The Encyclopedists as a Group

BookThe Encyclopedists as a Group

The Encyclopedists as a Group

A Collective Biography of the Authors of the 'Encyclopédie'

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 345


January 1st, 1996





This collective biography examines the similarities and differences among the 140 collaborators identified as having written articles for the seventeen folio volumes of text. It discusses the following topics: the family background, formal education, and occupational choice of the encyclopedists; how and where they were recruited for the Encyclopédie and their compensation; their contributions to the work and wheter they were censored or persecuted or both because of them; their political and religious ideas; their productivity in old age; and, for those who lived past 1789, how they reacted to the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon.
In this book Frank A. kafker challenges a stereotype that has grown up about the Encyclopedits. Many scholars continue a tradition of writing about them as if they were united in a campaign to destroy the Old Regime. But they were, moreover, a varied collection of men of letters, physicians, scientists, craftsmen, scholars, and others, each frequently supporting his own point of view with little central direction. The Encyclopédie became not a party statement but rather a great compendium of knowledge, a mixture of ideas – some progressive and some conservative – filled with contradictions and innovations.