British Political Thought in an Age of Globalization, c. 1750–1800 (symposium)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a spring 2008 symposium, the latest of three on "Networks of Exchange," one of the Center for the History of British Political Thought programs. Speakers included Richard Bourke (Queen Mary, University of London), Christopher Brown (Columbia University), Marianne Elliott (University of Liverpool), Christine Fauré (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), Jack Fruchtman, Jr. (Towson University), Rachel Hammersley (Newcastle University), Lynn Hunt (University of California, Los Angeles), Sankar Muthu (University of Chicago), Fania Oz-Salzberger (University of Haifa), Fred Rosen (University College London, Emeritus), Emma Rothschild (Harvard University), James Schmidt (Boston University), Richard B. Sher (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Eric Slauter (University of Chicago), and Robert Travers (Cornell University). The speakers listed were invited to start conversations on the following questions. Applications to participate in the symposium were sought from scholars whose current research also engaged these issues.

Each "Networks of Exchange" symposium has been concerned with the distribution, translation, and common possession of texts and languages of political thought between the British kingdoms and other European cultures. This iteration expanded the geographical scope farther, however, to account for the ways political thought traveled in the late eighteenth century, into America, the Caribbean, and India, for instance. In a series of formally introduced conversations, participants considered some re-orientations of the British state: the loss of the Thirteen Colonies, union with Ireland, empire in India, and the transformation of Europe by the French Revolution and its subsequent militarization. Each of these events obliged British writers and actors to rethink themselves in relation to others, and obliged others to rethink the British in relation to them. In this setting, authors, texts, and ideas traveled and were translated between countries and cultures in conditions of peace and war, and of imperial crisis and expansion. What were the effects, internally and externally generated, on political thought about Britain? On what grounds can this period be thought of as one in which global dimensions were beginning to determine new political ideas?