The Perfidy of Albion: French Perceptions of England During the French Revolution

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A steady supply of political pilgrims made their way across the Channel to observe the miracle of English government in action, while a fast-spending set around the younger princes of the French royal family turned English-style horse-racing into a fad. The disillusionment was not slow in coming. One wave began on 28 May , in the woods of the Ohio Valley, when British colonial militia killed a French-Canadian army officer, Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, who had supposedly been travelling under a flag of truce.

Rather bizarrely, an enterprising London publisher rushed an English translation into print, perhaps thinking the novel a joke. Predictably dreadful, this literature nonetheless made a lasting impression. It is fitting that the most bloodthirsty line in the French national anthem was written with the English in mind.

Meanwhile, the English were engaging in their own contortions over things French.

Napoleon was a European to his core – except when it came to England

Hogarth repeatedly invoked the stereotype, his print The Gate of Calais , for example, portrayed repellent Frenchmen salivating at the sight of a good honest English joint of beef. And so did Tobias Smollett, who sent one of the characters in his novel Ferdinand Count Fathom prowling vainly through Paris in search of the same totemic meat.

The establishment by scholars of an English literary canon, and even the publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in , had roots in Francophobia.

French and noble in 2018: What remains of France's aristocracy?

The French Revolution did not simply intensify cross-Channel love and cross-Channel hate, but raised both to the level of ideology. The early leaders of the Revolution, devout readers of Montesquieu for the most part, followed his example in loudly admiring the English Constitution.

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But discordant notes disrupted the symphony almost immediately. A swelling number of French counter-revolutionaries agreed with him, hoping in vain to forge a new, conservative Franco-British entente. As the Revolution became more radical, English Jacobins and French Montesquieuians alike grew thin on the ground, and hopes for a convergence of liberal political systems vanished under a tide of ideological denunciation.

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Hampson describes how the French Revolution, which seemed to promise an era of Franco-British partnership, led to an even more bitter estrangement. The Perfidy of Albion: French Perceptions of England During the French Revolution (): Norman Hampson: Books.

Louis XVI made a pathetic break for freedom, was caught, and in due course dethroned and decapitated. Most of the English looked on in consternation, ever more convinced that the French were bent on the wholesale destruction of social order and religion.

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Most of the French, for their part, came to see the English as perversely and maliciously thwarting their wholly altruistic attempts to spread Enlightenment to the world. Efforts on both sides to distinguish the enemy doctrine from the enemy people came to nothing.

In The Perfidy of Albion , Norman Hampson does his usual learned and economical job of laying out this story cleanly, instructively and with a great deal of quietly pawky wit. Much of the basic political history Hampson reviews has lain largely untouched for decades, and his account should now become the standard one. Hampson does not, however, go much beyond this basic, indeed sometimes rather skeletal political history. Drawing above all from the speeches of the major revolutionaries, he is thin on popular attitudes towards the British, and on opinion in the Army.

There is also little on literary depiction of the English, or on caricature admittedly, the French had nothing to compare with the ferocious hilarity of Gillray, who liked to portray the French as cannibals. Hampson does not compare French views of the English with their views of other foreigners, as the French historian Sophie Wahnich has done to interesting effect, particularly in regard to French perceptions of the British as a sovereign people.

Finally, he has scant inclination to speculate about the larger meaning of French Anglophobia: its place in the history of the Revolution and of European nationalism. Only in religious movements was there a precedent for such an ambitious attempt to reshape human nature. As Colley has argued, it was in the struggles with France in the 18th century that the British forged a new national identity.

In those same struggles, the French forged a very different sort of identity, grounded not in long and idiosyncratic national tradition, but in the pure exercise of political will, and capable of being spread by diligent evangelisation to every continent. You are the creators of a new world.

As the author is all too aware, however, these broadsides many examples of which are given were not of the people, but rather addressed to them. It is difficult, therefore, to get a sense of what people thought of either the broadsides or Napoleon, although the broadsides seem to express an underlying fear that Britain had somehow reached its peak and was now in decline p. Just as the British had trouble defining Napoleon politically, not to mention his national identity, so too did they have trouble understanding his religious significance, largely because he refused to fit into any simple category.

Was he anti-Catholic? His behaviour in Italy in —7 led some to think so, but then how does one account for the Concordat? Was he restoring Catholicism or destroying it? The onslaught of an atheist Republican government against the Catholic Church, both within France and in other European countries, did not do anything, for example, to appease the anti-Catholic Francophobia that dominated much of the English pamphlet and broadside literature of the day. On the contrary, there had been a tendency to displace the traditional popular association of the Antichrist with Rome onto Republican France p.

It did not take much of a leap, once this pattern had been established, to then project the image of the Antichrist onto Napoleon. It was an image, moreover, that flourished in most parts of Europe, and certainly in Spain and in Russia after the French invasion of those countries. It is a delightful example of the identification of Napoleon, or at least Napoleonic France, with the Devil, and it was not an isolated one. If Napoleon was loathed by most loyalists during the wars, all of this was to change after his fall from power.

Increasingly, he came to be seen in a more favourable light by just about everyone, it would seem, in British society. Exile to St Helena and the conditions in which he was kept in captivity had a great deal to do with that. Politics and trade in the Indian Ocean world.

Bibliographic Information

Essays in honour of Ashin Das Gupta. Edited by Rudrangshu Multherjee and Laltshmi Subramanian. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sir William Jones — a commemoration. Edited by Alexander Murray. Oxford: Oxford University Press. For University College, Oxford. Volume 23 , Issue 1. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username.

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Britain as a military power, — By Jeremy Black. London: UCL Press. Britain and the American Revolution. Edited by H.

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Waterloo marked the end of the political cycle of the French Revolution and the beginning of the industrial revolution in Britain. For some historians, the 19th century truly started in , just as the 20th century started in In the Middle Ages the French and the English together made up a world apart. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book!

London: Longman,