GENEVA, N.Y.—John Shovlin, assistant professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, received a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study luxury, patriotism, and political economy in France, for a book titled The French Revolution and the Remaking of the Social, 1750-1810.
Shovlin's book will suggest that a “luxury crisis” developed at the point of contact between the French economy, as it was organized under the old regime, and a new language of patriotism that emerged in the 1750s and 1760s. His project demonstrates the relevance in France of this body of thought, the centrality of which has long been recognized in Anglo-American history.
His research demonstrates that, for patriots, the obstacle that barred the way to any regeneration of civic virtue was luxury. Patriots regarded luxury as the extreme inequality that characterized social life under the old regime, attributed to privilege, fiscalism, and policies that sacrificed the interests of agriculture and domestic manufactures to those of foreign trade. Patriots held that a “natural” economic order, based on competition and economic liberty, would redistribute wealth and generate greater equality.
His book will argue that anti-luxury language played a key role in shaping the crisis that initiated the Revolution, and that revolutionaries recruited the economy as a symbolic basis for social structure.
Shovlin joined the Colleges faculty in 1997. He holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard University, and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago.
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, and public programs in the humanities.