Republicanism, Liberalism, and Empire in Post-revolutionary France



Jennifer Pitts, University of Chicago

Date and Time

May 22, 2009 1:15 PM - 3:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Encina Ground Floor Conference Room

FSI Contact

Kathleen Barcos

Jennifer Pitts is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She is the author of A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton, 2005) and editor and translator of Alexis de Tocqueville: Writings on Empire and Slavery (Johns Hopkins, 2001). She is currently writing a book, tentatively entitled Boundaries of the International, which explores European debates about legal relations with extra-European societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The republican tradition continues to frame French debates on empire, as it has done since the Revolution. French republicanism and Anglophone liberalism have shared numerous features in relation to empire: both are egalitarian traditions of moral universalism, and both uphold an ideal of political emancipation that has tended to entail assimilation to a European political model. This paper explores the course of French debates over empire from the period of Napoleon through the July Monarchy — the broader context for the thought of the iconic liberal republicans Constant and Tocqueville — with particular attention to the ways in which liberal and republican registers were deployed in both support and critique of empire, and to how the articulation of liberal and republican agendas in France was affected by the Algeria conquest. It also discusses the first Algerian contribution to French public deliberation about the conquest, Hamdan Khodja’s 1833 text Le Miroir, a work that self-consciously inhabited both a liberal cosmopolitan and a Muslim perspective and that was nearly alone in French debates in making a principled argument for Algerian