (1756), she was a prolific writer, producing some 70 volumes. The anthology published here, entitled Contes et autres écrits, is the first comprehensive introduction to her work. The second, entitled Vivre libre et écrire, provides a series of extracts from novels written by women during the French Revolution. The Revolution brought a marked increase in the number of books attributed to women authors, but many of these works are immensely hard to find. This pioneering anthology makes a selection of them available for the first time, expertly introduced by Huguette Krief.

Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (Expositions BnF).

Perhaps the single most successful woman writer of the French eighteenth century is Françoise de Graffigny (1695–1758), author of a best-selling novel, the Lettres d’une péruvienne, and of a play successfully performed at the Comédie-française, Cénie. Her life reads like a novel, and the best biography, English Showalter’s Françoise de Graffigny: her life and works (2004) can be consulted in Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment ONLINE. Graffigny’s greatest achievement is perhaps her magnificent correspondence, amounting to some 2,500 letters. The Voltaire Foundation has previously published a critical edition of her correspondence, edited by a team of scholars under the direction of J. A. Dainard. In praising this edition, Heidi Bostic wrote that the ‘Correspondence may well come to be regarded as the crown jewel of Graffigny’s œuvre. Her letters not only charm with their wit, insight, and style, but also document diverse aspects of eighteenth-century French culture and society’ (Eighteenth-century studies, 2008). Not everyone, sadly, has time to read all 15 volumes, so English Showalter produced a handy one-volume selection of the best of her letters, which is included here as well.

Françoise de Graffigny (Artnet).

These Vif volumes contain important scholarship about the French philosophes and make a crucial contribution to expanding our knowledge of women authors in the period. By integrating these volumes into Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment ONLINE, we are not only making this research more easily available; we are also enriching it by making it cross-searchable with the existing treasures of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment print series.

– Nicholas Cronk, Director of the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford

– Gregory Brown, General Editor for the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment

This post first appeared in the Liverpool University Press blog.

La nièce musicienne : Marie-Louise Denis et la boîte de Pandore

Portrait de Marie-Louise Denis, vers 1737, par sa sœur Marie-Élisabeth de Dompierre de Fontaine (MAH Musée d’art et d’histoire, Ville de Genève. Don de Marc-Samuel Constant de Rebecque, 1830).

« Ma chère Canente veut-elle bien m’envoyer son monologue ? » (20 mars 1741, lettre 58). En assimilant, sur un ton badin, Marie-Louise Denis à la nymphe Canente, qui doit chez Ovide son nom à sa voix mélodieuse, Voltaire insiste sur ses qualités de musicienne. Car si les lettres inédites de Voltaire à sa « chère nièce », parues chez Classiques Garnier, éclairent d’un jour nouveau la figure de Marie-Louise Denis, c’est entre autres en contribuant à rendre justice à son talent artistique – de claveciniste, de chanteuse, voire de compositrice –, auquel Voltaire a fait appel pour une œuvre dont le destin fut tourmenté : son opéra Pandore. Le monologue en question est en effet une scène du troisième acte de Pandore dont Voltaire confie la mise en musique à sa nièce, non sans topos d’humilité : « voulez-vous en attendant vous amuser à faire de la bonne musique sur ces paroles médiocres de Pandore ? » (lettre 45). Que nous apprennent ces lettres jusqu’alors inconnues sur la collaboration de l’oncle et de la nièce, du dramaturge et de la musicienne, sur un sujet à la fois aussi rebattu et aussi investi pour Voltaire d’enjeux philosophiques que celui de la boîte de Pandore ?

Une version primitive du monologue de Pandore, « À peine j’ai goûté l’aurore de la vie », dans la lettre de Voltaire à Marie-Louise Denis du 20 août 1740 (Paris, BnF : NAF 27363, f.80r / Gallica). La musique que Marie-Louise Denis aurait composée n’est pas parvenue jusqu’à nous.

Parmi les compositeurs auxquels Voltaire songe lorsqu’il entreprend de « courtiser avec succès une fois dans sa vie la muse de l’Opéra » (D2180), le premier n’est autre que Rameau – avec lequel il entretient des relations complexes. Voltaire avait écouté en septembre 1739, deux mois avant sa création au Théâtre du Palais-Royal, la tragédie lyrique Dardanus, qu’il tenait pour un « chef-d’œuvre de Rameau » (lettre 24). Néanmoins, la collaboration tourne court et Voltaire confie le 18 octobre 1740 : « Rameau m’abandonne, il y a là quelque intrigue dont je m’embarrasse peu » (lettre 49). Entre-temps, c’est à sa nièce, âgée de vingt-huit ans, qu’il propose de mettre en musique le monologue de Pandore qui a pour incipit : « À peine j’ai goûté l’aurore de la vie ». La lettre du 20 août 1740 (lettre 45), dont nous reproduisons ici un extrait, comporte ainsi une première version du monologue d’autant plus instructive qu’elle diffère sensiblement de celle qui sera imprimée.

Or, Voltaire ne tarde pas à attendre de sa nièce davantage qu’un simple monologue : il l’encourage à adapter l’ensemble du second acte (lettre 67). Il en vient même à projeter de lui confier l’ensemble de l’opéra : « ma chère nièce, vous embellissez donc cette Pandore et votre monologue m’avait déjà donné très grande opinion de vous. Je ne désespère pas que vous ne fassiez tout l’opéra si votre second acte vous plaît » (lettre 68). Pourtant, ce projet qui aurait permis à l’oncle et à la nièce d’« avoir à eux deux la musique, les vers, la prose, l’algèbre » (ibid.) ne voit pas le jour. Quelques années plus tard, il est question que Louise Dupin (dont l’important ouvrage Sur les femmes vient d’être édité) « orne de quelques croches » cette Pandore, que Voltaire appelle parfois son Prométhée (D2698). Il faudra cependant attendre 1748 pour que la pièce soit imprimée, et elle ne sera, malgré de nombreuses tentatives jusque dans les derniers jours de Voltaire, jamais représentée. Comme le résume Raymond Trousson : « Pandore devait tourmenter Voltaire pendant près de quarante ans. Peu d’œuvres secondaires ont, assurément, à ce point préoccupé leur auteur » (OCV, t.18C, p.332).

