Vol. 6 (2021)

Historiographical heritages: Denis Diderot and the men of the French Revolution

Giuseppina D'Antuono
Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”
Published November 9, 2021
  • Diderot,
  • French Revolution,
  • Historiographical Heritages,
  • General will,
  • Men of the Constituent
How to Cite
D’Antuono, G. (2021). Historiographical heritages: Denis Diderot and the men of the French Revolution. Diciottesimo Secolo, 6, 161-168. https://doi.org/10.36253/ds-11696


Was Denis Diderot “the master of Danton”, as the historian Aulard asserted, or was he “the master of Brissot” as Jean Dautry stated? Or rather, was the philosophe the true inspiration of Babeuf? From a general point of view, research on the circulation and heritage of Diderotian political ideas in Europe has mostly been interpreted in relationships of analogy or in contrast with the event, ideas and men of the French Revolution. This article aims to analyze the debate on the most recent historical readings that have reawakened the hermeneutic dialectic on the relationship between the political thought and works of Denis Diderot and the spokesmen of the French Revolution. The significance of this study thus lies in its focus on the most recent historiographical readings on the uses of Diderotian stratified production, which over time have distorted his political vocabulary. At the present time, we have some data – from the cross-analysis between the study of unpublished sources and new research perspectives on political traineeships and clandestine circles – —on which to base future research: on the eve of the Revolution, Diderotian thought circulated in clandestine pamphlets and, in those same years, some men of the future Constituent took inspiration from the philosophe. Therefore, the category of “general will” in use among the men of the Constituent and the Legislative (Thouret, Brissot) seems not to be of Rousseauian derivation only.


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