Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, MacEwan University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Stanford University
The Great Return: Reintegrating Émigrés in Revolutionary France, 1794-1802

Over the course of the French Revolution, some 150 000 men, women and children fled their embattled patrie. Regardless of when or why they left, those who found themselves on the government’s General List of Émigrés—more than half of whom hailed from the ranks of the Third Estate—were condemned to civil death and banished in perpetuity. After the Terror ended in July 1794, the vast majority of these “traitors” sought to return home. At a time of ongoing war and intermittent coups d’état, reintegration demanded considerable concessions from mistrustful legislators, French residents, and émigrés alike, not to mention the creation of a sprawling documentary regime and surveillance apparatus to implement selective amnesties and impose a slew of conditions on returnees. And yet, despite the Revolution’s divisive legacy, only a handful of ultra-royalist émigrés remained abroad by the time Napoleon crowned himself emperor. How did the First Republic manage to reintegrate a sizable community that was deemed unreliable in its political leanings, resented by much of the populace, and embittered by exile, and what impact did the émigrés’ return have on the ultimately short-lived polity? By analyzing legislative debates, court rulings, police surveillance records, right-to-return petitions and émigrés’ personal papers, my dissertation tackles the problem of return on both an empirical and ideological level. My initial research suggests that, as the Revolution’s final chapter, reintegration accomplished what its liberal and Terrorist phases could not: a relatively stable republic in which the “two Frances” coexisted, however awkwardly. At the same time, ironically, the problem of return necessitated the creation of a police state that laid the groundwork for Napoleon’s eventual seizure of power. It is this paradoxical legacy of reconciliation and repression that my project seeks to illuminate.