Raynal’s ‘Histoire des deux Indes’: Colonial Writing, Cultural Exchange and Social Networks in the Age of the Enlightenment

1 July 2010 - 3 July 2010

Newnham College, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge

Registration for this conference is closed now. 

Conference convenors

Cecil Courtney (Christ's College, University of Cambridge)
Mark Darlow (Christ's College, University of Cambridge)
Jenny Mander (Newnham College, University of Cambridge)

Conference summary

The year 2010 will see the publication of Volume I of a the first complete modern critical edition of the abbé Raynal’s Histoire philosophique des deux Indes (Ferney-Voltaire: CIEDS). The conference will celebrate this landmark publication, by exploring Raynal's text and its multiple contexts, assembling scholars of colonial history, Enlightenment studies, the history of ideas, literary history and book history.

The nineteen books of the Histoire, which chart a philosophical and political history of European colonial trade and settlements, were hugely influential.  Translated into many other European languages, they helped popularise and shape anti-colonial and abolitionist discourse even while they served to inform colonial administrators and to reflect on intra-European rivalries.  Substantially revised and augmented over a period of ten years, Raynal’s project was a vast undertaking in which he drew on multiple resources, placing the Histoire at the centre of a complex and extensive network of writers, politicians, administrators, scientists and other thinkers on the one hand, and, on the other, at the confluence of countless texts concerning the history of European colonies and travel writing, written over several centuries in different times and spaces, and from often very different professional and ideological positions.

Focussing in particular on the role played by social networks, this conference seeks to explore Raynal's Histoire within the multiple circuits of communication that simultaneously shape the 'global eighteenth century', its modes of sociability and its literature. Alongside papers that shed new light on Raynal's networks of living informants, his exploitation of printed sources, and his collaborators, the conference programme will comprise papers that consider these interactions in relation to other patterns of Enlightenment sociability and literary/artistic collaboration, and in relation to the broader processes of intellectual and cultural transfer within France, between France and other European nations, and between Europe and its colonies. It will also include papers that address the diffusion of Raynal's text, its networks of readers, and the ways in which its material circulation lead to culturally-specific receptions. Space will also be given to papers that reflect on the dynamics of social networks and knowledge transfer from a more theoretical point of view.


Should you wish to purchase volume 1 of the new edition of the Histoire des deux Indes and/or the Tableaux, atlas et cartes at £50 each see HERE for details. Please send a message before 15 June to cieds@c18.net. Payment can be made when collecting your copy at Newnham, by cash, cheque or credit card.


Accommodation for delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.
NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.

Conference sponsors

The convenors are grateful for the support of Newnham College, the Department of French, the Society for French Studies, The French Embassy, Cambridge University Library, Newnham College Library, the Heffers Book Shop and The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge.




Administrative assistance: Anna Malinowska (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)

Thur 1 July


9.00 - 9.30 

Registration & Coffee (Lucia Windsor Room, Newnham College)

9.30 - 10.00

Welcome and Introduction

10.00 - 11.15

Session 1: Structures of knowledge in the Enlightenment
Chair:  Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge, UK)

Daniel Gordon (University of Massachusetts, USA)
Knowledge as a Social Network: From Diderot's Encyclopedia to Wikipedia

Gianluigi Goggi (Università di Pisa, Italy)
La seconde édition de l’Histoire des deux Indes et les deux réimpressions de 1774

11.15 - 11.45

Tea & Coffee (Foyer)

11.45 - 13.00

Session 2: Raynal, roots and routes
Chair: Cecil Courtney (University of Cambridge, UK)

Gilles Bancarel (Société d’Etude Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, Béziers, France)
Écriture et information : aux sources du réseau

Kenta Ohji (Kyoto University, Japan)
Raynal auto-complilateur: l’Histoire des deux Indes et le projet d’une histoire politique de l’Europe moderne

13.00 - 14.00

Sandwich Lunch (Foyer)

14.00 - 15.30 

Session 3: Methods of writing history
Chair: Karen O'Brien (University of Warwick, UK)

Muriel Brot (CNRS, Paris, France)
Le role des réseaux dans la composition de l''Histoire des deux Indes. L''exemple de la marine française dans l''édition de 1780.

