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Dr Charles Walton

Charles Walton   

Office Hours:


H337, third floor of the Humanities Building
+44 (0)24 76524421 (internal extension 24421)
Wed 11am - 12pm; Thur 11-12 am


Academic Profile

Charles Walton is Director of the Early Modern and Eighteenth Century Centre at the University of Warwick. He obtained his BA at the University of California, Berkeley, and his PhD at Princeton University. Before joining the History Department at Warwick, he taught at Yale University, the University of Oklahoma (Norman) and Sciences Po (Paris). His research focuses on Ancien Regime, Enlightenment and Revolutionary France, with emphases on democratization, rights and duties, political economy and socio-economic justice. He held a fellowship at the Institut d'Études Avancées (Paris) in Paris for the academic year 2015-16.

His prize-winning book, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: the Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (2009, paperback 2011, French translation 2014), explores the themes of honour, speech, public opinion and political violence. It shows how debates over limits to free expression contributed to political radicalisation before and during the Revolution. He has edited a collection of essays in honour of Robert Darnton on print culture and the Enlightenment, Into Print: Limits and Legacies of the Enlightenment (2011).

He is currently working on three projects.

1) A monograph, provisionally titled, From Eden to Empire: Reciprocity, Redistribution and the French Revolution. The study examines how redistribution and notions of reciprocity figured in the origins, course and consolidation of the French Revolution. It connects crises over redistribution to political radicalisation, civil war and empire. Themes include political economy and moral economy; taxation and voluntary giving; patronage and corruption; economic liberalism and dirigisme; socioeconomic rights; and the political economy of empire.

2) A Leverhulme funded international research network titled 'Rights, Duties and the Politics of Obligation: Socioeconomic Rights in History'. He is co-directing this network with Dr. Claudia Stein and editing a volume with Dr. Steven Jensen (Danish Human Rights Institute). Network partners include Harvard University, Sciences Po (Paris), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Leibniz Institute and the University of Lausanne. The aim of the network is to explore the long history of socioeconomic rights, from the late eighteenth century to the present. The network challenges the notion that these rights are 'second generation rights' -- rights that emerged only in the mid twentieth century. These rights stretch back, in fact, to the Enlightenment and French Revolution. The precarious status of socioeconomic rights -- as opposed to civil and political rights -- is the problem the network seeks to explain.

3) An overview of the French Revolution for Penguin Books (Pelican Series). Oriented towards a general readership, the book will synthesise the current historical literature on the topic while offering a new perspective that will stress political economy as a driving factor of political radicalisation and consolidation.


Podcast: Clear and Present Danger, episode 32, 'Policing Opinion in the French Revolution' (2019).


Postgraduate students

I welcome applicants interested in pursuing MA and/or PhD research projects in eighteenth-century European History involving France. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your interests.


Current doctoral students

Claire Rioult: 'War by other means? British and French commercial diplomacies and the Spanish market (1783-1808)’

Ronan Love: 'Revolutionary Debts: The Politics of Financial Obligation in the French Revolution'



Books & edited collections

Articles & Essays

  • 'The French Revolution: A Matter of Circumstances?', French History and Civilization vol. 9 (2020).
  • 'Why the Neglect? Social Rights and French Revolutionary Historiography', in Charles Walton (ed.), French History (special issue on 'Socioeconomic Rights and Duties', December 2019)
  • 'Capitalism's Alter Ego: The Birth of Reciprocity in Eighteenth-century France', Critical Historical Studies 5: 1 (2018), 1-43.
  • 'Piketty’s Provocative Contradiction: Economic Determinism versus Historical Contingency in Capital in the Twenty-First Century', Allegoria, No. 71-72, 2016.
  • 'Clubs, Parties, Factions' in David Andress (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution (Oxford: OUP, 2015)
  • 'French Revolutionary Studies: Challenges and Potential Ways Forward' (keynote address) and 'Reciprocity and the French Revolution' (abstract) in Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley and Colin Jones (eds.), e-France: New Perspectives on the French Revolution. vol. 4 (2013).
  • ‘Between Trust and Terror: Patriotic Giving in the French Revolution’ in David Andress (ed.), Experiencing the French Revolution (Oxford: SVEC, 2013)
  • ‘The Fall from Eden: The Free Trade Origins of the French Revolution’ in Suzanne Desan, Lynn Hunt, and William Nelson (eds.), The French Revolution in Global Perspective (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013)
  • ‘Public Opinion and Free-market Morality in Old Regime and Revolutionary France’ in Massimo Rospocher, ed. Beyond the Public Sphere: Opinions, Publics, Spaces in Early Modern Europe (XVI-XVIII) (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2012)
  • ‘Les graines de la discorde: Print, Public Spirit, and Free Market Politics in the French Revolution’ in Charles Walton (ed.), Into Print: Limits and Legacies of the Enlightenment (2011)
  • ‘La opinión pública y la política patológica de la Revolución Francesa’ in Ayer, 80: 4 (2010)
  • ‘La liberté de la presse dans les cahiers de doléances de 1789’ in Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine (jan-mars, 2006)
  • ‘Charles IX and the French Revolution: Law, Vengeance, and the Revolutionary Uses of History’ in European Review of History/Revue européenne d’histoire, 4: 2 (1997)

 Public Writings & Media