The international circulation of radical ideas of equality and rights has deeply shaped European societies since the revolutionary period. Yet today, this legacy of internationalism is assumed to be over or at least incapable of being translated into new contexts. This project looks to the French Revolution to reactivate this shared radical past. It asks: what was the impact of translation on revolutionary thought and politics? And how is our relation to revolutionary ideas mediated by translation even today?
Revolutionary translations have long been left unexamined or devalued as mere copycat propaganda. Our project, in contrast, seeks to reposition the role of translators not as passive collaborators but as active militants seeking to 'spread democracy' into new cultures and languages - a contested idea then as now. Focusing on why and when translation happens as well as where it fails, we seek to understand how a transnational revolutionary idiom was adopted, adapted, resisted or rejected in the effort to create culturally specific tools for political action on the ground. We also seek to illuminate the crucial role played by translation in enabling democratic movements to reach wider publics and cast themselves as part of an international struggle.
Funded by an AHRC Research Grant