Nicolas Régnier, Pandore, 1626 (CC0 Staatsgalerie Stuttgart).

Dans les lettres à Marie-Louise Denis dont on doit la redécouverte au travail pionnier de Frédéric Deloffre et Jacqueline Hellegouarc’h, la figure de Pandore est prétexte à de nombreux mots d’esprit. Voltaire se plaît à gratifier sa nièce de l’apostrophe « ma chère Pandore » (lettre 68, lettre 80). Surtout, il multiplie les allusions badines au récit d’Hésiode, en inversant dispersion des biens et dispersion des maux : « tous les maux ne seront pas sortis de la boîte, et il en sera échappé des plaisirs si vous me faites mon monologue » (lettre 54) ; « bonjour ma petite Pandore, ce ne sont pas les maux qui sortent de votre boîte, mais mettez dans cette boîte-là l’espérance de nous revoir » (lettre 76). Enfin, Voltaire met spirituellement en balance les activités musicales de Marie-Louise Denis avec les cours d’algèbre qui lui sont au même moment dispensés : « ma chère enfant vous augmentez mon goût pour les arts et s’il se peut mon amitié pour vous en faisant de si belle musique, de la même main qui calcule des xx » (lettre 59). C’est qu’il s’agit, en creux, de comparaison entre Marie-Louise Denis et l’autre grande figure féminine de cette correspondance, « notre Minerve Mme du Châtelet » (lettre 4), femme de sciences – et elle-même bonne musicienne – sur laquelle ces lettres fournissent des détails biographiques nouveaux.

Est-ce à dire que Pandore n’est jamais que le prétexte à des plaisanteries galantes où l’on sent poindre, derrière la tendresse avunculaire, des sentiments d’une autre nature ? Ce serait en réalité oublier le rôle du mythe de Pandore dans la polémique anti-chrétienne de Voltaire. Car s’il se réfère volontiers à son opéra sous le titre de Prométhée, il le nomme aussi parfois Le Péché originel, et n’hésite pas à le présenter comme « un opéra philosophique qui devrait être joué devant Bayle et Diderot : il s’agit de l’origine du mal moral et du mal physique » (D12966). C’est que le mythe de Pandore vaut comme une alternative païenne au dogme du péché originel, et ce dès les Lettres philosophiques (vingt-cinquième lettre, §1), dont on trouve de discrets échos dans nos lettres à Marie-Louise Denis, lorsque Voltaire ironise sur Pascal (lettre 4) et célèbre Locke (lettre 7, lettre 12). Comme le souligne Béatrice Ferrier, « Pandore revêt un sens polémique au-delà du sens métaphysique ». Telles sont les raisons pour lesquelles Voltaire n’aura cessé de rouvrir et de refermer la boîte à musique de Pandore.

– Nicolas Fréry

Les Lettres inédites à Marie-Louise Denis (1737-1744) : Voltaire et sa chère nièce, éditées par Nicholas Cronk, Frédéric Deloffre, Nicolas Fréry et Jacqueline Hellegouarc’h, viennent de paraître chez Classiques Garnier.

Les œuvres inédites du vitrier Jacques-Louis Ménétra

Les Lumières minuscules d’un vitrier parisien: souvenirs, chansons et autres textes (1757–1802) de Jacques-Louis Ménétra, éd. Daniel Roche, Pascal Bastien, Frédéric Charbonneau, Vincent Milliot, Philippe Minard et Michel Porret (Georg, 2023).

Les historiens connaissent depuis une quarantaine d’années, grâce aux travaux de Daniel Roche, le vitrier Jacques-Louis Ménétra (1738-1812), maître-artisan parisien et ancien compagnon du Tour de France devenu jacobin sous la Révolution avant de se rallier au Premier Consul. Son Journal de ma vie, l’une des rares autobiographies au XVIIIe siècle d’un homme du petit peuple de Paris, est également la seule d’un sans-culotte qui nous soit parvenue. Ce sont là de vrais titres de gloire – et l’on peut s’étonner de l’espèce de négligence dans laquelle le tiennent encore les spécialistes littéraires de ces écrits qu’on dit du for privé.

Ménétra, cependant, n’était connu qu’en partie : le manuscrit 678 de la Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris, d’où Roche avait tiré le texte autographe du Journal, comporte une seconde partie demeurée jusqu’ici inédite. C’est elle que nous venons de faire paraître chez Georg, sous un titre qui évoque l’une des perspectives ouvertes par ces écrits divers. Il s’agit en effet d’un curieux recueil, mosaïque disparate d’une centaine de poèmes et de proses de formats, de sujets, de genres et de styles extrêmement variés, collationnés dans un relatif désordre, dans lequel un poème galant voisine avec un dialogue satirique, une épitaphe burlesque avec une réflexion philosophique, une diatribe politique avec une chanson de métier, une profession de foi avec un quatrain salace. Pareil éclatement diffracte de manière fascinante, un peu comme le feraient les fragments d’un miroir ou d’un vitrail, les lumières de la raison diffusées à la même époque par des auteurs qu’appréciait Ménétra, notamment Jean-Jacques Rousseau, dont il fut au début des années 1770 l’ami et l’admirateur.

Jean-Baptiste Lesueur, Des citoyens chantant l’hymne des Marseillais, détail du Serment républicain, vers 1792 (Musée Carnavalet).

