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Public opinion and financial interests in revolutionary France, 1789-1799



Niccolò Valmori (Gimon fellow)


Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 4:30pm


Pigott Hall, Room 216



Public opinion and financial interests in revolutionary France, 1789-1799

Please join us on February 23 at 4:30pm in Pigott Hall, Room 216 for a talk by Niccolò Valmori (Gimon fellow) entitled "Public opinion and financial interests in revolutionary France, 1789-1799." As always, refreshments will be served. See abstract and bio below. 


Abstract: This paper aims to trace the trajectory of French public opinion regarding the financial world during the revolutionary period. An analysis of French newspapers and pamphlets published in the last decade of the eighteenth century shows how distrust and suspicion of bankers and financiers remained unbroken in French society. Scholars like Herbert Lüthy, Jean Bouchary, or, more recently, Florin Aftalion tend to consider this general opposition towards finance as the outcome of the Terror and its strategy of curbing private interests to save the republic from internal and external enemies. The 1793 crackdown on foreign bankers seems to confirm this interpretation. However, as Rebecca Spang has pointed out, the negative attitude towards bankers and financiers was more the result of a long history of failed financial experiments such as John Law’s system rather than a Jacobin achievement. Following this approach  Valmori pinpoints the persistence of old fears together with the rise of the political economy as a contradictory heritage of the revolutionary period. In this paper he intentionally focuses his analysis on two less studied periods: the final months of 1789 and the Directory. In both these periods the debates on financial issues shed new light on the persistence of old suspicions as well as on the new attempts to promote a constructive relation between finance and public interest. In the first part of the paper the focus is on the 1789 debate concerning the proposal of creating a national bank: the press outrage against such proposal went beyond the classic cleavage between radical and conservative parties, thus showing a common fear of financial interests. In the second part the analysis concentrates on the Directory period when a more positive perception of the role of economic interests emerged.. Pierre-Louis Roederer’s Journal d’économie publique is a good example of this reconciliatory effort. Roederer’s editorial activity opened the way for the development of political economy in France during the early years of the nineteenth century.


Brief bio

Niccolò Valmori obtained his Phd at the European University Institute defending a thesis entitled “Private interest and public sphere: finance and politics in Britain, France and The Netherlands during the Age of Revolution, 1789-1812”. He  recently taught a course on the “Long Nineteenth century” at Sciences Po. He holds a B.A. in History from the State University of Milan with a thesis in Atlantic History on the impact of Haitian revolution on the formation of the parties during Washington's presidency. From the same university he received an  MA in History with a thesis on financial speculations during the first period of the French revolution. Beyond French history, his research interests include economic history, Atlantic History, Global History and cultural history.