Politics of the common (16th – 19th century)By Déborah Cohen
To describe events as “political,” or to deny them this quality, is part and parcel of confrontations in history. The French revolution, and in particular the insurrection in the Vendée, have been the objects of this kind of quarrel over labels. Some used to see Vendeans as fanatical political counter-revolutionaries; others considered their movement as but a primitive and local rebuff. Observing historical actors with an ethnographic eye, and analyzing their behavior before the times of peak turmoil, this article argues that these seemingly contradictory labels are only possible because they share the same issue, that of the forms of living alongside one another. Community is an ambiguous notion that can be understood as national as well as local. And this ambiguity is at the roots of conflict.