Revolutionary Things


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Revolutionary Things” explores the political, social, and cultural history of objects connected with the age of Atlantic revolutions, particularly those in the United States, France, and Haiti. It focuses on material culture that moved out of these national contexts and circulated throughout the Atlantic world—everything from ancien régime furniture and toy guillotines to life-sized wax figures and military coats. The conventional wisdom holds that material culture concretized political discourse, making sophisticated concepts and new national symbols more readily comprehensible. However, this project shows that objects were not simple repositories of fixed meaning. As items with revolutionary provenance traveled from one site to another, they inspired debate, protest, and commentary about Atlantic revolutions. A close consideration of revolutionary material culture thus affords a richer understanding of how contemporaries wrestled with clashing ideas regarding violence, equality, and citizenship in this key historical conjuncture.