Enlightenment and utility : Bentham in French, Bentham in France


Enlightenment and utility : Bentham in French, Bentham in France

Emmanuelle de Champs

(Ideas in context / edited by Quentin Skinner (general editor) ... [et al.], 110)

Cambridge University Press, 2017, c2015

  • : pbk

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Based on the author's habilitation thesis--University Paris 8 Vincennes à Saint-Denis

Includes bibliographical references (p. 205-224) and index



Jeremy Bentham, the founder of classical utilitarianism, was a seminal figure in the history of modern political thought. This lively monograph presents the numerous French connections of an emblematic British thinker. Perhaps more than any other intellectual of his time, Bentham engaged with contemporary events and people in France, even writing in French in the 1780s. Placing Bentham's thought in the context of the French-language Enlightenment through to the post-Revolutionary era, Emmanuelle de Champs makes the case for a historical study of 'Global Bentham'. Examining previously unpublished sources, she traces the circulation of Bentham's letters, friends, manuscripts, and books in the French-speaking world. This study in transnational intellectual history reveals how utilitarianism, as a doctrine, was both the product of, and a contribution to, French-language political thought at a key time in European history. The debates surrounding utilitarianism in France cast new light on the making of modern Liberalism.


  • Acknowledgements
  • A note on translations
  • Introduction
  • Part I. An Englishman in the Republic of Letters: 1. Languages of Enlightenment
  • 2. Satire and polemics
  • 3. Defining utilitarianism: private connections and correspondence
  • Part II. 'Projet d'un corps de loix complet' and the Reform of Jurisprudence in Europe: 4. The Genesis of Projet
  • 5. Projet in Enlightenment legal thought
  • 6. The politics of legal reform
  • Part III. Reflections for the Revolution in France: 7. Frenchmen and Francophiles: Lord Lansdowne's network
  • 8. British expertise for French legislators
  • 9. Utility, rights and revolution: missed encounters?
  • Part IV. Utile Dulcis? Bentham in Paris, 1802: 10. Dumont's editorship: from the Bibliotheque Britannique to Traites de legislation civile et penale
  • 11. A mixed reception
  • 12. Autumn 1802: Bentham in Paris
  • Part V. Liberty, Utility and Rights (1815-1832): 13. 'For one disciple in this country, I have fifty at least in France'
  • 14. Utilitarian arguments in French politics
  • 15. A Utilitarian moment? French liberals and utilitarianism
  • Epilogue: Bentham in the July Revolution
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography.

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  • Ideas in context

    edited by Quentin Skinner (general editor) ... [et al.]

    Cambridge University Press