Research Grants 2019


From the French Revolution to the end of the July Monarchy

  • Maximilien NOVAK, Napoléon et l’Empire des Lettres. Journalistes, historiens, espions: l’Administration de l’opinion publique du Consulat à l’Empire (1799-1815), [Journalists, Historians, Spies: Public Servants of the Consulate to the Empire (1799-1815)]
    Thesis supervised by professors Robert MORISSEY and Antoine LILTI (University of Chicago, USA EHESS)

This research thesis proposes to study the evolution of the writing of history and the control of public opinion in the transition between the French Revolution and Empire, under the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. I will explore how the politics and administration of the Empire show to what extent Napoleon is conceiving the writing of history through propaganda, censorship, and the control of public opinion, beyond a mere knowledge or interest in history, in order to ensure the historical continuity and durability of the French state in a project of historical fusion,. This project rests on an “intellectual” administration composed of secret public opinion correspondents, hired historians, journalists, newspaper owners, senior police and diplomacy officials, librarians and archivists, and censors. The orientation of historical discourse under the Empire aims to reshape past models, and reuse them to show a continuity of politics, between the figures of the past, and the decisions of the present. I examine in particular how Napoleon paradoxically acknowledges the philosophical improvements acquired during the Revolution by reactivating the model of censorship inherited from the Ancien Regime. Controlling and harnessing public opinion was the keystone of his propaganda system. In this historical connection, the notion of public opinion appears as a central premise of political legitimacy, inherited from the Revolution. But the parenthesis of the Revolution is definitely closed with the Empire and this authoritarian regime born of this fusion project, directs and creates public opinion in a sovereign way. This project was built on a society of intellectuals: journalists, historians, spies and enlightened individuals that function as cogs in the machinery of this implacable imperial administration. Coming from various horizons, inheritors of the Enlightenment for some, vestiges of the literary salons or nostalgic of the monarchy for others, all serve as public servants of Napoleon’s administration of public opinion. As Guizot writes in his Memoirs to Illustrate the History of My Time: “It was an opposition of enlightened and independent spectators who had no chance or any desire to intervene as actors”.

  • Marie-Paule RAFFAELLI, La construction mimétique du héros napoléonien : Napoléon et le Christ, [The Mimetic Construction of Napoleonic Heroes: Napoleon and Christ]
    Thesis supervised by professors Françoise GRAZIANI and Maria-Stella BARBERI (University of Corsica Pasquale Paoli, Corsica)

Heroes appear in the annals because, via their exploits, they act as exemplary figures within the continuity of history. Messiahs are outside the continuity of history; they are disruptive, they leave indelible and sacred impressions and rise to a supra-heroic dimension.
In this sense, is not Napoleon more of a messiah than a hero? The fact is, the image of Christ appears like a watermark under that of the Emperor. Like an anamorphic image that reveals two journeys in one, two types of existence in one, this thesis will analyse this concept through both obvious and subtle (but meaningful) similarities.
Napoleon built his own legend through mimicry of Jesus’ personality, as portrayed by the Evangelists. Through secularising Jesus’ messianism Napoleon offered the materialisation of an empire of this world to his contemporaries so as to give substance to his quest for universality and as a replacement for the mystic dimension that the French Revolution had attempted to supress.
Posterity has validated his efforts by reinforcing his myth by ceaselessly updating it.
Like that of Christ, Napoleon’s solitary journey began in the shadows of marginality. They were both called towards a greater destiny at around the same age and reached the peak of their ascension through performing miraculous acts and crossing frontiers, before their critics brought them to their premature downfall.
Both victims of betrayal had to endure a via crucis before the doors of eternity would open before them.
As immortal figures, Napoleon and Jesus are comparable in their deeds, images, and symbols, elements that have placed them on the same archetypal level.
This research aims to show how their common characteristics have become crystalised in the collective imagination, and how these characteristics lie in the same mythical domain, often either echoing each other, often the same, or indeed overlapping.
This work seeks to demonstrate the legitimacy of this comparison through the use of testimonies from the past, contemporary studies, and artistic and literary representations.

