Thesis ID: CBB130783835

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


Friedland, Paul (Advisor)
Wesner, Samantha Stinson (Author)

Friedland, Paul
Cornell University
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

Publication Date: 2022
Physical Details: 309

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
Barney, Richard A.
Carson, John S.
Crook, Malcolm
Doyle, William
Forrest, Alan
Jones, Steve
Laboratorio dell'ISPF
British Journal for the History of Science
Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation
Eighteenth-Century Studies
Historical Journal
HOST: Journal of History of Science and Technology
Cambridge University Press
Franco Angeli
Pegasus Books
Publications de la Sorbonne
French Revolution of 1789
Science and politics
Science and society
Philosophy of science
Lavoisier, Marie-Anne Paulze
Banks, Joseph
Burke, Edmund
Degérando, Joseph-Marie
Forster, Georg
Kant, Immanuel
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
21st century
Great Britain

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