The Devil in the Holy Water: Political Libel in Eighteenth-Century France

Robert Darnton

in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 151, 2006 Lectures

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264249
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734045 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Devil in the Holy Water: Political Libel in Eighteenth-Century France

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This lecture discusses an investigation of the vast but unstudied literature of libel that appeared in the French book market during the eighteenth century. It concentrates on four interconnected libelles from 1771 to 1793, and combines an analysis of the genre with an account of a colony of French refugees in London. These refugees were noted to have made slanderous attacks on public figures in Versailles, and even grafted a blackmail operation on to their literary speculations. The lecture shows how an ideological current was able to erode authority under the Ancien Régime and became absorbed in a new political culture.

Keywords: literature of libel; French book market; libelles; slanderous attacks; blackmail operation; ideological current; new political culture; Ancien Régime

Chapter.  9616 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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