Senior Lecturer in History Dr. Anna Plassart has been awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to work on a new monograph, entitled The Enlightenment and the idea of national independence, 1750-1815.
While the French Revolution is traditionally seen as the starting point of “nationalist” movements in the 19th century, this project recasts the late eighteenth century as the end point of earlier debates about the idea of
national independence. Looking at case studies of Corsica, Poland, the United States and Haiti, it argues that Enlightenment writers identified several contemporary independence movements as fundamental challenges to the existing international order. Far from emerging from the French Revolution, it shows, these early debates about national independence were in fact discredited by the French state’s use of the language of self-determination to justify aggressive foreign policies.