Voltaire and the parlements of France

BookVoltaire and the parlements of France

Voltaire and the parlements of France

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2009:06


June 9th, 2009



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Voltaire’s turbulent relationship with the courts of law of ancien régime France reveals much about his social and political thought, but its representation in many studies of the philosophe is often simplistic and distorted. In the first in-depth study of Voltaire and the parlements James Hanrahan looks afresh at this relationship to offer a new and challenging analysis of Voltaire’s political thought and activity.
Through examination of Voltaire’s evolving representation of the parlements in his writings from La Henriade to the Histoire du parlement, Hanrahan calls into question the dominant historiography of extremes that pits Voltaire ‘defender of the oppressed’ against ‘self-interested’ magistrates. He presents a much more nuanced view of the relationship, from which the philosophe emerges as a highly pragmatic figure whose political philosophy was inseparable from his business or humanitarian interests.
In Voltaire and the ‘parlements’ of France Hanrahan opens up analysis of Voltaire’s politics, and provides a new context for future study of the writer as both historiographer and campaigner for justice.

'Méthodiquement, rigoureusement, scrupuleusement, Hanrahan ne laisse rien au hasard, se refuse aux généralités, se démarque d’une schématisation dichotomique aisée.[...]La subtilité et la précision avec lesquelles James Hanrahan analyse les vues et la pensée politique de Voltaire sont particulièrement a souligner.'
- French Review

'Hanrahan provides an impressively detailed account of Voltaire’s evolving views regarding the parlements after the execution of Calas in 1762.'
- French Studies

'Voltaire and the ‘parlements’ of France is an erudite reassessment of the philosophe’s political thought across a long and prodigious lifetime; […] its complexity and depth make it a necessary read for postgraduates and specialists in eighteenth-century studies, as well as cultural and intellectual history.'
- Modern Language Review, Volume 107, Part 3