Thesis ID: CBB130783835

Galvanizing the Citizen: Electricity and Revolutionary Energy in the Age of Democratic Revolutions (2022)


This dissertation investigates the relationship between late-eighteenth-century electrical vitalism and the theories of political energy at the heart of the French Revolution and the revolutionary politics of the Francophone Atlantic world. Working from archival and published sources, it focuses on how electrical language was taken up into revolutionary politics, and what a close look at this intersection reveals about war, terror, and radical democracy in the 1790s. While historians of science have viewed electricity as having radical connotations, historians of the French Revolution have viewed its politics as “scientific” in some significant way. Bringing the two together, I argue, remedies the tendency in both historiographies to view the other as a kind of black box. In uncovering the scientific roots of revolutionary electricity, the project aims to reconstruct the vitalist history of a metaphor we use today to describe the experience of collective political sentiment. Ultimately, the project elucidates a rich historical moment of intersection between the development of electrical science and the development of democratic politics, and in so doing argues for a new way to relate energy in the material world to political energy.

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Authors & Contributors
Forrest, Alan
Silvano, Giovanni
Crook, Malcolm
Doyle, William
Mason, Haydn
McMillan, James
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
HOST: Journal of History of Science and Technology
Eighteenth-Century Studies
Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation
British Journal for the History of Science
Historical Journal
Cambridge University Press
Franco Angeli
Pegasus Books
Publications scientifiques du Muséum national d'histoire naturelle
French Revolution of 1789
Science and politics
Science and society
Philosophy of science
Peiresc, Nicolas Claude Fabri de
Locke, John
Kant, Immanuel
Burke, Edmund
Forster, Georg
Banks, Joseph
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
20th century
17th century
Great Britain
Paris (France)
Académie Royale des Sciences (France)

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