The historiography of Henry de Boulainviller
The object of the present thesis is to examine aspects of the historiography of Henry de Boulainviller. Rather than concentrate on the various themes and ideas to be discovered in Boulainviller's historical writings, this work will analyse procedures and modes of presentation which support the particular attitudes and prejudices discernible as well as examine elements of his general methodology (source material, explanation, narrative, etc.).Part One explores the ways in which Boulainviller manipulates notions of 'fact', 'right', and law to argue that the old nobility of France were the true rulers of France and that the development of royal absolutism represented an aberration of the original constitution. Boulainviller's peculiar position is revealed by comparing his 'philosophy' with the political philosophies of Hobbes and Locke, and his utterly partial understanding of French history is shown to underlie his fussy attention to protocol and his choice of the happy moments of French history. It is concluded that 'feudal reactionary' is an obvious but erroneous label to affix to Boulainviller the historian of France. Boulainviller's partisan attitude exhibits itself particularly in his critical and moralizing remarks. Part Two examines this aspect of his work and suggests too that the moral duty of the ancient historian was to keep history safe from the ravages of pyrrhonism. Part Three explores Boulainviller's treatment of the ideas of Providence and Destiny. It is argued that he became more sceptical of an intervening Providence as he became increasingly influenced by Spinoza's doctrines denying contingency in the universe or its creator. Part Four discusses Boulainviller's methodology and examines his use of source material, chronology, and etymology; his modes of explanation; and the composition of his historical narratives. The thesis concludes by re-appraising Boulainviller's theoretical remarks about history writing in the context of his own practice.