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  • Comment sortir de l'Empire? Le Groupe de Coppet face à la chute de Napoléon dir. by Léonard Burnand et Guillaume Poisson
  • Katherine Astbury
Comment sortir de l'Empire? Le Groupe de Coppet face à la chute de Napoléon. Sous la direction de Léonard Burnand et Guillaume Poisson. (Travaux et recherches de l'Institut Benjamin Constant, 16.) Genève: Slatkine, 2016. 350 pp., ill

This is an edited volume of papers from a conference in 2014, looking at how Germaine de Staël, Benjamin Constant, and Jean-Charles-Léonard-Simonde de Sismondi reacted to events in 1814 and 1815, an intensely unstable period in France. The articles cover the ways in which the three political theoreticians reflected on the reshaping of Europe after Napoleon's first and second abdications. The volume opens with Emmanuel de Waresquiel's magisterial overview of 1814 as a turning point, with a particular focus on how the period offered 'l'apprentissage des pratiques du politique et de la politique' (p. 31). The twin themes of politics and liberty underpin the remaining essays in the volume, made up of five articles on Staël, three on Constant, and four on Sismondi. Robert Morrissey re-examines Staël and Napoleon's concept of 'gloire', and Florence Lotterie takes the concept of 'virtu' as her starting point for a study of the relationship between 'affect et politique' (p. 80), in two wide-ranging conceptual essays. Staël's concept of celebrity and her comparison of a French centralized culture of celebrity and Germany's decentralized version are tackled by Marie-Ève Beausoleil. Two articles then look at the Considérations sur la Révolution française:Gérard Gengembre and Jean Goldzink focus on the sections of the Considérations devoted to 'cette année 1814 oùse joue l'avenir des acquis de la Révolution et celui de la nation' (p. 83); Laura Broccado demonstrates how Staël's father, Jacques Necker, is the overarching structuring device in the Considérations. The three Constant papers complement each other well. Giovanni Paoletti uses the Réflexions sur les constitutions et les garanties to reflect on Constant's concept of liberty and his belief that France as a country was filled with fear that could only be controlled by politics. The acte additionnel, known also, of course, as 'la benjamine', is the topic of Josée Bloquet's article, while Paul Rowe traces the human side of the end of the Empire by looking at Constant's domestic correspondence to underline the extent to which 'il est impossible de séparer les crises financières, politiques et sentimentales de Constant à la chute de l'Empire' (p. 178). Francesca Sofia and Maria Pia Casalena also look at correspondence, using Sismondi's letters from his arrival in Paris in 1813 until 1817 to explore how he served as a link between the North and the Midi. Luca Mannori focuses on Sismondi's reflections on political legitimacy, while Adrian Lyttelton compares Constant and Sismondi's views of the British political system, concluding that their engagement with it helps each of them distinguish the particular from the universal in their subsequent writings on politics. The final essay extends the chronology of the volume to 1818: Nicolas Eyguesier looks at the role of British writing in the genesis of Sismondi's Nouveaux Principes d'économie politique. There is much good material in the volume that will allow readers to make fruitful links between the three writers at its heart. [End Page 441]

Katherine Astbury
University of Warwick


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