  • Baptiste VINOT, Jean-Joachim Pellenc (1751-1833), diplomate entre la France et l’Autriche, sous la Révolution et l’Empire, [Jean-Joachim Pellenc (1751-1833), diplomat between France and Austria under the Revolution and the Empire]
    Thesis supervised by professor Jacques-Olivier BOUDON (Paris IV Sorbonne, Faculty of Arts, Paris)

According to Marie Antoinette, Pellenc was ‘an intriguer like all the rest and a man for all seasons’. For Lord Grenville, the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, he was the ‘cloying and perfidious … intimate confident of Mirabeau’. How did a magistrate from the Provence Parlement inspire such interest and distrust on the part of key European diplomatic and political figures of the Revolution and the Empire?
Pellenc was one of Mirabeau’s men in the ‘Comité Autrichien’ (Austrian party) at the Tuileries, where the Court’s responses to the Revolution were being prepared; he was co-editor of the Brunswick Manifesto, which inadvertently caused the fall of the monarchy; he was advisor to the Austrian minister Thugut (the relentless opponent of the Revolution and of Bonaparte), and later diplomatic advisor to the Duc de Bassano. His was an unusual career which provided him with a view of the underbelly of Franco-Austrian relations between 1789 and 1815.
How did Pellenc move from Austrian diplomacy to French international relations in 1809? Why did he make this choice, when his action in favour of Louis XVI and Maire Antoinette, his efforts to free their daughter Marie- Thérèse, and his work for the Habsbourg diplomats placed him a priori on the side of the Bourbon pretender?
Through Pellenc, it is possible to study the links between the world of French émigrés in Vienna and Imperial France and notably the links that persisted between Mirabeau’s friends and collaborators.

From the Second Republic To the 20th Century

  • Marie de SEVERAC, La Bibliothèque nationale sous le Second Empire, [The National Library of France during the Second Empire]
    Thesis supervised by professor Emmanuelle CHAPRON (Aix-Marseille University, Provence)

The French Bibliothèque Nationale was considerably disrupted by the French Revolution and by the massive influx of precious manuscripts and rare editions from the “dépôts littéraires”, and it took the whole 19th century for the institution to recover from all this and to assimilate its legacy. Although many government committees met at the beginning of the century, the instability characterised by the Restoration, and then the July Monarchy, prevented any sort of lasting reform. Change only came about with the strong, centralised regime of the Second Empire, which was eager to prove its legitimacy in Europe and to Britain in particular (the British Museum had been renovated and was now a model for librarianship).
The Mérimée Commission met from January to June 1858, and the imperial decree of 14 July began a new era for the Bibliothèque; the architect Henri Labrouste was tasked with the renovation of the buildings, and the convinced (and early) Bonapartist Jules-Antoine Taschereau was given the post of Administrator General. Although they barely got along with each other, it was thanks to these two key figures that the Bibliothèque Impériale was finally redesigned, both inside and out. Taschereau modelled his mode of administration on that of the authoritarian Empire, making the Bibliothèque the ‘métaphore de l’État’, a concept invented by the philosopher Robert Damien. The innovations regarding the services available to readers brought in by Taschereau and the architectural contribution of Labrouste transformed the institution into a crucible of new experimentation. The intense development and new way of thinking led by the Bibliothèque Impériale was far from an isolated phenomenon and could be found in other Parisian institutions of the time, for example in the Archives de l’Empire and in the local museums, both old and new (the Musée de St Germain-en-Laye and the Musée des Souverains). One aspect of this study is to reconsider the Bibliothèque in the context of this institutional redesign during the particularly eclectic cultural and artistic atmosphere of the Second Empire.


  • Augustin GUILLOT, Littérature et économie à l’époque romantique: le marché de la poésie dans la France de la première moitié du XIXe siècle, [Literature and economics in the Romantic Era: The poetry market in France during the first half of the 19th century]
    Thesis supervised by professor Dominique KALIFA (Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne)

