Research Grants 2016


  • ‘MINOU AMIR-ASLANI’ GRANT 2016 : Laura BROCCARDO, Défaire l’histoire, refaire l’Histoire : l’écriture des possibles dans l’œuvre de Germaine de Staël (1785-1818). (Unmaking history, remaking history: writing the possibilities in the work of Germaine de Staël (1785-1818)). PhD in Political History supervised by Prof. Florence LOTTERIE (Université Paris VII – Diderot)

How was it possible to be a real actor or actress in one’s own life, and, a fortiori, in the history that was playing out at great speed in the years 1790-1820? In the pivotal period of the French Revolution and the Empire, as all the social and political certainties were being destroyed, Germaine de Staël raised her voice, asking questions about the possibility of individual action. And the question was pressing: in her opinion, men and women were confronted with a panoply of the forces of constraint (psychological, social, political, historical) which tied them down and impeded them as individuals. For her it was a question of “resisting, forever resisting”.
Despite the changes and chances which could occur in a life or in history (notably the Terreur, the Napoleonic “yoke”), Germaine believed that the possibility remained. But how? How could one write history (with a small ‘h’), via plays and novels, and history (with a big ‘H’) – as she felt obliged to do – and at the same time reveal possibilities for action, both individual and collective?
In conformity with her pre-imagined narratology and ethics – the imperious obligation to “reconcile the plan with freedom” –, Staël, as a heroic thinker, took on the body of all that was dark both in humanity and in history. For her, imagining the historical future implied also the rationalisation of human cruelty, of historical violence, of what she saw as the abasement of an entire people and the absence of political scruples. She felt she had to moralise the future and to bring on freedom. For her, the remaking of History could not take place, in sum, without an exploration of the potential obscurities which the fault line between the Enlightenment and the Empire presented to men and women of the time.

This research grant was created in memory of Mme Minou Amir-Aslani, woman of letters and lover of history. The grant is supported and financed by her children.

Minou Amir-Aslani was born in Teheran on 18 January, 1935, and died in Paris on 13 September, 2010. She was a keen enthusiast of literature and history, most notably that of the French Revolution and the First Empire. One particular fascination for her was the life of the Emperor Napoleon I and the role he played in the codification of laws and the organisation of the judicial system in France. Her birth in Iran at a troubled moment in its history inspired in her a determination to work throughout her life (spent mostly in France and Germany) for openness and the acceptance of other regardless of differences. She greatly admired the way history and law was taught in France; indeed the tradition of French civil law heavily influenced the judicial system and positive law in her native country. And she had the utmost respect for university research. In her opinion, the only road worth taking was that of the search for knowledge, which in itself guarantees the independence of spirit and freedom of those who choose that road.

  • Charlotte DUVETTE, Les transformations de Paris de 1789 à 1830 : étudiées à travers l’architecture privée (The transformation of Paris from 1789 à 1830 : focussing on private architecture)  PhD in Art History supervised by Prof. Jean-Philippe GARRIC (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

The architectural physiognomy of the French capital from the Mediaeval period to the nineteenth century has been studied many times. However, the evolution of the habitations themselves, the most important part of any city, has been studied very little as far as the period from the French Revolution to the Restoration is concerned. It is true that the neighbourhoods in full expansion, such as the Faubourg Poissonnière and Nouvelle Athènes, have received some attention, but there are still many large gaps in our knowledge of this field.
As J.-C. Krafft has noted: “A considerable number of private constructions were undertaken by individuals during the Napoleonic period”. The albums of models for Parisian “houses” circulating in the period 1800 to 1830 testify to the explosion in architectural activity, as do diverse archival sources in both private archives and museum collections.
These documents reveal the enthusiasm for the architecture of antiquity and, principally, for that of the Italian Renaissance (circulating in albums of Italian models) but with their characteristics adapted and then applied to the Parisian context. Though many of these buildings have suffered by the ravages of subsequent regimes, this thesis aims to rediscover Parisian private architecture in an urban context (associated with the ideal of the “well-aired” city) and its developments at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

  • Adriàn FERNANDEZ ALMOGUERA, Sous influence française : le renouveau de la pensée architecturale espagnole entre la révolution et le règne de Joseph Bonaparte. (Under French influence: the renewal of Spanish architectural theory between the Revolution and the reign of Joseph Bonaparte). PhD in Art History supervised by Prof. Alexandre GADY (Université Paris IV – Sorbonne)

