The French Revolution: A Moment of Respatialization

The French Revolution: A Moment of Respatialization

Project B1 “Between Reforming the Empire and Nation State Territorialization: The Transatlantic Cycle of Revolution 1770–1830, SFB 1199 “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition” (Leipzig U)
From - Until
20.11.2017 - 21.11.2017
Megan Maruschke

World historians recognize the French Revolution as a global moment in world history where this major, but local, shift in the social order had widespread repercussions. Recent research on the French Revolution has looked at it as a moment in the respatialization of French society, particularly connected to the territorialization of the hexagon. The impetus for new patterns of political self-organization can be observed in France and its colonial territories, but this had distinct repercussions in the Atlantic as well as in other regions of the world. Similarly, historians now discuss the North American as well as the South American liberation from imperial rule with regard to its spatial consequences. This inspires us to look at the period as a crucial moment in the respatialization of the world where all formats of space in existence and proposals for new frameworks for social interaction became contested.

In this vein, this conference brings together experts who address the French Revolution as a moment of respatialization in three ways: firstly, the French Revolution is a moment of reorganization of the French Empire, which takes into account the spatial changes during and following the revolution within the hexagon and in France’s overseas colonies. This perspective encompasses how this imperial reorganization was intertwined with the respatialization of other competing empires and the emergence of independent state spaces in the Americas. Central to the drive for reorganization are larger debates on slavery, free trade, and citizenship. Secondly, the French Revolution was a moment with global echoes that reverberated in parts of the world quite distant from France. This revolution is one of many upheavals of the period – and not limited to the Atlantic revolutions – which invites historians to connect and compare this “moment” of respatialization to others. Thirdly, the French Revolution has been considered a moment of remembrance in French history, but has received relatively little conceptual relevance in global history. Thinking of the French Revolution in terms of broader processes of respatialization at the turn of the eighteenth century, what is the place of the French Revolution in global history narratives? Understanding these three aspects of the French Revolution as a global moment in various contexts allows us to piece together a history that is of primary concern to global historians: understanding how dominant patterns of spatial organization develop simultaneously on a global scale.

If you are interested in attending the conference, please send a short message by Friday, 10 November, to Dr. Ute Rietdorf (

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Dr. Ute Rietdorf

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