Ménétra donne ainsi à lire, dans sa langue énergique, cocasse et maladroite, une culture dont l’appropriation doit peu à l’école et beaucoup aux voyages, aux fréquentations, aux spectacles des boulevards, aux lectures de hasard ou de fortune, dans les bibliothèques privées et dans les périodiques. Ses textes, écrits au son, sans ponctuation, avec leurs mots agglutinés, leur syntaxe hésitante, leur métrique aberrante, nous font entendre une parole rarement ouïe. Elle était si difficile à déchiffrer pour le lecteur profane qu’il a fallu se résoudre à la régulariser et la moderniser un peu (un fac-similé du premier long poème comportant 17 pages convaincra les dubitatifs).

Et notre vœu étant d’illuminer cette œuvre aux mille éclats divers, nous avons complété les études initiales et le sage appareil des notes par un abécédaire plus libre, plus ludique, plus sensible aussi, qui témoigne peut-être en retour de l’effet de Ménétra sur nous, qui écoutions sa voix singulière. Étrange fraternité que celle d’un homme si éloigné de nous sous tant de rapports et dont pourtant l’enfance polissonne, les appétits, les plaisirs dérobés à l’âpreté des temps, les moqueries, les indignations rendent à nos oreilles un son familier. Tant de grands personnages dont nous avons lu et relu les Mémoires – princesses, ducs et pairs, Frondeurs, maréchaux et magistrats – nous offrent sans jamais nous coudoyer le spectacle du Monde ; Ménétra, au parterre, se gausse à nos côtés.

– Frédéric Charbonneau

Enlightenment research as a vocation

Enlightenment past and present is the September volume in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series. This volume by Anthony J. La Vopa explores the social meanings of Enlightenment discourses in England, Scotland, France, and Germany. This blog post written by Avi Lifschitz discusses La Vopa’s new book, sharing insight into this new publication, its themes, and the introductory essay ‘Finding Meaning in the Enlightenment’.

The Weberian title of this blog post is a fitting tribute to Anthony J. La Vopa, a prominent Enlightenment scholar who has dedicated the last fifty years to the study of what he calls ‘the social history of ideas’ in the eighteenth century. This self-definition might initially conceal the indispensable role of rhetoric, literary genre, and authorial tone in La Vopa’s work on the Enlightenment. As he notes in the introduction to the new collection of his essays, one of his major early insights was that he could effectively ‘derive social meaning from the literary properties of a text’.

The essays collected here do exactly that, covering diverse topics across eighteenth-century Germany, France, and Britain. A new essay on Denis Diderot’s theory of genius joins La Vopa’s classic 1992 article on Jürgen Habermas’s and Reinhart Koselleck’s notions of Enlightenment and its public sphere of allegedly rational debate. Johann Gottfried Herder’s complex relationship with language, print and eighteenth-century readership is discussed next to the peculiar friendship between James Boswell and William Johnson Temple. Kant’s attitudes to sex and marriage are discussed next to an essay on the shifting meanings of enthusiasm (Schwärmerei) from Luther to the late eighteenth century.

Several essays concern methodological issues, from the resurrection of the contextual biography (written on the occasion of La Vopa’s 2001 biography of the young Fichte) to the gender turn in Enlightenment studies, Jonathan Israel’s work on the radical Enlightenment, and the complex interrelations between history, philosophy and literature in Enlightenment studies.

The jewel in the book’s crown is ‘Finding meaning in the Enlightenment’, the introductory essay that serves both as a retrospective stock-taking of the author’s scholarship and as a panoramic overview of Enlightenment studies since the 1970s. This is arguably a modern incarnation of the scholarly autobiographies, or accounts of intellectual development, written by eighteenth-century German professors and clergymen of a Pietist background – a genre so effectively mined by La Vopa over the years.

Indeed, the author applies to himself in the essay some of the questions that have fascinated him throughout his career. Did he follow a calling or a vocation while practising a specific trade, in this case academic teaching and writing on the Enlightenment? How much of his labour, intellectual or otherwise, has been rooted in the unconscious appropriation of a given socio-political habitus? Among other reflections on changing political and social trends from the 1970s to the present, La Vopa focuses on attitudes to higher education. Since the 1980s we have witnessed, La Vopa argues, a steady retreat of humanist ideals in the face of market-based utilitarianism, which has taken its toll on American public universities in particular.

Friedrich Schiller, the Humboldt brothers, and Goethe in Jena.  Engraving after a drawing by Andreas Müller, Die Gartenlaube 15 (1860).

In this respect, La Vopa does not shy away from drawing informed, careful parallels between past and present, based mostly on his book Grace, Talent and Merit (1988), which examined the intellectual and social implications of the career paths open to students from disadvantaged backgrounds in eighteenth-century Germany. The shift from the educational policies of the 1960s to today’s marketisation of academia is comparable, according to La Vopa, to the overtaking of the late eighteenth-century humanism of Schiller and Humboldt by the conservative educational policies of the early nineteenth century.

In both cases, class inequality prevailed, accompanied by a rhetoric that justified exclusions of the disadvantaged from university education even when in principle it implied their inclusion. Two centuries ago, the egalitarian ideals of Bildung and Menschheit were betrayed when ‘a freight of social and cultural capital – the inherited advantages of wealth and family education, including insidious codes of proper speech and manners – became a de facto entry requirement for the new classical Gymnasium, the gateway to the universities.’

