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Title: Practicing Politics in the Revolutionary Atlantic World: Secrecy, Publicity, and the Making of Modern Democracy
Authors: Carter, Katlyn Marie
Advisors: Bell, David A
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: American Revolution
French Revolution
State Secrecy
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation argues that debates about secrecy in government both reflected and shaped underlying contests over the meaning of representative politics during the American and French Revolutions. Though we tend now to associate representative democracy with transparency, secrecy was essential to its establishment in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. When revolutions broke out in the Atlantic World, state secrecy was widely associated with despotic excess in both British America and France. The first half of the dissertation uncovers this mounting concern with state secrecy, the valorization of publicity, and related calls for the subjection of representatives to the dictates of their constituents. The dissertation then dissects debates that ensued in the 1790s in order to identify the essential role procedural decisions about secrecy and publicity played in determining the stability and character of representative politics. While the nature of representative government in these revolutions is a vast subject, the history of state secrecy, political publicity, and popular vigilance involves a much more circumscribed source base. The dissertation focuses on practices and discourses where a direct comparison between the United States and France is possible, to explain how theories of political representation were both cemented and contested in practice. As they drafted the American Constitution, for example, the framers worked behind closed doors under oath of secrecy; in France, the deputies of the Third Estate welcomed onlookers into their chamber as they began their deliberations. These types of decisions were crucial to determining what political representation looked like in practice and how it was legitimated.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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