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Title: Voltaire and the Parlements
Author: Hanrahan, James C.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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The parlements of France appear regularly in the background of studies on Voltaire, whether as a conservative censoring authority, a self-interested opponent of a reforming monarchy, or, intolerant dispensers of inadequate justice. They appear constantly as enemies of Enlightenment. This study aims to bring Voltaire’s relationship with the courts to the foreground, examining his reaction to them during the reign of Louis XV and showing that this reaction is continually evolving, as opposed to the fixed image mentioned above. Part I explains Voltaire’s youthful admiration for the parlements and shows that, before the 1750s, his reaction to them was not particularly hostile (Chapter 1). His attitude wavers between disinterest and mild frustration before the attack of Damiens on the king in 1757, which awakened him to the dangerous influence of certain magistrates’ religious zeal (Chapter 2). Part II examines the effect of certain miscarriages of justice perpetrated by the parlements of Paris and Toulouse on Voltaire’s view of the courts and how this changing view influenced his decision to write a history of the principal parlement in the capital (Chapter 3). This is followed by a close examination of Voltaire’s anti-parlementaire rhetoric in the Histoire du parlement de Paris (Chapter 4). Part III questions the established interpretation of Voltaire’s political thought through a comparison of the Histoire du parlement de Paris and the Précis du siècle de Louis XV (Chapter 5) and supports this analysis with an examination of Voltaire’s support for the suppression of the parlements by chancellor Maupeou in 1771, showing an alternative understanding of Volaire’s aims in supporting royal authority (Chapter 6).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available