Working with other colleagues in the History Dept at Warwick (including the Centre for the History of Medicine and the European History Research Centre), Charles Walton and Claudia Stein are making contact with academics from a range of disciplines and based in institutions across Europe and the US in order to explore the history of socioeconomic rights – rights to health, subsistence, work, housing and education. These rights, which have received considerably less attention than civil and political rights, have recently come into focus among scholars and NGOs. Often considered to be ‘second generation rights’, that is, as twentieth-century additions to ‘core’ civil and political rights stretching back to the Enlightenment, notions of socioeconomic rights stretch back, in fact, to the Enlightenment as well. Socioeconomic rights exploded into politics during the French Revolution. Since then, however, their legitimacy has been contested. What accounts for their relatively greater historical precariousness among the panoply of rights?
In May 2015, the Institute of Advanced Studies at Warwick hosted Visiting Fellow Samuel Moyn, professor of law and history at Harvard University, who has written several books in the fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Harvard University Press, 2010). Among other activities, Professor Moyn took part in a workshop on 'Writing the History of Socio-Economic Rights', organised by Charles Walton (Eighteenth Century Centre) and Claudia Stein (Centre for the History of Medicine). Please see the Events page for further details.
In the summer of 2015, this work received Leverhulme funding in order to formalise, expand and develop the network and its activities. For full details of the project, now hosted by the Global History & Culture Centre, please click here.
This project is being directed by Katherine Astbury (Department of French Studies).
Final-year students on Katherine Astbury's modules The French Revolution and Revolution and Empire are involved in the process of digitally preserving one of the University’s most significant special collections, the Marandet collection of 18th- and 19th-century plays by selecting the plays to be preserved and then producing original research based on ‘their’ plays. Plays of the period are the cultural form most obviously affected by ideology and public opinion and while the Revolution is now reasonably well covered by available editions of plays, there is currently no readily accessible material on theatre of the Napoleonic period available on-line or in student-friendly editions. In the course of 2006, the library began an ambitious project to digitise the 300 plays in the Marandet collection that cover the period 1789-99. The project to digitise the Napoleonic period aims both to preserve material and to make the collection as a whole much more visible. Unlike the Bibliothèque Nationale’s electronic material, all the plays are fully searchable. This project will place Warwick firmly at the centre of ongoing research into theatre of the Revolution and the First Empire. In addition, it is creating new learning opportunities for Warwick undergraduates by involving them in the process of preserving texts for future generations of researchers. It takes the notion of research-led teaching to a new level as the work is an outcome of a genuine partnership between students, tutors, and library staff.
Katherine Astbury currently holds a British Academy small grant and an AHRC Matching Leave award to complete a monograph on Literary responses to the trauma of the French Revolution which reassesses literary production of the revolutionary decade in the light of trauma theory. The French Revolution is generally seen as marking a watershed in literary production and while much has been done on politically-motivated literature where events of the Revolution are represented or transposed, few have explored in detail the large proportion of literary production that appears to have no direct political engagement with the events of the Revolution such as pastoral novels and moral tales. Recent work in the States on Revolutionary theatre has demonstrated the importance of reassessing long-standing assumptions about the cultural production of the Revolution through detailed contextual and textual analysis. This renewed interest in debates about theatrical culture and the Revolution has not yet resulted in major studies exploring fruitfully the continuities between old regime and Revolution in literature, and this monograph will reassess the process of literary production and fill a significant gap in current research on the Revolutionary period because it will focus on a body of texts barely accorded critical attention before.