This is just one of many intriguing insights in the introductory essay – an example of engaged scholarship at its best. It cautiously situates the Enlightenment in relation to the present without losing sight of diverse contexts, gaps, and discontinuities. The extensive essay spells out a central impulse behind La Vopa’s scholarship: ‘By recovering an Enlightenment field of argument about what education should do, we will not find solutions, but we can at least become more aware that a rich debate has been impoverished.’ This point applies, well beyond education, to all the chapters in this collection. La Vopa conveys here, as in his other publications, a palpable sense of Enlightenment as critique – not only of received ideas and existing structures but also of the writing self and all its habitual predispositions.

– Avi Lifschitz (Magdalen College, University of Oxford)

This post first appeared in the Liverpool University Press blog.

Voltaire séducteur

Dans l’ensemble, la critique moderne s’est surtout intéressée à la signification des œuvres de Voltaire et particulièrement à leur portée philosophique. Le contexte dans lequel on l’a lu est celui des ‘philosophes des Lumières’, un groupe en réalité disparate et divisé, mais unifié dans l’historiographie par des buts communs, la lutte contre les préjugés et les progrès de la raison.

Ce sont bien les buts que Voltaire poursuit dans son œuvre, mais cette entreprise doit se concilier chez lui avec une préoccupation majeure, sa réussite littéraire. Cette préoccupation n’est évidemment pas étrangère à ses confrères en littérature, mais elle semble particulièrement puissante chez le ‘poète-philosophe’ qui a réussi à faire de son siècle, dans l’opinion publique, ‘le siècle de Voltaire’. Cette constatation, ou ce choix de lecture, conduit à scruter les rapports entre l’écrivain et son lecteur.

À côté d’une prise en compte des traces profondes, visibles ou cachées, que les péripéties de son existence ont laissées dans sa création littéraire, à côté de l’analyse des ambitions intellectuelles d’un grand esprit aux curiosités universelles, animé d’un intense ‘besoin de vérité’ (Marc Hersant), il y a place pour la description des méthodes que Voltaire a pratiquées dans tous les genres littéraires pour concilier son projet critique et ‘philosophique’ au sens du XVIIIe siècle avec les attentes et les résistances du lecteur de son temps auquel il pense en écrivant ou en dictant. Cette démarche critique a déjà été pratiquée à propos de ses lettres (notamment par Geneviève Haroche-Bouzinac) ou à propos de certains de ses écrits polémiques (notamment par Olivier Ferret). Mais elle joue un rôle permanent dans toutes les formes de l’écriture voltairienne.

Il suffit de feuilleter la correspondance de l’écrivain pour mesurer l’intérêt passionné avec lequel, de sa jeunesse à ses derniers jours, il sollicite et guette les avis des membres de son premier cercle de lecteurs, celui de connaissances fidèles, appartenant au monde auquel il est attaché, des camarades de collège comme Cideville aux animatrices de salons en vue comme Mme Du Deffand, ou à des personnalités de la cour, comme les d’Argental. La circulation de copies manuscrites en avant-première permet à Voltaire de tenir compte des réactions de ce public représentatif de l’élite sociale à laquelle il veut plaire, à la fois parce qu’elle a le pouvoir d’assurer le succès et parce qu’elle détient une influence majeure dans le domaine politique et moral.

Anicet-Charles-Gabriel Lemonnier, 1812, Lecture de la tragédie de ‘l’orphelin de la Chine’ de Voltaire dans le salon de madame Geoffrin, huile sur toile, Musée National du Château de Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison.

Ces ‘prépublications’ lui permettent de perfectionner une adaptation de ce qu’il écrit aux attentes et au goût du lecteur qu’il ambitionne de séduire. Ce lecteur est presque certainement catholique et de tendances conservatrices, même s’il existe des nuances entre la noblesse militaire et la bourgeoisie cultivée, par exemple. Pour conquérir ce public, il n’y a pas d’autre voie que celle d’un respect, au moins d’apparence, pour ses réflexes intellectuels, ses convictions et ses intérêts.

C’est ce que la finesse de Voltaire lui enseigne, mais c’est aussi ce que lui a appris la rhétorique de sa jeunesse, cette forme moderne de la seconde sophistique qui est enseignée dans les collèges de la Compagnie de Jésus. De là sort une véritable poétique voltairienne de la conciliation, qui englobe tous les aspects de la création littéraire: choix des genres, superposition des thématiques, captatio benevolentiae fondée sur un jeu de masques.

S’agit-il de dénoncer l’influence terrifiante de la religion sur l’action politique? Ce sera dans une épopée, genre académique, à sujet national et monarchique, avec des épisodes charmants ou terrifiants, comme celui des amours d’Henri ou celui du siège de Paris où la famine conduit à des comportements monstrueux. S’agit-il de remettre en question l’idéal chrétien de chasteté? Ce sera dans des contes en prose ou en vers, comme L’éducation d’une fille, qui célèbre l’union libre sur le mode gai et badin.

Le genre si sérieux et à la mode en Europe de l’histoire universelle est exploité pour dénoncer mille absurdités des croyances et des institutions, mais avec des brassées d’anecdotes et de scènes pittoresques, des aperçus exotiques, des réflexions qui font ressortir la supériorité de la civilisation où vivent les lecteurs contemporains, comme le fait la conclusion du Siècle de Louis XIV, histoire certes ‘philosophique’ d’un règne, mais farcie de ‘particularités et anecdotes’, de détails sur l’armée et les combats, de portraits de figures mondaines, de récits de fêtes.

Rien de plus respectable que la tragédie: ce genre, ornement des cours, rassemble tous les éléments de la culture officielle. C’est donc dans une tragédie comme Mahomet, d’inspiration si catholique en apparence qu’elle peut être dédiée au pape, que Voltaire dénonce l’imposture religieuse, support du despotisme. Il désarme ainsi la défiance de gens dont la vie est enracinée dans le catholicisme.

