In pursuit of politics

Education and revolution in eighteenth-century France

By Adrian O'Connor

In pursuit of politics


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4303-7
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £21.00
  • Published Date: October 2019
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, HISTORY / Europe / France, Humanities / European history, History of education, French Revolution, Modern History, History, Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions, EDUCATION / History
  • Series: Studies in Modern French and Francophone History


This study offers a new interpretation of the debates over education and politics in the early years of the French Revolution. Following these debates from the 1760s to the Terror (1793-94) and putting well-known works in dialogue with previously neglected sources, it situates education at the centre of revolutionary contests over citizenship, participatory politics and representative government. The book takes up education's role in a dramatic period of uncertainty and upheaval, anxiety and ambition. It traces the convergence of philosophical, political, ideological and practical concerns in Ancien Régime debates and revolutionary attempts to reform education and remake society. In doing so, it provides new insight into the relationship between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and sheds light on how revolutionary legislators and ordinary citizens worked to make a new sort of politics possible in eighteenth-century France.


'In Pursuit of politics is thus a welcome addition to the history of education as well as the history of French Revolutionary politics and offers new and important ways of approaching both topics.'
Karen E. Carter, Brigham Young University, French History, Vol. 33, Issue 1, March 2019

'We get insightful reconsiderations of Enlightenment luminaries like Rousseau and Condorcet, their work freshly illuminated by the context of eighteenth-century public instruction; even more impressively, we learn they were in a national conversation with ordinary citizens from across France... If it may be that eighteenth-century public instruction is "the history of a failure", O'Connor nevertheless shows that an account of that history can be a wonderful success.'
Journal of Modern History


Introduction - politics: a revolutionary idea and a practical problem
Prologue: the educational "system" of eighteenth-century France
1 Education and an ambivalent Enlightenment
2 National education: promise and paralysis
3 Public instruction: a new pedagogy for a new politics
4 Constitutional principles and concrete proposals: reconsidering Talleyrand and Condorcet on public instruction
5 Revolutionary politics à la plume: the public on education and politics
6 New wine in old bottles? Ancien Régime schools imagine the future
7 Republican instruction: an elusive ideal
Conclusion - politics: real, pursued, and promised


Adrian O'Connor is Associate Professor of History at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg

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