Myriam-Isabelle Ducrocq, ‘Harrington’s republic in eighteenth-century France’ (21 déc.)

Jeudi 21 décembre 2023 à 17h : Myriam-Isabelle Ducrocq (université Paris Nanterre), ‘Harrington’s republic in eighteenth-century France’

In his major book The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) and his subsequent writings, James Harrington vindicated democracy in an age when the term was often synonymous with anarchy (Cuttica and Peltonen, 2019). Beyond the act of resistance to tyranny, he exposed the constitutional means of implementing popular sovereignty in a vast country. In doing so, Harrington has incarnated a distinctive form of republicanism in seventeenth-century England, and, as I tried to show, in eighteenth-century France to inspire various constitutional projects.

By reconstructing the history of his reception, La République de Harrington dans la France des Lumières et de la Révolution (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2022) aims to bridge the gap between the great Pocockian narrative of Machiavellian republicanism in Great-Britain and the American colonies (The Machiavellian Moment, 1975) and the historiography of the French Revolution. The present book is set against the panorama offered by Rachel Hammersley (The English republican tradition in eighteenth-century France, 2010) and aims to go further. On the one hand, it shows the major role played by authors such as Hume, Jaucourt or Rousseau, along with numerous minores, notably translators and commentators, in reviving Harrington’s ideas. On the other hand, it shows the diversity of his intellectual legacy. He did not only stand as the inspirer of specific political institutions: as political economy developed, Harrington also appeared as the theoretician of a distribution of wealth among the people, perceived by many as the true basis of a stable political order.

Myriam-Isabelle Ducrocq is Professor of British civilisation at Paris Nanterre University. Her research has focused on the history of political thought in early modern England and more particularly on English republicanism and its reception in eighteenth century France. She has authored a monograph, Aux Sources de la démocratie anglaise. De Thomas Hobbes à John Locke (Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2012) and has directed a collective volume with Laïla Ghermani, Le Prince, le despote, le tyran : figures du souverain en Europe de la Renaissance aux Lumières/The Prince, the Despot, the Tyrant : figures of the sovereign in Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (Honoré Champion, 2019). She has also translated Rachel Hammersley’s book: Entre Anciens et modernes. La Tradition républicaine anglaise dans la France du dix-huitième siècle (Le Bord de l’eau, Nouvelle Bibliothèque républicaine, 2022).