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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

a) La quête de l’identité nationale. Les usages politiques du Moyen Âge en France et en Italie, des Lumières au début du XIXe siècle

1) “Liberty before liberalism”: the emancipation of the communes in urban histories in eighteenth-century France

Clarisse Coulomb

Texte intégral

1Some historians pretend that there was no middle-class consciousness in Prerevolutionary France. Sarah Maza relies on the paucity of historical discourses glorifying the bourgeoisie to argue that their existence as a social class during the ancien régime is a myth. She notes that historical accounts of the period focus on the debates between the “Germanists” and the “Romanists” who argue over the role of the nobility. Certainly, Mably and abbé Duclos denounce feudalism and comment on the emergence of the communes, but without setting them up as models. Nevertheless, it was during the eighteenth century that the genre of municipal history reached its apogee with the publication of around one hundred studies. The pretension of the nobility to embody national freedoms, the debate about commerce and luxury, and more broadly the debates about patriotism led to the consciousness of a collective identity founded on historical arguments: the representation of the bourgeoisie as a liberating force against the despotism of nobility was already in place before the Revolution. Medieval urban history was a political schooling which could explain the revendications of community assemblies in favour of a doubling in the size of the Third Estate within the États généraux.

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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