1821: The Migration of Revolutionary Ideas

London Speakers, on 22 February 2021

Centre for Hellenic Studies, King’s College London, 18.00-20.00. Co-hosted with the Hellenic Society. Online Event.

Georgios Varouxakis: ‘The Idea of Greece: 1820s and Aftermath’

The paper will focus on the meanings and metamorphoses of ‘the idea of Greece’, from the eve of the outbreak of the Greek Revolution to the aftermath of the establishment of an independent Greek state. A comparison will be pursued among different national/linguistic traditions, with the main emphasis being on the changing contents of the idea of Greece in German-speaking, French-speaking, British and American thought. What Greece meant to people who volunteered to fight for the Greek cause, or those who supported them financially or politically, and to those who simply commented in the press, in poetry and other literary genres, in books and in the impressive number of pamphlets published in and around the 1820s on Greece and the Greeks will be analysed. It is well-known that in many cases the image of Greece changed conspicuously in the minds of the very same individuals between before and after they went to fight for Greek independence. The paper will attempt to contextualise the responses of different individuals and groups. A major focus will be on the causes different supporters of the Greeks associated the idea of Greece with – Christendom, ancient Greece, Europe, and Civilization being the main candidates.

Georgios Varouxakis is Professor in History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London and Co-director of the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought. He has been research fellow at UCL, Princeton University, and Senior Research Fellow at Lichtenberg-Kolleg, University of Göttingen. His research interests include history of political thought and transcultural intellectual history (C.18th-20th), with emphasis on political thought on nationalism, patriotism and cosmopolitanism, political thought on international relations, empire and imperialism, and the intellectual history of ideas of ‘Europe’ and ‘the West’. His books include Liberty Abroad: J.S. Mill on International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Mill on Nationality (Routledge, 2002), Victorian Political Thought on France and the French (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), Contemporary France: An Introduction to French Politics and Society (Arnold, 2003, co-authored). He is currently writing a major study on The West: The History of an Idea for Princeton University Press.

Athena Leoussi: ‘Two Revolutionary Ideals: Hellenism and Nationalism’

The revival of ancient Athenian ideals of democracy and nationality that marked European thought from the eighteenth century onwards, was revolutionary both in its aims and in the means, often violent, through which it was pursued. Its prototypes were the American and French Revolutions. They became exemplars of the possibility of making the world over through return to a past golden age believed to be of universal value. The desire for both political liberty (individual and collective) and cultural identity caused a radical transformation of European and world politics and cultures. It gave birth to the modern universal principle of national self-determination. This ideal was embodied in a new kind of state, the nation-state. Combining, typically, the protection of irreplaceable culture values, mass citizenship, and freedom from foreign rule, the nation-state would become the desire of all nations and a desire über alles, pursued at all costs – even at the cost of death. In the aftermath of the First World War, national self-determination would become enshrined in international law. The Greek Revolution belongs to this powerful current of thought and action. Paradoxically, the Greek Revolution would set out to Hellenise and nationalise Greece.

Athena Leoussi is Associate Professor in European History in the Department of Languages and Cultures, University of Reading, UK. She is a Founder of The Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism, and a Founder Editor and continuing Editor of the journal, Nations and Nationalism. She has published extensively on the role of the visual arts in nation-building and the influence of classical Greek notions of beauty and citizenship in re-defining modern European national identities. She was one of the organisers of the British Museum’s exhibition, ‘Defining Beauty’ (2015). Her publications include, Nationalism and Classicism (1998), The Encyclopaedia of Nationalism (Transaction, 2001), Nationalism and Ethnosymbolism (edited with Steven Grosby for Edinburgh University Press, 2006), and Famous Battles and How They Shaped the Modern World (2 vols. edited with Beatrice Heuser for Pen & Sword, 2018).

Sanja Perovic: ‘The French Revolution Effect: Translating the Idiom of Revolution’

As soon as it broke out, the French Revolution was recognized as an event whose repercussions went well beyond the French border. This paper explores the mobility of revolutionary language – not only what it says but how it travelled, where it went and what it became. How did translation enable democratic movements to reach wider publics and cast themselves as part of an international struggle? I will begin by briefly considering the role of translation in the transnational circulation of radical texts in the decade preceding the French Revolution. I will then consider what translation can reveal about how this transnational revolutionary idiom was adopted, adapted or resisted in the decades immediately following the major events of the French Revolution. I will conclude with a few words about the role of the translator not just as a passive ‘copier’ of revolutionary ideas but also as an active militant seeking to spread democracy in new languages and cultures – a contested idea then as now.

Sanja Perovic is Reader in Eighteenth-Century French Studies at King’s College London. Publications include The Calendar in Revolutionary France: The Perception of Time in Literature, Culture and Politics (2012) and, as co-editor, a special issue on The French Revolution Effect (Comparative Critical Studies 2018). She is currently PI of the AHRC grant ‘Radical Translations: The Transfer of Revolutionary Culture between Britain, France and Italy (1789-1815).

Event Listings: CHS and BSA

Introduction to the Event

Athens Speakers and Abstracts

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