Rumor, Diplomacy and War in Enlightenment Paris
Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment 2014
Tabetha Ewing‘s Rumor, Diplomacy and War in Enlightenment Paris (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2014) is all about the on dit, the word on the street that everyday Parisians might have picked up, and/or spread around town in the 1740s. Focused on rumor during the War of Austrian Succession that lasted from 1740-1748, Ewing’s is a book that examines a range of urban voices and opinions across a pivotal decade of the Enlightenment.
Taking very seriously the landscapes of gossip and fantasy, Rumor, Diplomacy, and War is intriguing in its subject matter and its methodology. Interested in the circulation of speech and ideas, Ewing tracks a variety of bruits–open and clandestine media, royal efforts to release and police information about matters of state and military conflict, and oral and written forms of communication. All this, with the aim of exploring a distinctively early-modern brand of political participation, and an “inchoate citizenship” that existed in the decades before the French Revolution. Questions of national identity, loyalty to the regime (or not), and political expression/representation were in the air during these years of war and Enlightenment. Ewing’s is a book that shows us how much historians can hear if we listen carefully.