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Charles Walton

Warwick University
From Eden to Terror: Reciprocity, Redistribution and the French Revolution
01 October 2015 -
30 June 2016

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”.

Research interests

Old regime; Enlightenment; Revolutionary France; democratizations; rights and duties; liberalism and socio-economics justice.

Key Publications

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).

Doctoral school organized by P. Bastien, 2016-2017 Paris IAS fellow
01 Jul 2019 08:30 -
05 Jul 2019 17:00,
Paris :
Gouvernance et régulations sociales, XVIIIe - XXe siècles
Doctoral school organized by P. Bastien, 2016-2017 Paris IAS fellow
02 Jul 2018 08:30 -
06 Jul 2018 17:00,
Paris :
Paris en révolutions, XVIIIe-XIXe s.
Workshop organized by C. Walton (Paris IAS fellow), N. Delalande and P.-A. Rosental (Sciences Po)
19 May 2016 09:30 -
20 May 2016 17:30,
Paris :
Who Pays for Socioeconomic Rights? The Politics of Financial and Moral Obligation
Colloque organisé par F. Tarragoni (Université Paris Diderot), avec le soutien de l'IEA de Paris
04 May 2016 09:00 -
04 May 2016 18:30,
Paris :
Les révolutions comme discontinuités. Subjectivités, changements politiques et émancipations
Atelier de recherche organisé par K. Baker, C. Walton (résidents de l'IEA de Paris), et A. Lilti (EHESS)
11 Mar 2016 09:00 -
11 Mar 2016 18:00,
Paris :
From Enlightenment to Revolution: Rethinking the Debate
Atelier de recherche organisé par Charles Walton, résident de l'IEA de Paris
18 Nov 2015 14:00 -
18 Nov 2015 17:00,
Paris :
Towards a History of Socioeconomic Rights
Contemporary period (1789-…)
Western Europe