Ida Pugliese (European University Institute, Florence, Italy)
From antagonism to a common fate: abbé Raynal and William Robertson

Iris Montero Sobrevilla (University of Cambridge, UK)
'Le Printemps est leur unique saison’: how Raynal got to write about hummingbirds

15.30 - 16.00 

Tea & Coffee (Foyer)

16.00 - 18.00

Session 4: Political networks and contexts
Chair: Emma Spary (The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, UK)

Ann Thomson (Université de Paris VIII, France)
Religion, commerce and intrigue: abbé Demanet and his networks

Antonella Alimento (Università di Pisa, Italy)
Entre “rivalité d’émulation”’ et liberté commerciale: la présence de l’école de Gournay dans l’Histoire philosophique des deux Indes

Ursula Haskins Gonthier (University of Birmingham, UK)
Bougainville before Tahiti: negotiating savagery in colonial Canada


Exhibition of rare books (Newnham College Library)


Pre-dinner drinks (Newnham college gardens if fine/Senior Combination Room if wet) 


Conference dinner; open to all (Newnham College Hall)


Fri 2 July


9.00 - 10.15

Session 5: Anthropology
Chair: Istvan Hont (University of Cambridge, UK)

Sylvana Tomaselli (University of Cambridge, UK)
Stadial history and Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes

Daniel Droixhe (University of Liege, Belgium)
Quelle anthropologie dans les 'Deux Indes'? Arts premiers et  ornementation corporelle 

10.15 - 10.45

Tea & Coffee (Foyer)

10.45 - 12.45

Session 6: Colonial and anti-colonial perspectives
Chair: Anthony Strugnell (University of Hull, UK)

Susanne Greilich (Universität Regensburg, Germany)
Et moi suis-je sur des roses? - L'Histoire des deux Indes entre
l'historiographie espagnole, leyenda negra et discours anti-colonialiste

Christian Donath (University of California, San Diego, USA)
The mechanics of frictionless empire: colonization without coercion in Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes

Michel Brix (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Namur, Belgium)
Diderot et la malediction de l’homme blanc

Marco Platania (Goethe University, Germany)
Le texte et son public: ruptures et continuité du discours colonial français entre XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (la quatrième édition de l’Histoire des deux Indes)

12.45 - 14.00

Buffet Lunch (Newnham College Hall)

14.00 - 15.30 

Session 7: Commerce, sociability and slavery
Chair: William St-Clair (University of London, Institute of English Studies, UK)

Stéphane Pujol (Université de Paris X-Nanterre, France)
Formes et figures de l'échange dans l'Histoire des deux Indes

Peter Jimack (University of Glasgow, UK)
Coconuts, spice and sugar: indolence, energy and social interaction in the HDI

Anoush Terjanian (East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA)
‘Commerces’ and ‘esclavages’ in the Histoire

15.30 - 16.00 

Tea & Coffee (Foyer)

16.00 - 17.30

Session 8: Receptions
Chair: Gianluigi Goggi (Università di Pisa, Italy)

Muriel Collart & Daniel Droixhe (University of Liege, Belgium)
Échos des 'Deux Indes'. Presse, poésie, recueils d’anecdotes,  encyclopédies

Fredrik Thomasson (European University Institute, Stockholm, Sweden)
Raynal and Sweden. Colonial aspirations and censorship in political turmoil

Reinier Salverda (University College, London/Fryske Akademy, Leeuwarden (NL))
Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes and Dutch colonialism: information, publication, critical debate and colonial reform in the Age of the Enlightenment


Reception (Heffer's bookshop, Trinity Street)


Dinner for invited guests only (Carluccio's restaurant, 1 Fisher Street)


Sat 3 July


9.00 - 10.30

Session 9: Transatlantic crossings
Chair: John Leigh (University of Cambridge, UK)

Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink (Universität des Saarlandes, Germany)
Controverses transatlantiques: contenus, enjeux et impact international de la “Letter to the Abbé Raynal” (1782) de Thomas Paine

Ginger Nally (NUI, Maynooth, Ireland)
French translations of the U.S. State Constitutions and their transator, Louis-Alexandre, duc de la Rouchefoucault d’Enville

Jennifer Tsien (University of Virginia, USA)
Louisiana as a figment of the imagination: Raynal’s reflections on the Louisiana colony

10.30 - 10.45

Tea & Coffee (Foyer)

10.45 - 12.15

Session 10: Readings
Chair: Andy Martin (University of Cambridge, UK)

Georges Dulac (CNRS, Montpellier, France)
Un protestant languedocien admirateur de Raynal: L’Histoire des deux Indes dans le fonds Louis Médard de Lunel (1768-1841)

Philippe Barthelet  (Paris)
Raynal sous le feu de ses adversaires: l’exemple de Joseph de Maistre

Tami Sarfatti (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)
Raynal's common reader: Bonaparte and his plans for an enlightened colony in Egypt


Round Table closing discussion
Chair: Jenny Mander and Cecil Courtney (University of Cambridge, UK)

Andrew Brown (Centre international d’étude du XVIIIe siècle, France)
Daniel Gordon
(University of Massachusetts, USA)
Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink
(Universität des Saarlandes, Germany)
Anthony Strugnell (University of Hull, UK)
Ann Thomson
(Université de Paris VIII, France)

13.15 - 14.15

Sandwich Lunch (Foyer)


Private exhibition of Raynal editions (Cambridge University Library, Morison Room)