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Cultures of Revolts and Revolutions – CURR

Cultures of the Revolts and Revolutions

Project CURR (Cultures of Revolts and Revolutions) analyses the use of cultural productions considered as protest speech through written, oral and iconographic media and the way they were spread in times of revolt. It focuses on collective political movements which appeared as a break from the norm and order in Europe during the building process of the modern state, from the 14th century to early 18th century.

From insurgent cultural productions to rebellious means of expression

With the phrase “revolts and revolutions”, the programme considers unruly events when they express a wish for political breach from established order, whether they be a mythical return to the Golden Age (considered by some as “revolutionary conservatism”), or an aspiration to a political regime change. The words “revolt” and “revolution” are both used jointly and equally in this project to avoid the debate on the a posteriori qualification of events by historians themselves according to their opinion. The designation of the action by its protagonists is, however, part of the project. In these movements, only a collective and violent breach of an established norm is considered. <br />To understand these revolts and revolutions from the 14th to the 18th centuries, cultural constructions are clues which give evidence of these collective movements, as they evolve in the course of these movements. They are deliberately created (demonstrations, songs, pictures, written or printed information, newspapers…) or spontaneously used by the insurgents. They reveal immediacy (watchwords, shouts, gestures, speeches) always aiming at having political weapons for battle. The study of the mediatization of dissent is understood here in a wide sense, which applies to a broad range of cultural productions belonging to the area of political action. <br />If studies of the cultural production of revolts are often said to be difficult because of the lack of historical sources from actors of the revolts, considered as illeterate, the existence of varied forms of expression in these productions allows their studies, through placards, songs, images, engravings, memoires, tales, etc. <br />

The methodological contributions of cultural history to interpret these cultural objects of expression allow an examination of their creation, of the way they spread nationally and internationally, the condition of their transfer and appropriation, the various modalities of reception and varied uses they were put to.
The variety of the cultural areas studied supposes a comparative methodology respecful of the principles of historical contextualization. Reflection on the varied natures of sources to consider the emergence of a political culture imposes the use of procedures well-suited to the diversity of ancient societies: it is impossible to use the same proceedings for all areas when evolutions in some domains may vary, for example the structure of serfdom in eastern and western European principalities. It is also impossible to reckon the influence of iconography of the revolts in the same way for Mediterranean countries and anglo-saxon societies. Through this methodological study, some collective questionings must lead to a confrontation of concepts born from it, as the role of a common identity, of the sacred or of oblivion in cultural productions born during revolts and revolutions. Project CURR aims at reshaping a panorama of the creations of revolts and revolutions through geographic comparisons while taking into account some potential evolutions, divergent or convergent, on a European scale.
Another aim of this project is to decompartmentalize studies on a methodological point of view. The association of several disciplines – “civilizationists”, historians and art historians – encourages varied approaches while benefiting from pluridisciplinary skills and knowledge. The project involves classical arts and performing arts professors, and a post-doctorate is devoted to the iconography of revolts.

Among the finished works can be found a book published by S. Haffemayer, Le Spectacle de l’Histoire, PUR, Rennes, 2015, on the revolts and uprisings during the Ancien Régime as shown in films.
Two manuscripts are pending: the first one at the Casa de Velázquez publishing house, by A. Hugon and A. Merle, entitled Soulèvements, révoltes et révolutions dans la monarchie espagnole au temps des Habsbourg : sources, moyens d’expression et légitimation. (16 chapters and 18 authors). The second one is Rhythms of Revolt. European Traditions and Memories of Social Conflict in Oral Culture by Eva Guillorel, David Hopkin and Will Pooley. It is hoped both will be published in early 2016.
Some works from the six themes are well advanced. « Images and Revolts » initiates a cooperation with a research team in Germany, Early-modern revolts as communicative events, to jointly create an iconographic database. A partnership convention was signed with the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris, to hold an exhibition on “Images and Revolts XIV - XVIII centuries”. A “post-doctoral” researcher, Tiphaine Gaumy, archivist paleographer and docteure in Early Modern History will start work as of September 1st, 2015 for a year.
The “Propaganda and communication” thematic will set up a one-day workshop at the university of Dijon on September 10th, 2015 to write a collective book on “Revolts and communication”.
The “Resilience and Memory” thematic will jointly organize with the university P. de Olavide in Sevilla and the university of Paris Sorbonne a 3-day symposium in the Casa de Velázquez (Madrid, December 10th-12th, 2015).
The “Scenes and Places in the revolts” thematic is setting up a collective study directed by P. Bravo and J.-C d’Amico, to be published by the University Press of Burgundy.

