Jack Censer (Chair of the CHNM Advisory Board) and Lynn Hunt (Eugen Weber professor of history at UCLA) have–in collaboration with five other scholars and CHNM–created an online scholarly article, “Imaging the French Revolution: Depictions of the French Revolutionary Crowd.” The American Historical Review has published the article, one of the very first digital articles to appear in the flagship journal of the American Historical Association.
The article includes the perspectives of six different scholars, both historians and art historians. Censer and Hunt explain that crowd actions have long been a subject of contention in the historiography of the French Revolution, but they contend that text-based sources have dominated the historiography. In contrast, the essays in this article take as their point of departure a bank of forty-two images selected to represent the variety of ways that crowds could be depicted. Censer and Hunt argue that visual evidence is particularly important in the case of the French Revolution: not only did thousands of images proliferate in a remarkable diversity of formats, but also those images often spoke to issues, such as crowd violence, that proved difficult for supporters of the Revolution to discuss frankly in speeches or newspaper articles. The electronic presentation makes it possible to view the images separately as well as within the articles, to read the discussion that took place among the authors about their findings, and to directly compare different authors’ interpretations of particular images.