Research Grants 2020

From the French Revolution to the end of the July Monarchy

  • Pierre Coffy, Construire une capitale. Le laboratoire milanais dans l’Europe des révolutions et de l’Empire (1796-1814). [Building a capital. The Milan model in Revolutionary and Imperial Europe (1796-1814)] supervised by Prof.s Jean-Philippe GARRIC & Antonio de FRANCESCO (The Sorbonne, University of Milan – Italy)

This research concerns the physical transformations of Milan when it was promoted to the status of capital during the Napoleonic episode in Italy. After becoming principal city first of the Repubblica Cisalpina and then later of Repubblica Italiana, Milan was made capital of the Kingdom of Italy under Napoleon as sovereign, and its new rank of “Napoleonic capital” called for an ambitious urban and architectural development programme. Though the French masters determined the (largely symbolic) metamorphosis of the city, they did not, however, break with the customs of the Italian territories that constituted their area of influence nor with the legacy of the Habsburgs. In fact, the new authorities re-used the ideas and practices already present, involving the men who embodied them and elaborating a coherent cultural policy for the construction of the capital, notably marked by the refoundation of the Academy of Brera and the creation of the Commissione d’Ornato. The projects undertaken then became real tools of political communication, both through the provision of utilities for the city and also through the construction of many monuments that symbolically marked the public space. At the dawn of the 19th century, Milan became a laboratory for modernity in an unsettled Europe, under the watchful eye of Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais and Napoleon.

  • Maxime Delbarre, Les réfugiés polonais en France du Directoire au Consulat (1795-1804) [Polish refugees in France from the Directory to the Consulate (1795-1804)]. Supervised by Prof. Natalia MUCHNIK  (EHESS)

From the dismemberment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795 to the fall of the imperial regime in 1815, the Poles always seemed to be on the French side. From Cairo to the crossing of the Berezina, from the rainforests of Santo Domingo to the charge at Somosierra, the Polish contribution to the Wars of the Revolution and the Empire is well known.

However, the conditions under which these refugees were received in Directorial France and the efforts made by this community to ensure that there remained a glimmer hope for a national revival have not been the subject of in-depth research by French historians since the beginning of the last century. These refugees gradually gained the support of many leading French figures, and with this they tried to build up a veritable network of supporters to the Polish cause. Within Polish circles however, political differences nevertheless boiled over in Paris between supporters of a diplomatic solution and those who supported or military or even insurrectional methods.

In trying to chart the Polish refugees in France during the Directory and Consulate periods, this thesis will make use of the archives of territorial control, unstudied private correspondence and prosopographical research. It will also attempt to offer a new perspective on the evolution of directorial and then consular foreign policy, through the fascinating prism of Franco-Polish relations at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Alain Rahier, Prisons pour militaires ou militaires en prison? La justice militaire et ses détenus sous le Premier Empire (1804-1814) [Prisons for soldiers or soldiers in prison? Military justice and prisoners during the First Empire (1804-1814)]. Supervised by Prof.s Xavier ROUSSEAUX & Jacques-Olivier BOUDON (Catholic University of Louvain – Belgium, The Sorbonne)

The aim of this research is to understand how military prisons worked during the First Empire, establishments that were intended not only for soldiers suspected of indiscipline but also for those accused and sentenced by the councils of war. There were two types of establishment, first, buildings designed to hold individuals who might possibly be put to work, and the “bagnes” (penal colonies) that were explicitly dedicated to forced labour. As he gradually extended his hold over a large part of the European continent, Napoleon exported the French administrative model, which led to administrative and legal rapprochements between the different parts of the Empire. The army, a pillar of imperial strategy, was fuelled by conscription, and this latter was the cause of a great deal of resistance. The study of how this works will come from two sides, namely: the central level, in other words, what the high officials and high-ranking officers expected from these establishments and what human and financial means were allocated to them; and at the local level, so as to be able to evaluate the practices and accommodations implemented. The loci of this local level will be represented by different ‘types’ of prison establishment: the Antwerp and Toulon bagnes/penal colonies, which received both civilian and military convicts; the Tarascon military prison reserved for military personnel; the Vilvorde penitentiary; and a district civilian prison which had ‘military passengers’. The prisoners themselves will be studied in their cohorts made up of inmates from all over the Empire, in order to identify the management structures of these prisoners and to see whether there were cultural exchanges between the conscripts of the different parts of the Empire.