A collective investigation on Images and Revolts will start in September 2015 and last for a year. This investigation will supply the collaborative and professional database on these images of revolts, to prepare for a three-month long exhibition at the Bibliothèque Mazarine from November 2016. An international seminar will be held there to start the exhibition. Furthermore, a book will be published from the works in the exhibition and scientific contributions in relation to it and the iconography of revolts theme.
All 6 thematics aim at collecting articles, creating a collective book, and setting up international workshops or seminars.
Contacts have been established with publishers and various journals. Some have already agreed to read the manuscript which will be deposited from late 2015.
The website offers a meeting and sharing space to researchers and their works; a bibliography and a chronology of European revolts of the Ancien Régime will be uploaded on the website; the site will also provide a large number of links to programmes with themes close to CURR’s. Project CURR wishes to widen collaboration with other projects, and to contact international researchers to collaborate on the cultural thematics of revolts and revolutions of the Ancien Régime. The project believes only European and international cooperation; interdisciplinary practices – between historians, civilisationists, art historians, political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists – can ascertain the diversity of cultures developed by the revolts of the Ancien Régime.

Since the start of Project ANR CURR in January 2014, the 13 French members of the Culture of the Revolts and Revolutions (XIV c.- begin XVIII c.) project have completed 33 contributions in France, in the form of articles in journals with reading committees (8), book chapters or books in French (18), or communications or conferences (8). In other countries, 17 conferences have been held, 6 books or book chapters written, and 4 articles published in journals with reading committees.
To spread knowledge of its work, Project CURR members G. Aubert, d’Y.-M. Bercé, A Hugon and S. Vergnes participated in a round-table with Les rendez-vous de l’histoire, on the theme of the Rebels, in Blois on October 11th, 2014. Two other members were also in other round-tables during this 3-day meeting.
A conservation operation was launched in June 2015 with the help of Project CURR to preserve the archives of Jean Nicolas’s investigation on the Rébellion française (storage in CERHIO-Rennes; beginning of a reflection on the exploitation and development of these sources).
A website is available at this address

publications Mono-partnership
Journals with reading committees 4 -
Books or book chapters
6 -
Communications (conference) 17 -
Journals with reading committees 7 1
Books or book chapters
18 -
Communications (conference) 8 -
Diffusion actions Popularisation articles
- -
Popularisation conferences 11 -
3 1

In the context of Project CURR, ANR CURR-only partnership achievements are not numerous. CURR collective actions were decided in the spring of 2014 when the project was accepted and initiated. So the first CURR-only publications have only just started.

The CURR project (Cultures of Revolts and Revolutions) is aligned with the latest research in social and human sciences about political cultures. The purpose of the project is to analyse the use of cultural productions – defined as any dissenting discourse getting media attention through writing, orality or iconography – and their means of communication and spreading in the course of revolts and revolutions. The study focuses on collective political uprisings that breach standards and established rules in early modern Europe throughout the process of construction of the Modern State, from the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the Enlightenment. The covered period goes until 1799 in order to include the field of memory and the reuse of earlier uprisings in the context of the French Revolution in Europe.
Six themes related to cultural productions and revolts are developed within the CURR project: words and gestures; iconography; propaganda, communication and spreading; public space and revolt; how to write revolts; memory and revolts. The aims of the project are to better understand how political norms can be collectively rejected in pre-industrial European societies, to analyse these phenomena through the confrontation between a wide range of sources and thus to improve the historical knowledge concerning cultural expressions in a context of revolts and revolutions.
The CURR project is led by three French research centres (two UMR and one EA). 15 permanent French researchers, and 10 European researchers from 7 different countries are involved in it. The purpose is to strengthen and expand an international network working on the cultures of early modern revolts and revolutions while combining multidisciplinary approaches and methodologies according to various geographical experiences and different scales of analysis. The project is based on preliminary research started two years ago and materialised by several workshops, conferences and international seminars that allowed to test the first hypotheses, to gather a network of international experts and to clearly define the scientific objectives of the project now submitted to the ANR. The CURR project will lead to numerous and various scientific productions (seminars and conferences, published articles and books, participation to online journals, exhibitions and museum catalogue, website, educational productions) in French and in several other languages. These productions will help to renew, at an international level, the historical knowledge related to a political and cultural understanding of revolts and revolutions in early modern Europe.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Alain HUGON (Centre de Recherche et d'Histoire Quantitative) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ERLIS Équipe de Recherche sur les Littératures, les Imaginaires et les Sociétés
CERHIO Centre de Recherches Historiques de l’Ouest
CRHQ Centre de Recherche et d'Histoire Quantitative

Help of the ANR 209,414 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2013 - 42 Months

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