Pour se concilier un public idéologiquement hostile à ses convictions, mais dont les regards sont tournés vers les cours et les monarques, il consacre tout au long de sa carrière des ouvrages historiques à des figures royales, Charles XII, Louis XIV, Pierre le Grand, les souverains du Saint-Empire. Pour plaire à une aristocratie à dominante militaire, il donne à l’armée et à la guerre une large place, du Poème de Fontenoy à l’Essai sur les mœurs.

OCV, t.23, p.283.

Un autre remède à la défiance du lecteur qu’il veut choisir, c’est l’usage des vers. Fortement liés dans les esprits avec un loisir de qualité et avec une longue tradition classique, ils constituent un langage en général indépendant des réalités et des débats du temps (même si derrière l’aimable paravent des bergeries peut se cacher le loup de la satire). Nourris du souvenir d’Horace et de Lucrèce, les lecteurs auxquels s’adresse Voltaire sont prêts à accepter bien des audaces morales et philosophiques, sans y voir malice. Le poète Voltaire travaille ainsi, le plus souvent aimablement et gaîment, à faire accepter le philosophe Voltaire.

Bien d’autres ressources littéraires l’aident à concilier les attentes du public et son inspiration. Il mêle des thèmes audacieux, comme l’apologie du bonheur par la consommation, à des thèmes traditionnels, comme celui du bonheur rustique dans la simplicité (Discours en vers sur l’homme). Il présente dans le cadre de genres neutres et utilitaires à la mode comme le dictionnaire un mélange d‘informations inoffensives et d’idées subversives (Dictionnaire philosophique portatif).

En lisant de près, au cours d’une longue carrière de commentateur et d’éditeur de ses œuvres, des textes de Voltaire dans tous les genres qu’il a pratiqués, j’ai cru pouvoir discerner chez lui une anticipation permanente des réactions d’un certain lecteur auquel il ne cesse de penser. Il m’a semblé que cette préoccupation était en général plus décisive dans sa création que l’influence des modèles, le respect des règles, les pulsions de l’inconscient, la marque des expériences, la recherche de la cohérence intellectuelle… C’est elle qui mettait en musique tous ces matériaux et déterminait leur choix. Cette approche critique peut s’appliquer à d’autres auteurs; mais elle trouve dans l’œuvre de Voltaire un objet fascinant. Voltaire n’avait qu’un maître: son lecteur, tel qu’il le connaissait ou l’imaginait. C’est ce que j’ai essayé de montrer dans le livre que j’ai sous-titré: Essai sur la séduction littéraire.

Sylvain Menant, Voltaire et son lecteur, essai sur la séduction littéraire (Genève: Droz, 2021).

Voltaire est un écrivain du passé universellement célèbre, comme Shakespeare, Tolstoï, Molière, Balzac ou Goethe. L’essentiel de l’œuvre de ces derniers auteurs est largement connu par le public cultivé de tous les pays, dans la langue originale ou en traduction, mais ce n’est pas le cas pour Voltaire, même en France. Il ne surnage de son œuvre qu’un ou deux contes en prose, que lui-même considérait comme des à-côtés inavouables du monument littéraire et philosophique qu’il avait eu l’ambition de bâtir.

Subsistent aussi, et de façon plus évidente, une façon de penser, sceptique et ironique, ‘l’esprit voltairien’, et la réputation d’un maître de justice et de tolérance. Mais la connaissance de cet esprit est fondée sur des on-dit bien plutôt que sur une fréquentation directe des textes. La lecture de son œuvre s’est réduite de façon spectaculaire après sa mort, même si les éditions de ses œuvres complètes se sont multipliées depuis l’édition de Kehl, dont il a pu voir la préparation, jusqu’à la grande édition dont la Voltaire Foundation vient d’achever triomphalement la publication.

C’est que le lecteur pour lequel Voltaire a écrit son œuvre, qu’il a cherché et réussi à séduire, sans jamais se relâcher dans cette entreprise, ce lecteur n’est plus.

– Sylvain Menant

Sylvain Menant, professeur émérite à la Sorbonne (Sorbonne-Université), vient de recevoir le Grand Prix de la Critique 2022 de l’Académie française pour Voltaire et son lecteur, essai sur la séduction littéraire (Genève: Droz, 2021) et l’ensemble de ses travaux critiques.

Pioneering women’s rights during the French Revolution: Marie-Madeleine Jodin

Marie-Madeleine Jodin is surely amongst the most neglected figures in the history of eighteenth-century political thought. Primarily considered as a correspondent of the philosopher Denis Diderot, of whom her father had been a collaborator, her biographical profile and the prominence of her intellectual contribution have only been rediscovered by historians over the past twenty years. In 1790, Jodin addressed to the French National Assembly a legislative proposal to ensure women’s political rights. My book, Donne in Rivoluzione. Marie-Madeleine Jodin e i diritti della citoyenne provides the first critical edition of Jodin’s Legislative Views for Women (Vues législatives pour les femmes) and frames her political contribution to the history of women’s rights and the participation of women in the French Revolution.

Title page, Marie-Madeleine Jodin, Vues législatives pour les femmes adressées à l’Assemblée nationale, Angers, Chez Mame, 1790.

But first, who was Marie-Madeleine Jodin?

She was born in 1741 in Paris, where her family had moved so that her father could further his watchmaking studies, which, in 1754, resulted in his presentation of a project for a two-pendulum clock at the Académie des sciences. In 1761 Marie-Madeleine’s life was thrown into turmoil when after her father’s death, her paternal uncle accused her mother of prostituting her daughter and had the two women locked up at the Salpêtrière. This institution, part of the Hôpital général de Paris, had been in operation since the late seventeenth century, and was intended to hold women accused of prostitution or scandalous behaviour. We do not know much about the time that Marie-Madeleine spent at the Salpêtrière but it was certainly an experience that deeply affected her life and the development of her political thought.