  • Dossier selected as part of the partnership between the Fondation Napoléon and the Russian Academy of Sciences: Victoria Verchenkova, L’affrontement entre la France et l’Angleterre en Méditerranée occidentale en 1793-1802 [The clash between France and Britain in the Mediterranean from 1793-1802]. Supervised by Prof. Alexander V. CHUDINOV (Russian State University for the Humanities)

This thesis is devoted to the geopolitical rivalry between France and Great Britain in the western Mediterranean during the French Revolution and the early years of the Napoleonic era.

Their rivalry is of particular interest to researchers because of the marked asymmetry in the military capabilities of the parties involved: France had an advantage in land operations, Britain was dominant at sea. Because of this, both sides resorted to methods of indirect impact on the enemy by provoking various forms of social protest on enemy territory and using proxy formations against the adversary.

The global confrontation between France and Britain projected on the Western Mediterranean region proved a powerful catalyst for regional revolutionary and counter-revolutionary movements. However Toulon, Corsica, Italy and Malta were not just a static stage of the confrontation between the two great powers. The inhabitants of those regions were not passive spectators, they were active participants who had a visible influence on the course of events. The main goal of this thesis is to perform research into the role of all the external and internal factors in this ‘game’ in the Western Mediterranean and to evaluate the influence of those factors on the outcome of the struggle between Great Britain and France.

From the Second Republic to the 20th Century

  • Audrey Denis-Bosio, L’Archéologie nationale de Napoléon III, une institution au service du pays et de son histoire : innovation et développement de l’archéologie sous le Second Empire [Napoleon III’s ‘Archéologie Nationale”, an institution for the country and its history: innovation and development in archaeology during the Second Empire]. Supervised by Prof. Éric ANCEAU (The Sorbonne)

This thesis will take the form of a sort of monograph and present the major discoveries and huge innovations in the field of archaeology during the Second Empire. It will focus on the study of the Gallic Wars and the Gallo-Roman period in general in France, notably in archaeological terms. Innovations in archaeological technique during the period would appear to have enhanced the discoveries made on the sites at the national level. Particularly since several domains came together, namely, history, the arts, the armed forces, and sociability. Thus many figures, both close to the Imperial administration and not, encountered each other and worked together in the development of archaeology. This archaeological view was above all political since interest was mainly championed by the Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor’s passion for archaeology led him to write Histoire de Jules César. He demanded that this field be cross-fertilised with other Second Empire interests such as culture or industry and technological advances. In the end, archaeology was used in the essentially political project intitled “L’Archéologie Nationale”, whereby the Empire as a whole was associated with the archaeology of ancient Gaul via national and local museums and archaeological sites.

  • Maxime Michelet, L’Assemblée nationale législative (1849-1851) [The French National Legislative Assembly (1849-1851)]. Supervised by Prof. Éric ANCEAU (The Sorbonne)

The National Legislative Assembly – the ordinary legislative chamber provided for in the constitutional regime of 4 November 1848 – had a short and tumultuous existence, from its first meeting on 28 May 1849 to its unconstitutional dissolution in the coup d’état of 2 December 1851. Though very negatively portrayed in biased histories, this assembly was nevertheless the scene of particularly interesting events, debates, initiatives, resistance and specificities, providing a synthesis of earlier polemics and laying down decisive milestones for the future. It is a major object for historical study (for which some unpublished still sources exist) and one that legitimately deserves to be studied for its own sake.

The aim of this study of the National Legislative Assembly is to go beyond the traditional, morally loaded interpretation of the chamber as perforce hypocritical and excessively reactionary and to consider the real manifestation, the foundations and the consequences of a conservative policy pursued under a republican constitutional regime. One particularly interesting question emerges, namely, whether the monarchist majority that emerged from the legislative elections of 13 May could have founded a Right-Wing Republic with a conservative form. Was not the Legislative Assembly of 1849 the first, completely still-born attempt to create a Republican Right?
This thesis will also study the political trends and ideas active in this tumultuous parliamentary chamber. One particular aim is to trace the fate of the moderate Republicans, the winners of April 1848 swept away in May 1849, and to refine our understanding of the two enemy blocs, the Republican “Montagne” and the conservatives of the Party of Order, so as to be better able to understand them both as highly complex coalitions.

