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This paper explores the lifeworlds of the ‘British’ population resident in Paris during the French Revolution and seeks thereby to review larger frameworks for thinking about eighteenth-century Britain and Europe. A strength of ‘New British History’ historiographical approaches has been to foreground the coherence and autonomy of British history for this period. This has helped elucidate why, for example, a phenomenon such as the French Revolution was not liable to ready importation or emulation on the British side of the Channel. Nevertheless, it is argued here, this scholarly inheritance also has a corresponding drawback in its conceptual sidelining of the transnational. This is highlighted by examining spaces and trajectories where eighteenth-century Britain and Britons may indeed be said to have become melted down into Europe. The case of revolutionary France, and in particular mass arrest measures undertaken there during the Terror aimed at individuals who were deemed to be ‘British’ subjects, provides a polemical yet heuristically valuable vista onto just such a moot population. In targeting British- and Irish-born individuals in France for arrest in 1793, the Montagnard government anticipated that it would be collecting a useful supply of wartime hostages while also neutralizing a high-profile nest of suspects; what it instead found itself grappling with was a motley body of individuals, including many who did not fit smoothly into black-and-white national categories. To discover whether and where Britain blended into Europe — to tell more than island stories and their imperial extensions — we have to be prepared to leave behind a bounded British history, populated with clear-cut Britons.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.

This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.

The session will start at the slightly later time of 17:30.