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Rumor, diplomacy and war in Enlightenment Paris

Tabetha Leigh Ewing

Tabetha Leigh Ewing, Rumor, diplomacy and war in Enlightenment Paris, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, July 2014, ISBN 9780729411424, 328 pages.

Paris 1744 : a royal official approaches a shopkeeper’s wife, proposing that she become an informant to the Crown and report on the conversations of foreign diplomats who take meals at her house. Her reports, housed today in the Bastille archives, are little more than a collection of wartime rumors gathered from clandestine, handwritten newspapers and everyday talk around the city, yet she comes to imagine herself a political agent on behalf of Louis XV. In this book Tabetha Ewing analyses different forms of everyday talk over the course of the War of Austrian Succession to explore how they led to new understandings of political identity.
Royal policing and clandestine media shaped what Parisians knew and how they conceptualized events in a period of war. Responding to subversive political verses or to an official declaration hawked on the city streets, they experienced the pleasures and dangers of talking politics and exchanging opinions on matters of state, whether in the café or the wigmaker’s shop. Tabetha Ewing argues that this ephemeral expression of opinions on war and diplomacy, and its surveillance, transcription, and circulation shaped a distinctly early-modern form of political participation. Whilst the study of sedition has received much scholarly attention, Ewing explores the unexpectedly dynamic effect of loyalty to the French monarchy, spoken in the distinct voices of the common people and urban elites. One such effect was a sense of national identity, arising from the interplay of events, both everyday and extraordinary, and their representation in different media. Rumor, diplomacy and war in Enlightenment Paris rethinks the relationship of the oral and the written, the official and the unofficial, by revealing how gossip, fantasy, and uncertainty are deeply embedded in the emergent modern, public life of French society.

1. Transcriptions : royal secrecy in the channels of ‘on-dits’
2. Electing the emperor : problems of voice
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
3. Purloined letters and the 1742 crisis of information
4. Protesting the draft : popular opinion, chance, and royal justice
5. Declaring love, declaring war
6. A royal public : trumpeting the king’s triumph after Fontenoy
7. Disloyal speech and war on other fronts
8. Uncovering political public opinion and an abstract public
9. Gender as a poetics of indirection : a shopkeeper’s wife negotiates for peace
10. Inchoate citizenship

Collaborator biographies : Tabetha Leigh Ewing is Associate Professor of History at Bard College and a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. Her research encompasses culture and socio-political life of mid-eighteenth-century France and she is currently working on French extradition tales of runaway wives, fugitive slaves, dissident writers and other emergent political subjects.