Indeed, the overall aim will be to get a better understanding of the intensity and originality of the Republican experience of those years 1849-1851. As a result, significant parts of the thesis will be occupied by matters such as: the legislative output; the political composition and the individual profiles of the more than 800 men called to sit in this chamber; how the chamber functioned constitutionally speaking (too often described as irrationally chaotic and destined for a fatal final collapse); and a re-appraisal of the conflict between the chamber and the president, and the full importance of a unicameral assembly placed at the centre of the new institutions.


  • Claire Dupin de Beyssat, Les peintres de Salon et le succès. Réputations, carrières et reconnaissance artistiques après 1848 [Salon painters and success. Reputations, careers, and artistic recognition after 1848]. Supervised by Prof. France NERLICH (University of Tours)

Who were the most distinguished, the most highly celebrated and renowned painters at the Salon during the Second Empire and the early days of the Third Republic? With rare exceptions, such as Bouguereau, Carolus-Duran or Millet, those who were awarded prizes by juries and who received the compliments of the critics at the Painting and Sculpture Exhibition are today mostly forgotten. This thesis proposes to consider the notion of “artistic success” via a study of the careers and artistic production of the 619 painters awarded prizes at the Salon between 1848 and 1880 and, above all, by reconstructing the conditions of their reception. The works of these artists are still largely unknown or even despised today by the history of art. This will also contribute to the institutional and social history of art after 1848. I propose to conduct extensive archival research and to analyse more than 300 Salon reports in an attempt to characterise the prerogatives of contemporary artistic institutions – not only government art administrators and the Academy of Fine Arts, but also critics and art dealers – as well as their authority and influence over the careers of painters. More broadly, the aim of this thesis is to examine the reputations and values that structured the artistic system after 1848, by analysing, through precise case studies and statistical processing, the modalities of artistic recognition in the second half of the 19th century, and by questioning the agreed designations of the history of art of this period, starting with that of “academism”.

  • Baptiste Roger-Lacan, Lire et écrire contre la Révolution (vers 1900-vers 1945) [Reading and writing against the Revolution (ca. 1900-1945)]. Supervised by Prof.s Frédéric MONIER & Pierre SERNA  (University of Avignon, The Sorbonne)

This thesis focuses on the importance and success of Counter-Revolutionary editorial production in French in the first half of the 20th century. It studies the various networks that fed, propagated and sustained the success of Counter-Revolutionary works in the face of Republican narrative matrices. In this context, the figure of Napoleon is an issue of debate between the nationalist exaltation of imperial glory and the rejection of a man presented as a child of the Enlightenment or a crowned revolutionary.

Whilst the authors of the thousands of works in the corpus for this thesis referred to themselves as Counter-Revolutionaries, there is also the historiographic category of Anti-Enlightenment. This comprises all the political and intellectual trends which, from Conservative Catholicism to the Extreme Right, rejected the Revolution and maintained an ambivalent relationship with the Empire. Although the success of their publications at the beginning of the 20th century has long been noted, this doctoral thesis will attempt to identify the reasons for this by focusing on three moments: the production of a good number of such publications, the dissemination of those publications through organised networks, and the reception of those publications by the target public. The period covered by this research ranges from 1908, when the Action Française Quotidienne was founded, to the collapse of the Vichy regime in 1945. The two World Wars, the Revolution of 1917 and the crisis of the 1930s, as well as the internal ruptures within the Right-Wing movement, all form part of the context for the changes in this French-speaking editorial field that goes beyond the Parisian editorial centre.

In order to composer up the corpus for this thesis, I will use bibliometric methods, in other words, I will list all the books dealing with the Revolution in reactionary journals and newspapers. In addition to this, I will study the institutions (churches, ‘free schools’, press) which promoted this counter-revolutionary vision. Finally, I intend to consult the private archives and memoirs of contemporaries in the target readership in an attempt to measure both the reception of these mythologies and the constitution of historical and political mindsets marked by these representations.

9 December 2020