Skip to main content
I am a historian of the French Revolution, also eighteenth-century politics and the Enlightenment. I have written numerous books and articles on the politics of the French Revolution, including, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013), and, most recently, Terror: The French Revolution and its Demons, with Michel Biard (Polity Press, 2021). I also work as a historical consultant. I am currently working on a study of four leaders of the French Revolution – Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Danton, Louis-Antoine Saint-Just, and Camille Desmoulins.
My current research focuses on the leaders of the French Revolution, particularly the complex reasons why, in the context of the political and military crisis of 1793 to 1794, they turned to a policy of legalised terror. I am concerned to trace the dynamics of revolutionary politics, including: the role of emotions – above all fear and patriotic fervour – in generating the policy of terror; the role of ideas of virtue, vice, and political, financial and sexual corruption in the construction of political identity; the need for revolutionary leaders to be seen as having authentic integrity; the part played by fears of conspiracy in political decision-making; and the dynamics of personal factors and relationships – including loyalty, friendship, enmity, distrust and duplicity, in revolutionary politics. I also work on the dynamics of gender in revolutionary politics and the role of women in the French Revolution.
I have made numerous media appearances, and given many public talks on my work. I frequently act as a historical consultant on projects about the French Revolution, and other aspects of the political, social and cultural history of the eighteenth century. I regularly give talks and workshops for A-level students.
Professor Emerita in History
Principal Recent Publications
Terreur! La Révolution française face à ses démons, co-authored with Prof. Michel Biard (Paris: Armand Colin, 2020).
Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (OUP, 2013).
The Politics of Virtue in Enlightenment France (Palgrave, 2001).
Conspiracy in the French Revolution, with Peter Campbell and Thomas Kaiser (eds) (University of Manchester Press, 2007).
‘Virtue or Glory? Dilemmas of Political Heroism in the French Revolution', French History and Civilisation: Papers from the George Rudé Seminar, 2014, 6 (2015): 83-102.
"Come and Dine': The Dangers of Conspicuous Consumption in French Revolutionary Politics', co-authored with Mette Harder, European History Quarterly, 45, 4 (2015): 615-37.
‘Robespierre et l'authenticité révolutionnaire', Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, 371 (janvier-mars 2013): 153-73.
‘The Man of Virtue: The Role of Antiquity in the Political Trajectory of L. A. Saint-Just', French History, 24, 3 (2010): 393-419.
‘Fatal Friendships: The Politics of Jacobin Friendship', French Historical Studies, 31, 1 (2008): 51-76.
‘Virtue Rewarded? Women and the Politics of Virtue in Eighteenth-Century France', parts I and II, History of European Ideas, 26, 1 (2000): 35-49, 51-65.
Recent Chapters in books:
‘Les racines de la vertu politique et ses significations au XVIIIe siècle', in Michel Biard (ed.), Vertu et politique: les pratiques des législateurs, 1789-2014 (Universitaires de Rennes, 2015).
‘Commentary on Maximilien Robespierre, On the Principles of Political Morality' (1794), in Rachel Hammersley (ed.), Textual Moments in the History of Revolutionary Thought (Bloomsbury, 2015), 93-100.
‘Terror and Politics' in David Andress (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution (OUP, 2015), 471-86.
‘The Stuff of Nightmares: Plots, Assassinations, and Duplicity in the Mental World of Jacobin Leaders, 1793-1794' in David Andress (ed.), Experiencing the French Revolution (SVEC, 2013), 201-17.
Overall Editor of H-France Salon on ‘230 Years Since the French Revolution: What the Revolution Means Today', H-France Salon, vol. 11, Issues 16-21 (2019):
‘Rethinking the French Revolutionary Terror', H-France Salon, vol. 11, Issue 16 (2019): https://h-france.net/h-france-salon-volume-11-2019/?fbclid=IwAR3XFqIyAt-7sOK7lTo_zebC4AoeJpFebg72iHE3oo6D9TSLXygptTLJ9xM
‘The Power of Emotions: New Light on the Conventionnels and the Process of the Terror', H-France Salon, vol. 11 (2019): https://h-france.net/h-france-salon-volume-11-2019/#1101