French Revolutionary Thought after the Paris Commune, 1871-1885.
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This thesis provides the first comprehensive account of French revolutionary thought in the years that followed the defeat of the 1871 Paris Commune, France’s last nineteenthcentury revolution. The Commune as an event has captivated imaginations for the past 150 years, but the same cannot be said of its participants. With the majority either dead, deported, or in exile, this period has traditionally been seen as one of intellectual stagnation and disarray. After the fleeting unity of the Commune, revolutionaries are thought to have admitted defeat, divided into groups, and drifted towards a series of prefabricated, orthodox intellectual positions. I argue that this is not a satisfactory representation of post-Commune revolutionary thought. Revolutionary thought cannot be characterised using later neat assignations of ‘left’ and ‘right’; ‘Marxist’, ‘nationalist’, or ‘anarchist’. Drawing upon the work of thinkers and activists from across the revolutionary spectrum, I demonstrate that this was a period of intellectual fluidity and engagement, as activists experimented with a variety of ways to reconstruct a unified, credible, and autonomous French revolutionary movement. Even as they were increasingly physically and politically divided, they remained united by this commitment until well into the 1880s. I trace this thought through a series of themes including revolutionary interactions with Marxism and new imperialism. This thesis thus also provides new perspectives on the construction of these wider doctrines, and on the political and social history of late nineteenth-century Europe more generally. Finally, by offering a fresh look at what has often been considered one of its most fundamental periods, I also seek to interrogate and revise our understanding of the revolutionary tradition itself – a concept that played a pivotal role in both political thought and practice for substantial periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
AuthorsNicholls, Julia Catherine
- Theses