Sociability and Politics Reading Session

‘Sociability and Politics’: A Reading Seminar

Thursday, 10 November 2022 (ZOOM)

3:00 – 5:00 pm (Europe); 2:00-4:00 pm (BST)

Although there is a well-developed literature on sociability, there is much less that explores the intersection between sociability and politics in a conceptual way. Most efforts to connect sociability and politics focus on ‘public opinion’ – an abstract political force generated within a ‘public sphere’ where sociability happens to be going on. But how has sociability historically operated in the spheres of political decision-making? How have historical actors used sociability practices, or transformed them, for political ends? Were women active and visible agents in political sociability? And how far was political sociability and association shaped by different colonial and imperial contexts?

This online reading seminar is intended to serve as a ‘brainstorming’ session for the ‘Sociability and Politicisation’ strand of the GIS Sociabilitiy scientific programme. The aim is to identify ways of problematising the intersection between sociability and politics in the long eighteenth century. We invite participants to read at least the introductions to the first three book below, but please feel free to engage with other books on the list. The perspectives discussed in this seminar may help orient subsequent discussions at future meetings in the spring and summer of 2023.

Please direct any questions to Kimberley Page-Jones (; Charles Walton (; or Naomi Pullin (

Main readings
  1. Mark Philp, Radical Conduct: Politics, Sociability and Equality in London, 1789-1815 (OUP, 2020).
  2. Daniel Gordon, Citizens Without Sovereignty: Equality and Sociability in French Thought, 1670-1789 (Princeton: 1994).
  3. Steven Kale, French Salons: High Society and Political Sociability from the Old Regime to the Revolution of 1848 (Johns Hopkins, 2004).

Please do get in touch if you have any further suggestions or ideas of relevant texts for future reading groups.

    Further reading

    Theoretical works pre-20th century

    Gabriel Tarde, L'Opinion et la foule (Paris, Félix Alcan, 1901). Many translated editions exist. [For analyses of Tarde, see N. Clark (ed.), Gabriel Tarde on Communication and Social Influence (Chicago, 1969).]

    Gustave Le Bon, La Révolution française et la psychologie des révolutions (Flammarion - Bibliothèque de philosophie scientifique - 1912); The French Revolution and the Psychology of Revolution, intro. Robert A. Nye (London: transaction, 1980).

    Gustave Lebon, Les Opinions et les croyances (Flammarion - Bibliothèque de philosophie scientifique - 1911); The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001).

    Marcel Mauss, Essai sur le don (Paris, 1925) In English: The Gift: Forms of Exchange in Archaic Societies, various editions available.

    Theoretical works 20th/21st century  

    Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things (Duke, 2010).

    Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics: How Americans Produce Apathy in Everyday Life (CUP, 1998).

    Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds.), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, (Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2005).e

    Monographs, empirical studies of relevance 

    Dena Goodman, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (salons et salonnières, rôle des femmes dans la société des lumières), Ithaca (New-York), Cornell UP, 1994.

    Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, The Politics of Sociability: Freemasonry and German Civil Society, 1840-1918 (Ann Arbor, 2005).

    Antoine Lilti, Le monde des salons: sociabilité et mondanité à Paris au XVIIIe siècle, Fayard, 2005. In English: The World of the Salons : Sociability and Wordliness in Eighteenth-century Paris (OUP, 2015).

    Sociability and British politics 

    Rachel Carnell, Backlash: Libel, Impeachment, and Populism in the Reign of Queen Anne (Univ. of Virginia Press, 2020).

    Brian Cowan, ‘Public Spaces, Knowledge and Sociability', Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption, ed. Frank Trentmann (OUP, 2012).

    Brian Cowan, ‘Restoration' England and the History of Sociability’, in V. Capdeville & A. Kerhervé (eds.), British Sociability in the Long Eighteenth Century. Challenging the Anglo-French Connection (Boydell, 2019).

    Politicisation and sociability in imperial contexts 

    For Saint-Domingue, see:

    Lauren Clay, Stagestruck: The Business of Theater in Eighteenth-Century France and Its Colonies (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2013).

    Gabriel Debien, ‘Marronage in the French Caribbean’, in Richard Price (eds.), Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 3rd edition, 1996).

    Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005).

    Laurent Dubois and Karine Bénac-Giroux, Colonialism and Slavery in Performance: Theatre and the Eighteenth-Century French Caribbean (Oxford: Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2021).

    Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1990), 16; Lauren Clay, Stagestruck: The Business of Theater in Eighteenth-Century France and Its Colonies (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2013).

    Jean Fouchard, Les marrons de la liberté (Paris: Éditions de l’École, 1972).

    Jean Fouchard, Le théâtre à Saint Domingue: Regards sur le temps passé (Port-au-Prince: Imprimerie Henri Deschamps, 1988).

    John D. Garrigus, Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue (London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2006).

    Gender and political sociability  

    Elaine Chalus, ‘Elite Women, Social Politics, and the Political World of Late Eighteenth-Century England’, Historical Journal, 43 (2000), 669-697.

    Dena Goodman, Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters (2009).

    Solenn Mabo, ‘Les citoyennes, les contre-révolutionnaires et les autres. Participations, engagements et rapports de genre dans la Révolution française en Bretagne’ (Annales historiques de la Révolution française 2020/4 (n° 402))

    Michelle Perrot : Femmes publiques. Paris, Textuel, 1997.

    Salon Mme Geoffrin

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