Graduate Research Seminar

On Monday 22 February Jerome Greenfield (PhD in History) will deliver the third of this term's Graduate Research Seminars with a talk entitled "The remaking of the French state, 1815-1853"

In 1812, France dominated Europe. That year, the French Emperor Napoleon invaded Russia, initiating a chain of events that culminated in his final defeat at Waterloo. As a result, by the end of 1815 France’s borders were greatly curtailed, and the French could no longer utilise the resources of the European continent. Thus, the French state had to be reconfigured. The Napoleonic polity was an ad hoc organisation; its form was dictated largely by the short-term concerns of fighting the wars that engulfed Europe from 1792 to 1815. After 1815, the French had to create a stable, durable state suited to the needs of peace. This was a gradual process, but the state that resulted proved remarkably durable, lasting into the twentieth century. Though nineteenth-century France was notoriously unstable politically, the state survived frequent changes of regime with few alterations. Neither the revolution of 1830, nor that of 1848, allowed for more than a superficial reconstruction of the French polity. The creation of the nineteenth-century French state occurred in two stages. The first, beginning around 1815, entailed a reshaping of the fiscal and military systems. The second, starting in the late 1830s, sought to perfect the Restoration state established after 1815 while, simultaneously, extending its ambit. The state became more interventionist, as spending on public works – most notably railway construction – increased dramatically in the 1840s. While the overthrow of the French government in the revolution of 1848 arrested this shift in the role of the state, it was resumed in the 1850s.

The graduate research seminar provides an opportunity for our graduate students and research fellows to discuss their work before an astute and very friendly audience. Because this mixed audience includes not only expert insiders, but also intelligent and interested outsiders, this is also an opportunity for speakers to hone their communicative skills, and for the rest of us to be exposed to unfamiliar problems, methodologies and theories.

Meetings begin at 12:45 in the Senior Combination Room, where a free buffet lunch is provided. The speakers kick off at 1:00, and finish by 1:30, giving us a quarter of an hour for questions and discussion.