The Writing Public: Participatory Knowledge Production in Enlightenment and Revolutionary France
Inspired by the reading and writing habits of citizens leading up to the French Revolution, The Writing Public is a compelling addition to the long-running debate on the link between the Enlightenment and the political struggle that followed. Elizabeth Andrews Bond scoured local newspapers throughout France for the two decades prior to the Revolution and the first three years of the Revolution, shining a light on the letters to the editor. These letters were a form of early social media, constituting a lively and ongoing conversation among readers.
Bond takes us beyond the glamorous salons of the intelligentsia into the everyday worlds of the craftsmen, clergy, farmers, and women who composed these letters. As a result, we get a fascinating glimpse into who participated in public discourse, what they most wanted to discuss, and how they shaped a climate of opinion.
The Writing Public offers a novel examination of how French citizens used the information press to form norms of civic discourse and shape the experience of revolution. The result is a nuanced analysis of knowledge production during the Enlightenment.