In the aftermath of her liberation from the Salpêtrière, presumably between 1763 and 1764, Marie-Madeleine embarked on a career as an actress outside the borders of France, in Warsaw and Dresden, perhaps to escape the stigma that marked the women who had been interned in the hospital-prison. After a somewhat bumpy career – which was followed by Diderot, who regarded her with paternal esteem – she moved to Bordeaux, where she met the magistrate Jean-Baptiste Lynch, to whom she would later send her legislative opinions, and thence to Paris, where she was present at the outbreak of the French Revolution. When the Estates General opened, and, later, the Constituent Assembly met, Jodin invoked the need to also call French women citizens to reform society with her Legislative Views for Women. This 86-page text was addressed to the deputies of the National Assembly and to the whole French nation, and outlined the characteristics of a new legislative plan that would restore ‘the rights which are ours by Nature and by the social compact’ to women.

Significantly, the text opened with the dedication ‘To my sex’, followed by the eloquent statement ‘And we too are Citizens’. At a time when the French people were committed to regenerating society and founding the future happiness and glory of the nation, Jodin claimed for women the honour and the right to contribute to public prosperity by breaking the silence to which politics seemed to have condemned them. Jodin called for ‘an independent legislative code’ that would eliminate the source of the excesses that had tainted the glory and virtues of women and called for a new political organisation that would free Frenchwomen ‘from that kind of protection’ that had kept them out of public interest.

Jodin remarked that the state of degradation in which her sex found itself did not derive from any imperfection of the female nature, but from the neglect of laws that had allowed a scandalous licence to be introduced into customs. The first point of Jodin’s reform was the abolition of prostitution. Beyond the current of reformists and punitives, she, who had known very closely the reality of the femmes publiques locked up in the Salpêtrière, observed that ‘the ignominy to which your police seem to devote part of our sex to the incontinence of yours, outrages the Laws and destroys the respect belonging to the sacred titles of citizenesses, wives and mothers’. While claiming equality between men and women – underlining, as François Poulain de La Barre had already done a century earlier, that ‘the mind has no sex, any more than virtues do’ – Jodin argued, from the point of view of complementarity between the sexes, the need for ‘a jurisdiction of women’ which would contribute to the restoration of the public good, starting from a reform of morals. For this reason, the plan included, in addition to the abolition of prostitution, the closure of gambling houses and the censorship of obscene prints. For the realisation of her proposal, Jodin therefore envisaged the creation of a national tribunal ‘concerned exclusively with, and presided over, by women’ consisting of a chamber of conciliation and a civil chamber. Cases of marital separation, family disputes regarding inheritance and any other discussion involving both sexes would be examined in the chamber of conciliation, while the civil chamber would deal only with matters of public scandal.

Chérieux, Club des femmes patriotes dans une église, 1793.

Following the example of the National Constituent Assembly, Jodin proposed a national women’s assembly. She stated that ‘we must proceed to establish our Laws, as the nation proceeds to reform its own. The King, who summoned in his paternal goodness the enlightened men who are now carrying out this great task, cannot forget that we women are part of his great family. He cannot ignore the fact that fathers take charge of the education of their sons and leave that of their daughters to the mother. We demand, with the confidence that his justice inspires in us, to be subjected to the same maternal authority, the one assigned to us by Nature and implicit in the relations of the sexes’.

Jodin did not live to see the publication of the French Constitution in September 1791, nor could she applaud the institution of divorce in 1792. She died in 1790, at the age of 49, shortly after publishing her Legislative Views for Women.

– Valentina Altopiedi

Turmoil: post-pandemic paradigm shifts and elastic adaptations

Síofra Pierse is co-editor with Emma M. Dunne of Turmoil: instability and insecurity in the eighteenth-century francophone text, the May volume in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series. This book is a collection of essays by international eighteenth-century colleagues, who explore instances of turmoil through study of eighteenth-century francophone texts. Turmoil(s) captured appear familiar to the modern readership: revisionism, disasters, realignment, instability, insecurity and resilience. In her introduction to Turmoil, Síofra Pierse proffers a new ontology of turmoil that has ramifications far beyond the eighteenth century. In this blog post, Síofra tests this book’s new turmoil paradigm against more recent geopolitical events such as climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, or war in Ukraine.

Sensational news stories are designed to shock. If they don’t affect us, or our environment, we simply dismiss them, barely giving them a second glance, registering that they are simply that, sensational headlines, and not something closer to home. But every so often, something terrible impinges on our lives, our world, or our consciousness. Then, the world tilts, often imperceptibly, on its axis. Suddenly, that particular headline, state, or event constitutes an instance of turmoil.

This study of turmoil and Jessica Stacey’s recent study of catastrophe narratives (also in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series) clearly capture a certain zeitgeist: that’s unsurprising, given recent global events in 2020-22. Stacey identifies catastrophe within the eighteenth century as a broad ‘meaning-maker expressing hopes as well as fears’. But the ontology proposed by this book highlights the significant difference between turmoil and its close cousins of catastrophe. As Catriona Seth writes in her preface: ‘The three stages of turmoil make it possible to distinguish this phenomenon from other forms of catastrophe studies which do not take the subsequent state into account’ (p.8, n4).

An Ontology of Turmoil

Turmoil proposes a new ontology of turmoil: any time there is turmoil, a paradigm shift subsequently occurs and ultimately there is an adaptation of some sort. Take, for example, the 1757 assassination attempt on Louis XV which did not kill the king, yet it triggered many changes, resulting in myriad instances of spin and propaganda. The significant difference between catastrophe and turmoil is that turmoil consistently manifests with a post-turmoil paradigmatic shift that reveals an elasticity of adaptation. Indeed, this book bears witness to the surprising human ability to engage in significant paradigm shifts. Even more remarkable is the incredible range and elasticity of post-turmoil adaptations. Many adaptations are affirmative ones, such as the reconstruction of post-earthquake Lisbon, or where new body burial directives emerged due to the excess of bodies needing burial during the bloodbath of post-revolutionary Terror in 1793-94.