This thesis aims to study French influence on Spanish architecture during the period from the French Revolution to the reign of Joseph Bonaparte. The procedure will be comparative, setting the artistic transformations occurring in Paris alongside those in Rome, Naples and Madrid, concentrating on the renewal of building practice in Spain during this period. The thesis will be divided into two main thematic and chronological sections as it studies the architecture, urbanism and architectural decoration. The first (1789-1808) will analyse the grafting onto Spanish architecture of the elements of architectural theory conceived in Revolutionary Paris. The second, principal section (1808-1813) will explore the transformation of Spanish architecture during the reign of Joseph Bonaparte, with Madrid as the centerpiece. This will involve research into the ensemble of cultural changes enacted in Spanish art and architecture in Madrid by King Joseph’s government, the main aim being to identify the often-ignored role of the Emperor’s brother in this vast programme of artistic and cultural reform. This will involve the study of a large amount of written and graphic source material held in the main archives of the three capitals compared, much of which is unpublished. The overarching issue which the thesis aims to elucidate is that of artistic translatio in Europe of this period, highlighting for the first time the importance of the Napoleonic period for contemporary Spanish culture, and thereby writing a new chapter in the history of the arts during the First Empire.

  • Richard SIEGLER, Napoléon et la restauration des octrois : vie urbaine, finance et la consommation dans les municipalités de France, 1798-1815. (Napoleon and the restoration of the «Octrois»:urban life, finance and consumption in French municipalities, 1789-1815PhD in History supervised by prof. Rafe BLAUFARB (Florida State University, USA).

During the Old Regime, octrois—indirect taxes levied on foodstuffs, beverages, fodder, fuels, and building materials and collected at the gates of cities—were the keystone of municipal finance. After a series of tax riots erupted across France in 1789, the National Assembly was forced to abolish all octrois. Since they were not replaced, their abolition destroyed municipal finance across France. To address the crisis, the Directory initiated the restoration of octrois in 1798. But the process was only just beginning when Napoleon came to power. It was he who finished the task and made the octroi a fundamental institution that would underpin municipal finance and contribute to the shape of urban life until the Second World War.

This dissertation explores how the Napoleonic state solved the crisis of municipal finance by reviving and institutionalizing this quintessentially Old Regime tax. In tracing the reestablishment of octrois, this project demonstrates how three big constitutional issues—the relationship of municipalities to the State, the leasing of public power to the private sector, and the power of taxation—impacted ordinary people at the local level. How did people experience the return of a form of taxation against which they had risen in violent revolt less than a decade earlier? In integrating the history of constitutional thought and political concepts with fine-grained local social history, the aim is to show how these changes inflected the character of urban life and the relationship of ordinary people to the State.



  • Isabelle MAYAUD, Circonscrire le “primitif” : la construction sociale des frontières de la musique en France de 1852 à 1914. (Circumscribing the “primitive”: the social construction of the frontiers of music in France from 1852 to 1914). PhD in Sociology supervised by Prof. Laurent JEANPIERRE (Université Université Paris 8).

Between the 16th and 21st centuries, the frontiers of the music world were totally transformed. This thesis intends to shed new light on this process over the long term, concentrating on the major, but neglected contribution of the Second Empire regime to the creation of an original interpretation of the divisions of the music world, most notably concerning the composition of a modern piece of music.
Via the study of a previously unpublished corpus of material and several hundred publications, this thesis will examine how the concept of “traditional French music” was created under the influence of a policy of the ‘patrimonialisation’ (elevation to the status of national heritage) of French popular songs, pursued by Louis‐Napoléon from 1852. This was buttressed by a policy of conservation of musical instruments, anchored notably by the inauguration of the Musée Instrumental du Conservatoire in 1864, and the spread of the category internationally.
By presenting the history of the institution of the academic category of traditional forms of music and the subsequent reconfiguration of the field, this thesis aims to provide greater detail regarding the historical construction of our aesthetic categorisations, in particular, via the recognition of the importance of the heritage policy begun during the Second Empire, itself the cornerstone of a new, modern regime of cultural differentiation.


  • Justin BEAUGRAND-FORTUNEL, De Louis XVI à Vincent Auriol. Le fonds du mobilier de campagne des souverains et chefs d’Etat conservé au Mobilier national. (From Louis XVI to Vincent Auriol. The Repository of Sovereigns’ and Heads of State’s campaign furniture at the French Mobilier National). PhD in Art History supervised by P Jean-François BELHOSTE (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes).

The French Mobilier National furniture repository has in its collection an original ensemble of furniture and furnishings used by Sovereigns and Heads of State on their military campaigns and at diverse fêtes and open-air ceremonies. These pieces were designed to be light, robust and manageable enough (they were often cutting-edge technology) so that they could bear the vagaries of travel and frequent use. Tables, chairs, beds, tents, and lights constitute the major part of the collection, of which the pieces dating from 1804 à 1870 form the centre of gravity.
From Napoleon I to the Orlean Princes, to Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie, the pieces commissioned by the Garde-Meuble testify not only to the habits of the sovereigns but also the political, diplomatic, cultural and industrial history of nineteenth-century France.
This portable furniture was built by many different innovative companies and craftsmen and women and, as such, stands as an eloquent witness to the changes in the furniture construction industry in nineteenth-century France.