Telling Tales

Collaboration, Career Making and the Contest for Credit
  • Ralph Kingston
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


The failure to achieve Revolutionary transparency by regulating the time and space of office work meant that the problem of evaluating the performance of individual administrators remained unsolved. Collaborative work practices – individual administrators were expected to work as part of a chain of correspondence rather than as individual authors and producers — meant that no one administrator was ever to blame. The impenetrable nature of individual responsibility in an ‘organic’ administration manifested itself almost immediately during attempts to purge the offices of ‘hirelings’ in the early 1790s. As politicians looked to link individual administrators to particular policies, the difficulty of blaming any one person, or office, for acts carried out by the administration as a whole, became frustratingly apparent. The collaborative nature of office production meant that journalists and politicians found it difficult to make their allegations stick. As a result, some administrators — including, as we will see, Luc-Antoine Donin de Champagneux, chief of the First Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1793 — found themselves incarcerated as ‘suspects’ with little hope of a trial.


Foreign Affair Secretary General Political Opinion Office Politics Partisan Politics 
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  1. 9.
    On the well-known struggle for power between the rival Revolutionary factions, the Girondins and Montagnards, see (among others) Albert Mathiez, Girondin et Montagnard (Paris, 1930); M.J. Sydenham, The Girondins (London, 1961); Alison Patrick, The Men of the First French Republic: Political Alignments in the National Convention of 1792 (Baltimore, 1972); Patrice Higonnet, ‘The social and cultural antecedents of Revolutionary discontinuity: Montagnards and Girondins’, English Historical Review, 100 (1985), 513–543; Gary Kates, The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution (Princeton, 1985); Morris Slavin, The Making of an Insurrection: Parisian Sections and the Gironde (Cambridge, MA, 1986). Champagneux edited Madame Roland’s posthumous memoirs. His son, Léon, married Eudora Roland on 13 December 1796.Google Scholar
  2. 16.
    Bertrand Poirot-Delpech, Papon: un crime de bureau (Paris, 1998) 202; for the proceedings of his trial, see Le procès de Maurice Papon, 2 vols (Paris, 1998).Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Marcel Dorigny, ‘La propagande girondine et le livre en 1792: le bureau de l’esprit public’, Dix-huitième siècle, 21 (1989), 203–215; Bernardin, Jean-Marie Roland et le ministère de l’intérieur, 403–409; Pierre Caron, La première terreur, 1792: les missions du conseil exécutif provisoire et de la commune de Paris (Paris, 1950).Google Scholar
  4. 28.
    The problem of disciplining authorship during the Revolution was not limited to government offices. The collapse of the royal institutions regulating the book trade in 1789 forced the Revolutionaries to tackle the problem of individual literary property, both to stem a flood of anonymous, seditious pamphlet literature and to protect the financial integrity of publishing houses. The Constituent Assembly tackled the first problem with the incorporation of a law on libel and sedition into the Constitution of 1791, criminalizing anonymity and making authors legally responsible for their texts. In the law of 19 July 1793, the Convention went further by establishing limited property rights for authors (to recompense intellectual activity) while entering all works eventually into the ‘public domain’: see Carla Hesse, ‘Enlightenment Epistemology and the Laws of Authorship in Revolutionary France, 1777–1793’, Representations, 30 (1990), 109–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 51.
    On Old-Regime pensions see Vida Azimi ‘Les traitements des agents publics sous l’ancien régime’, Revue historique de droit française et étranger, 67 (1989), 428–468.Google Scholar
  6. 68.
    Jean Tulard, Nouvelle histoire de Paris: le consulat et l’empire, 1800–1815 (Paris, 1970), 392, cites several examples.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ralph Kingston 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph Kingston
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryAuburn UniversityUSA

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