Cornell University Press

Elizabeth Andrews Bond on Enlightenment and the French Revolution

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We asked author Elizabeth Andrews Bond three questions about her new book, The Writing Public: Participatory Knowledge Production in Enlightenment and Revolutionary France, and her research on the reading and writing habits of citizens leading up to the French Revolution.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

This book relies upon thousands of letters from unique authors, so the anecdote is in some ways at the heart of the project. One of my favorites was written by Sara Goudar, a British writer who lived in Paris in the 1780s. She wrote vividly about her reading practices and her daily life. Working with fragmentary sources enabled me to listen to voices that are often overlooked. Examining thousands of such anecdotes throws into relief a more nuanced history of ideas in the late eighteenth century.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

I wish I had known how much the digital humanities would grow and change over the years as I worked on this book project. It’s a dynamic area of research, and it has informed the way I visualize and interpret the sources in my book. My book is in conversation with the methods and recent findings in this field.

3. How do you wish you could change the field of History?

I am interested in how large scale social and cultural processes were experienced by individual people, and especially by lesser-known figures. The history of the experience of the Enlightenment and the nature of its link to the French Revolution remain enduring areas of investigation. My work brings a novel and significant body of evidence to bear upon these questions.

*Featured photo by Amaury Gutierrez.


Elizabeth Andrews Bond is Assistant Professor of History at Ohio State University.

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