Siècle de Louis XIV
Volumes I-II: ch.1-39 (2016)
Volume III: Introduction et pièces annexes (2017)
Précis du siècle de Louis XV (2017)
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Background of the research project
The set of scholarly critical editions of Voltaire’s ‘modern history’ texts – the post-medieval volumes of the Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations, the Siècle de Louis XIV, and the Précis du siècle de Louis XV – is under way, under the direction of a team of specialists. These editions will place these works in the context of Voltaire’s remarkable aim of writing a history of the progress of the human mind and of socio-cultural behaviours from the earliest times to his own day. They will also show how Voltaire marshalled and exploited his source material, and relate what Voltaire says in these works to what he says on the same subjects elsewhere in his writings.
Voltaire composed these works over a period of more than 20 years, but saw them as combining to create a continuous ‘universal history’. The precise textual history of each work from composition until Voltaire’s death in 1778 will be intricately traced for the first time, yielding fascinating and important insights into how Voltaire conceived each successive edition of his texts.
Published within the Complete Works of Voltaire, these will be the first-ever editions with full critical apparatus, to serve as an indispensable tool for all scholars working on Voltaire as a historian and on Enlightenment historiography generally. In addition to the printed volumes, there will be a supplementary database using search techniques that are at the forefront of current digital humanities research, encouraging a wider range of researchers to use the material in significant new ways.
‘[The Essai sur les mœurs] is a masterpiece of prose that pioneered many of the foundations of modern historical study. […] This rich, learned edition promises to become the foundation and impetus for a renewed exploration of both its distance and its proximity to our own shifting conceptions of cultural history.’
Saul Anton, H-France Review (April 2012)