One of the first revelations of this book is that to analyse turmoil is to burrow into the perennially dark side of humanity, with focus on sempiternal instability, insecurity and marginalisation. Where Kate Tunstall tracks the spin doctors of Versailles under Louis XV, she reminds us that there is nothing new about fake news, beyond its name. Similarly, while the term sadism dates only from the end of the eighteenth century, studies in our book reveal how the images so brutally practised by Sade in fact long predate the marquis and his century: infanticide and feminicide will, sadly, always be headline material. Similarly, turmoil narratives of eighteenth-century natural disasters connect directly to contemporary geopolitics. Most of all, eighteenth-century global turmoil awakens us to our deep, transnational interconnectedness: it was in the wake of the Napoleonic wars that Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich made his infamous quip about France sneezing and the rest of the world catching a cold.

The Paradigm Shift

Where Voltaire considered war as an inevitable curse on humanity, Turmoil addresses war from the perspectives of problematic narrative bias and the unreliability of memory. For anyone who has grown up in the luxury of relatively stable world peace, the invasion of the Ukraine on 24 February constituted a significant instance of turmoil. Perceptions of western stability were rocked by shocking images of bombardment, basement shelters, forced emigration, conscription, and the decimation of a modern European neighbour. Where elasticity of adaptation may permit engagement in local actions to help Ukrainian refugees, we are exposed to a barrage of new discourses around war ‘norms’, while absorbing good/bad dichotomies of cruel exaggeration within the recently-exhumed conventional rhetoric of international warfare. When perspectives shifted irrevocably on 24 February 2022, the complexities of post-invasion reinterpretation and revision became infinite.

Elasticity of Adaptation

The crucial final identifier within our ontology is that of post-turmoil adaptation, exemplifying the incredible elasticity of humanity. Turmoil focuses on many eighteenth-century manifestations of resilience such as Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s reinvention of self during the Revolution, or Isabelle de Charrière’s snappiness with discontent émigré-e-s. Recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided us with endless recent examples of post-turmoil adaptations and resilience: where government lockdowns engendered everything from shifts in perspective to epiphanies, the world quickly coined the telling term the new normal, and snapped into a universe of masks, hand sanitiser and vaccination certs. To study turmoil is to reveal the perpetual elasticity of the human world and its striking adaptability. This book highlights and celebrates humanity’s dramatic ability to adapt, to repair, to forge on. But it also exposes a new dark side, which must surely become the focus of a future study on humanity’s concomitant ability to swiftly blank the turmoil within its serially new adaptations or accommodations: we suffer, we adapt … and we ultimately forget.

– Síofra Pierse (University College Dublin)

The race competition

An old photograph of the former home of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Belles Lettres, and Arts at Bordeaux. It was located on the fashionable Avenue du Tourny.

On January 15, 2019, I received an unexpected phone call from Henry Louis Gates Jr. I had never met the famous Harvard professor, but he asked me if I’d be interested in doing a book with him on a curious essay competition organized by Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences in 1739. The winning of these ‘prize puzzles’, as they were called in eighteenth-century English, had often transformed people’s careers. The most famous example of this is, of course, that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau who submitted his famous essays on ‘the sciences and the arts’ and the ‘origins of inequality’ to two such contests.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours qui a remporté le prix à l’Académie de Dijon. En l’année 1750. Sur cette question proposée par la même académie: si le rétablissement des sciences et des arts a contribué à épurer les mœurs. Par un citoyen de Genève (Genève, 1750/1751).

Bordeaux’s 1741 competition was quite pointed: it focused on the source or causes of black skin and hair. This was actually one of the biggest ‘anthropological’ questions of the day, linked as it was to the larger question of how all of humankind’s varieties – they were not yet called races – came into being, and how they related to each other, or not.

Explanations related to Black skin had been circulating for twenty-five centuries before the Bordeaux contest. But the 1741 competition was the first time that a scientific institution invited Europe’s best thinkers to envision an entire sub-species of humans in terms of separate genealogies and separate categories. It is hard, now, not to marvel at the audacity of this French provincial Academy.

The first page of essay number 2, as submitted by its author.

Long story short, Skip Gates (as he is known in more informal settings) and I spent months figuring out just how to contextualize the contest. In addition to a substantial introduction, we decided that we would add a history of race timeline. He came up with a great title for the book: Who’s Black and Why? A hidden chapter from the eighteenth-century invention of race (Belknap/Harvard, 2022).

The resulting book dives deeply into this strange contest: its strange result (which I will not reveal here), the academy members themselves, as well as the history of the Port city of Bordeaux, whose slave-trading vessels ultimately carried 150,000 enslaved Africans to the New World. Slavery is, of course, the unstated link between the contest and the fascination with African skin.

To a certain extent one might say this book is slice of history, a microhistory of how race came about. Yet Who’s Black and Why? is also a macrohistory because the essays from the contest – they came from as far as Germany, Sweden, and Ireland – might also be seen as a European focus group, or a core sample of what Europeans thought about what was considered humankind’s most ‘extreme variety’, dark-skinned Africans.

Regarding the contest itself, the Academy of Sciences was primarily interested in naturalistic (not religious) explanations for blackness. And they received many ‘physical’ explanations, most of them pseudoscientific absurdities. One contestant maintained that blackness came from the vapours that emanated from the skin; another that the power of a pregnant mother’s imagination had imprinted a dark colour on her child and its descendants; a third claimed that blackness was passed on from person to person through darkened sperm; a fourth that the stifling heat and humidity of the Torrid Zone stained the skin and clouded the humours. Present in these essays, however, were also the three major tendencies that became the foundation for the new idea of race that was taking shape during the Enlightenment.

