The Elbeuf Letters online resource forms part of a larger AHRC-funded research project, ‘The Duchesse d’Elbeuf’s Letters to a Friend, 1788-1794’. The project is a collaboration between Queen Mary University of London and the University of Exeter.
Professor Colin Jones, QMUL (Principal Investigator)
Dr Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley, University of Exeter (Co-Investigator)
Dr Simon Macdonald, QMUL (Postdoctoral Research Associate)
This project is introducing an exciting new voice to academic and public discussion of the French Revolution: an extraordinary eyewitness account by Innocente-Catherine de Rougé (1707-94), the dowager duchess of Elbeuf. This project’s Principal Investigator, Professor Colin Jones, discovered a set of six notebooks in the French national archives which the duchess used to write a detailed, personal commentary on the Revolution from late 1788 through to the violent turmoil of the Terror of 1793-4. This account, which takes the form of a series of Letters to an unnamed friend, has never been studied before, and this project will establish the duchess’s work as an important resource for academics – as well as exploring its value for students and the general public.
The Elbeuf Letters are striking not only for being written from a perspective that has previously been largely hidden to historians – that is, a woman of high aristocratic status articulating overtly Counter-Revolutionary views – but also for having been composed largely at her Parisian home, the Hôtel d’Elbeuf, situated a matter of yards from the authorities running France from the Tuileries Palace complex. They offer significant new material for the study of Counter-Revolution, and for the wider, interdisciplinary study of women, the emotions, gender and the self. Our project will make this remarkable document more widely-known and appreciated by historians, students and the general public.
1. To make the Elbeuf Letters available to the scholarly community and the general public, in two ways:
a)via a French transcription of the Elbeuf Letters in their entirety (around 76,000 words), diffused as an edition including a scholarly commentary. This will be published in 2023;
b)via a digital edition of Letter extracts (totaling over 12,000 words, and translated into English for the very first time), to be made available in a searchable open-access online format
2. On the basis of the complete text, to explore how the Elbeuf Letters help us:
a)to discover more about this remarkable figure, so as to gain a richer sense of her perspective and her representative status in the Revolution;
b)to gain insight into the relationship between Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Paris during the French Revolution and notably during the Terror;
c)through additional research to explore how the Letters can give insight into significant aspects of the culture and politics of the Revolutionary decade, including the emotions, the role of gender, women’s writing, and the epistolary form.
This online resource, ‘Revolutionary Duchess: The Elbeuf Letters, 1788-94’, hosts the digital edition and also provides additional background information via the ‘Resources’ tab—including a blog. During the course of this project we have been involved in a range of other activities, including an exhibition with UCL Art Museum and other public events, and the writing of scholarly articles. There are also future plans for engagement with schools and university students.
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