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French Theatre of the Napoleonic Era


This major 4-year project, funded through a generous grant from the AHRC, aims to transform our understanding of theatre of the Napoleonic era by giving us a clearer understanding of the complex interplay of art and politics in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In order to grasp the full complexities of the theatrical scene in the years 1799-1815, it is necessarily interdisciplinary and requires a team working together to link close textual readings to larger cultural, social and political issues. The team will comprise the Principal Investigator, Dr Katherine Astbury, a postdoctoral research fellow and two PhD students. It will provide research into and analysis of a substantial body of plays from the University of Warwick’s Marandet collection which have already been digitised with money from JISC but which have never been the object of systematic study.

Its principal areas of inquiry are to:

  • Reassess the role of French theatre during the Napoleonic era in the light of recent work done on Revolutionary theatre which has shown it to be a forum for working out new understandings of society
  • Assess relations between the State and theatre, between theatre and the press, between playwrights and censors
  • Examine the evolution of tragedy
  • Explore relations between prose and theatre
  • Examine the relationship between words and music, especially in melodrama
  • Work with theatre practitioners and musicians to develop our understanding of performance of theatre of the period, in particular, using the manuscript scores of melodramas to reproduce the music that would have accompanied the speech and action to better understand the relationship between form and content

Team members

The Principal Investigator, Dr Katherine Astbury, has been working with a Postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Katherine Hambridge (now lecturer in Music at the University of Durham), and two PhD students, Devon Cox and Clare Siviter on the project since October 2013. A new postdoctoral fellow, Dr Vincenzo De Santis joined the project in January 2016.

the project team members

The Napoleonic theatre team at the International Federation for Theatre Research conference in 2014.

SDN conference panel

Three of the team at the Society of Dix-neuviémistes conference in Paris in April 2016.


The project's first major event was an international conference on the Melodramatic Moment 1790-1820 held in conjunction with KCL in March 2014.

In June 2014 Clare Siviter, one of the project PhD students, organised a doctoral training day for those working on the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods, broadly 1789-1830.

In July 2014, the project team were involved in organising a 1-day conference on the One Hundred Days in collaboration with Professor Mark Philp (History) and in performing a range of songs and theatrical excerpts from the period.

During 2015, the project team, in conjunction with Professor Mark Philp (History) co-curated an online exhibition on Napoleon's return to power in 1815: The end of the Hundred Days was marked with a further 1-day conference at Warwick.

In November 2015, we held a performance-led workshop on Vaudeville, working on putting back together the text and music of La Laitière suisse, a 1-act comedy which premiered in 1815.

Contact us

Any queries can be addressed to the Principal Investigator,

or you can leave comments on our blog:

Follow this link for access to our Project blog