Charles Walton is a member of the Eighteenth Century Centre at the University of Warwick and associate researcher at the Institut d’histoire de la Révolution française (Paris I- Panthéon Sorbonne). After a BA at Berkeley and a PhD at Princeton University, he taught at Yale University, the University of Oklahoma and Sciences Po, Paris. His book on public opinion in the French Revolution was awarded the 2010 Gaddis Smith International Book Prize of Yale University. He is currently co-directing an international network “Rights, Duties and the Politics of Obligation: Socioeconomic Rights in History”.
Old regime; Enlightenment; Revolutionary France; democratizations; rights and duties; liberalism and socio-economics justice.
Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech, Oxford, 2009 (in French, 2014).
Into Print: Limits and Legacies of the Enlightenment. Essays in Honor of Robert Darnton, Penn State University Press, 2011.
The Fall from Eden: The Free-Trade Origins of the French Revolution, The French Revolution in Global Perspective, Cornell, 2013.
La liberté de la presse selon les cahiers de doléances de 1789, Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 53, 2007.
This research project offers new answers to the old question: Why did the French Revolution radicalize after 1789? The approach chosen emphasizes the politics of interests. Prior interpretations, which stress circumstances, counterrevolution or political ideology, leave little room for the role of interests. Drawing on the anthropological concepts of redistribution and reciprocity, the project will show how commitments to economic liberalism, before and during the Revolution, radicalized politics. As Karl Polanyi noted in The Great Transformation (1944), the more authorities try to evacuate material demands from politics, the more those demands storm back into politics with a vengeance. Although he did not apply this insight to the French Revolution, it helps us understand the political dynamics of the late 1780s and early 1790s. The failure to meet redistributive demands for rents (interest on the public debt) and for bread (due to commitments to free-markets) weakened the ability of each successive regime to command allegiances. As redistribution dried up at the top, it exploded in radicalized form at the level of local politics (1792-1794).