In the first half of the 19th century, a new literature (immediately defined by contemporaries as ‘romantic’) coincided with a transition from the Ancien Régime publishing business model to a new mode of production that was strongly capitalist in nature. This modernisation of the French book trade was inseparable from this development of a sales-based logic. In the context of the various attempts to remodel French literature that had appeared in the second half of the 18th century, Romanticism came to be seen as the final attack in the struggle to subvert the writing that was considered a state institution, a struggle which found ways of imposing itself during the first third of the 19th century thanks to the book publishing market. This thesis seeks to understand how the dynamics of the market contributed to the transformation of the world of the author, to the overturning of literary values, and to the promotion, on top of the ruins of belles-lettres, of a new, fundamentally imaginative idea of literature. To this end, this thesis will principally focus on the history of the book and will seek to present as complete an account as possible of the state of publishing from the end of the Imperial period to the July Revolution and beyond. In parallel to this ‘book-centred’ approach, and indispensable to the analysis of market dynamics, there will be studies of the authors’ careers with the aim of getting a better understanding of the changes that affected writers during the Romantic period.


Minou Amir-Aslani Study Grant

  • Xavier LACROIX, Le marquis de Moustier: un notable, un diplomate, un ministre au milieu du XIXe siècle [The Marquis de Moustier : a 19th-century ‘notable’, diplomat and minister]
    Thesis supervised by professor Éric ANCEAU (Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris)

The Marquis de Moustier (1817-1869) was a politician and conservative aristocrat of the Second Republic, then Minister for Foreign Affairs during the Second Empire, and has never been the subject of a biography.
This thesis looks to fill this gap by depicting Léonel de Moustier as an authentic witness of his times. He was the perfect embodiment of a young July Monarchy noble, keen traveller and lover of the ‘Fête Parisienne’, moving in the Legitimist and Orleanist circles, in the clubs and political talking shops, then moving to Provence and building his several châteaux there and then, in 1848, engaging in local and then national politics, before embarking on a parliamentary, business, administrative and diplomatic career during the Second Empire.
Moustier was Napoleon III’s ambassador to Berlin during the Crimean War, to Vienna after the war against Austria, and finally to Constantinople, and emerged as an important figure of the French diplomatic corps of the Second Empire. Fortunately he kept his diplomatic correspondence for himself, and since its recent discovery we have an unprecedentedly rich archive that sheds light on the little-studied aspects of the foreign policy of the Second Empire, as well as daily embassy life in the 19th century.
During his time at the Quai d’Orsay (October 1866 – December 1868), Moustier spearheaded three dossiers that merit closer study: The Luxembourg Crisis, the retreat of the French expeditionary corps from Mexico, and the defence of the integrity of the Papal territory.

In 2012, the Fondation Napoléon and Maitre Ardavan Amir-Aslani agreed that, for five years, a Fondation Napoléon research grant would bear the name of his mother Mme Minou Amir-Aslani, woman of letters and lover of history. In 2017, Maitre Amir-Aslani decided to renew his support for Napoleonic post-graduate research for a further five years.
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

  • Natalie SMITH, Le savon et la construction du Marseille moderne : une histoire urbaine de la deuxième ville de France, 1851-1914, [Soap and the construction of  modern Marseille: an urban history of the second city of France, 1851-1914]
    Thesis supervised by professor Leora AUSLANDER (University of Chicago, USA)

This thesis will explore the environmental, social, and political effects of soap-making in Marseille in the second half of the 19th century. It will examine how the development of this industry shaped the city’s natural and built environment with significant ramifications for the health of local residents, for social divisions between different neighborhoods within the city, and for the development of an industrial city centre that looked increasingly different from the urban model that Haussmann was building in Paris. The thesis will show that all of these dynamics – social, urban, and environmental, fed into popular ideas about Marseille’s lack of true ‘Frenchness.’
The second half of the thesis will move on to focus more closely on the political importance of Marseillais soap in order to analyze what this industry can tell us about the tense political and cultural relationships between the city and the French state in the late 19th century. During this period, Marseille’s soap became a symbol of the city that produced it – a city famous for its cultural idiosyncrasies (for being more ‘Mediterranean’ than ‘French’) and for repeatedly rebelling against the central French state. Despite these strong local associations, however, the soap produced by Marseille’s booming industry was appropriated by national politicians in order to showcase the economic might and cultural superiority of the French nation. Who could legitimately claim this product, and with it, the right to define the French nation it symbolised? In answering these questions together, and with an interdisciplinary approach, this research will shed greater light on how industry, cities, and the environment became enmeshed in broader ideas of citizenship in the modern Mediterranean context.