france

Essays
A Dangerous Man in the Pantheon

A Dangerous Man in the Pantheon

This October marks 300 years since the birth of French Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot. Although perhaps best known for co-founding the Encylopédie, Philipp Blom argues for the importance of Diderot's philosophical writings and how they offer a pertinent alternative to the Enlightenment cult of reason spearheaded by his better remembered contemporaries Voltaire and Rousseau. more

Our Masterpiece Is the Private Life: In Pursuit of the “Real” Chateaubriand

Our Masterpiece Is the Private Life: In Pursuit of the “Real” Chateaubriand

While nowadays he might be best known for the cut of meat that bears his name, François-René de Chateaubriand was once one of the most famous men in France — a giant of the literary scene and idolised by such future greats as Alphonse de Lamartine and Victor Hugo. Alex Andriesse explores Chateaubriand’s celebrity and the glimpse behind the public mask we are given in his epic autobiography Memoirs From Beyond the Grave. more

Cliché-Verre and Friendship in 19th-Century France

Cliché-Verre and Friendship in 19th-Century France

In the 1850s, as photography took its first steps toward commercial reproducibility, a more intimate use for light-sensitive plates briefly bloomed. It had a few names: heliographic drawing, photographic autography, or, as it is best known today, cliché-verre. Miya Tokumitsu takes us to the towns and forests of France where a group of friends began making marks on photographic plates, and finds their camaraderie cohere in lyrical arrangements of topography and light. more

Eugène-François Vidocq and the Birth of the Detective

Eugène-François Vidocq and the Birth of the Detective

According to his memoirs, Eugène-François Vidocq escaped from more than twenty prisons (sometimes dressed as a nun). Working on the other side of the law, he apprehended some 4000 criminals with a team of plainclothes agents. He founded the first criminal investigation bureau — staffed mainly with convicts — and, when he was later fired, the first private detective agency. He was one the fathers of modern criminology and had a rap sheet longer than his very tall tales. Who was Vidocq? Daisy Sainsbury investigates. more