Herman Moll, geographer; Thomas and John Bowles, publishers: Negroland and Guinea with the European Settlements …  Atlas minor (London, 1729). The French slave port of Gorée appears in the upper left section of the map. By the time the Bordeaux slave trade had begun to rise, the entire west coast of Africa had been colonized by European powers.

The first was that of genealogy. Nearly a decade before Buffon published his own theory of degeneration in the third volume of his Histoire naturelle (1749), one of the thinkers posited that an original prototype human race moved around the globe and morphed into humankind’s many varieties as a result of climate and different types of food.

The second tendency is the rise of anatomical theories related to the source of blackness. This was best exemplified by the only contestant who ultimately published his essay after the contest: a surgeon named Pierre Barrère, who had been a surgeon on a plantation in Guiana. Barrère’s so-called findings – he maintained that his studies demonstrated that Africans had black blood and bile – were republished throughout Europe, in Diderot’s Encyclopédie, and even cited by Thomas Jefferson.

Title page of Pierre Barrère, Dissertation sur la cause physique de la couleur des nègres, de la qualité de leurs cheveux, et de la dégénération de l’un et de l’autre, par M.*** docteur en médecine de l’université de Perpignan (Paris, P.-G. Simon, 1741) (public domain, digitised by Google).

And there was a third tendency in the essays as well. In addition to the aforementioned genealogical and anatomical theories, some essays revealed a classificatory impulse, a desire to break humankind down into discrete sub-species or races. Twenty-five years later, thinkers including Blumenbach and Kant would bring human taxonomies to a new level, providing the essential infrastructure for organizing centuries of xenophobia into trenchant categories.

Who’s Black and Why? is designed to be helpful for both researchers and students. To that end we have also created an extensive timeline of the history of race We hope that this, and the book itself, will be a gateway into a curious moment in Enlightenment-era history, one where science was actively claiming jurisdiction over the human species.

Andrew S. Curran, William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, Wesleyan University

300 years after Kangxi

Pedro Luengo’s Global architecture for eighteenth-century Beijing is the April volume in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series. This book reinterprets Beijing during the eighteenth century, revealing a new chapter in the global history of architecture. In this blog post, Pedro Luengo discusses the beginning of a new period of Chinese international relations after the death of Qing emperor Kangxi and the new approach to cosmopolitanism developed in response to eighteenth-century global modernity.

China’s relations with the rest of world is a vital issue for our times. International relationships are deeply connected to notions of the perceived Other, which in turn can be shaped by personal experiences, powerful propaganda and historical events. To better understand China’s approach to foreign relations in the present, it can be useful to look to its past.

Portrait of the emperor Kangxi at age 32 by Caspar Luiken (1698).

The death of the Qing emperor Kangxi on 20 December 1722 marked the beginning of a new period of Chinese international relations. First with Kangxi’s successor, emperor Yongzheng, at the helm, followed by emperor Qianlong from 1735, the Qing dynasty developed different ways of dealing with eighteenth-century global modernity. Ethnically Manchu while governing a Han society, they proposed a new approach to cosmopolitanism. As part of a Chinese cosmovision, the emperor was placed at the centre of the globalised world, governing both their territories and beyond. While previous scholarship has tended to examine the role of European missionaries and the exchange of artistic traditions among the local elite, Global architecture for eighteenth-century Beijing: Building Qing Enlightenments aims to explain how these Qing emperors defined an image of globalisation in eighteenth-century Beijing.

More specifically, the book begins by reviewing the most recent approaches to court history in order to provide an analysis of specific building complexes. Yuánmíng Yuán is treated here not as a Chinese garden with exotic buildings based on European forms but as a vast architectural project that showcases Asian and European influences as well as Chinese styles. Indeed, references to French, Italian, Persian, and southeast Asian architecture can all be identified.

From Catholic churches to Russian monasteries to mosques, the second set of buildings under consideration provide a means to examine the Qing emperors’ support for religious tolerance during the period. This particular aspect of globalisation spread among both the elite and rural populations with engravings and paintings providing evidence of this cosmopolitan view, including in artworks found to adorn opera stages and shrines.

Green Wutong Tree Academy from Forty scenes of Yuanming Yuan commisioned by the Qianlong emperor in 1744 (BnF).

Analysed using new historical sources and the latest digital technology, these buildings help to provide a more accurate image of Beijing as an important global centre during the eighteenth century. This also allows for comparisons to be drawn between other contemporary cities, such as Istanbul, Paris, and Rome among many others. Knowledge of how the issue of multiculturalism was dealt with by these societies may help others to address similar challenges in the present. In addition, it might prompt renewed conservation efforts to help preserve or restore these historical sites. Yuánmíng Yuán is currently preserved as ruins after the destruction wrought by British and French soldiers in the nineteenth-century, while the churches, monasteries, and mosques examined mostly disappeared during the current century. The paintings found at rural sites are, themselves, at high risk. Curiously, the typical Chinese approach to heritage and its preservation insists on community value at the expense of other aspects such as material authenticity. In this way, the ruins of Yuánmíng Yuán are explained today as the consequence of European barbary, and not so much noted as a prime example of the Chinese contribution to the international history of multilateralism. Notwithstanding its terrible attack, the monument might therefore be better used to highlight and reinforce the potentially positive role that China can play as the world navigates its current tensions and challenges.

Pedro Luengo (Universidad de Sevilla)

Global architecture for eighteenth-century Beijing is part of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, published in collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford.

This article first appeared in the Liverpool University Press Blog.