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Contemplating the Revolution: Ethics, Culture, and History in German Political Thought, 1789-1815

Golf-French, Morgan Alexander; (2020) Contemplating the Revolution: Ethics, Culture, and History in German Political Thought, 1789-1815. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the important roles played by a range of historical works in German political debates during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. It uses texts across a range of genres and focuses on questions around the nature of ethics, culture, political communities, race, progress, and Enlightenment. Engaging with current controversies concerning these themes in the German Enlightenment, this thesis indicates crucial nuances in the relationships between continuity and innovation in contemporary historiography. In addition, it offers significant new understandings of the work of four leading intellectuals: August Ludwig Schlözer (1735-1809), Christoph Meiners (1747-1810), Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752-1827), and Charles de Villers (1765-1815). The first chapter analyzes conceptions of the historical role of philosophical thought, and especially the disputes surrounding the works of Kant and Fichte. Schlözer, Meiners, Eichhorn, and Villers responded to these debates by emphasizing the politicized nature of different approaches to metaphysics and its history. The second chapter examines ideas about natural law, cultural difference, and the concept of 'race'. As well as reappraising the ideas and intellectual relationships of key thinkers on these subjects, this chapter demonstrates that, contrary to previous claims, notions of cultural difference were often closely linked to theories of natural law. The third chapter considers accounts of the emergence of European modernity. It demonstrates how German thinkers responded to the circumstances of Revolutionary and Napoleonic Europe by significantly revising earlier variations of 'the Enlightened narrative'. Examining these debates reveals the significance of ideas about history, ethics, and culture in German political thought during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. By indicating the different ways that these notions could be conceptualized and politicized, this thesis offers new insights into both the diverse meanings of Enlightenment during a period of European crisis, and the major transformations in contemporary German thought.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Contemplating the Revolution: Ethics, Culture, and History in German Political Thought, 1789-1815
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091049
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