The Citizenship Experiment  

Contesting the Limits of Civic Equality and Participation in the Age of Revolutions


The Citizenship Experiment explores the fate of citizenship ideals in the Age of Revolutions. While in the early 1790s citizenship ideals in the Atlantic world converged, the twin shocks of the Haitian Revolution and the French Revolutionary Terror led the American, French, and Dutch publics to abandon the notion of a shared, Atlantic, revolutionary vision of citizenship. Instead, they forged conceptions of citizenship that were limited to national contexts, restricted categories of voters, and ‘advanced’ stages of civilization. Weaving together the convergence and divergence of an Atlantic revolutionary discourse, debates on citizenship, and the intellectual repercussions of the Terror and the Haitian Revolution, Koekkoek offers a fresh perspective on the revolutionary 1790s as a turning point in the history of citizenship.

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Biographical Note
René Koekkoek, Ph.D. (2016) is Assistant Professor in Political History at Utrecht University. His research focuses on the history of political thought and culture in the early-modern Atlantic world. This is his first book.
Review Quotes
"René Koekkoek has written one of the most important, and most provocative comparative studies of the late eighteenth-century Atlantic Revolutions since R.R. Palmer's The Age of the Democratic Revolution. Based on exhaustive research in original French, Dutch and American sources, and written in exceptionally lucid prose, The Citizen Experiment makes a bold argument about how the reaction to the violence and perceived excesses of the French "reign of Terror" and the Haitian Revolution led revolutionaries throughout the Atlantic world to embrace far more narrowly national and circumscribed ideas of citizenship than they had done at the start of their respective revolutions. All historians of the period will want to read, and engage with this book."

David A. Bell, Princeton University.

" The Citizenship Experiment presents a highly original study of the American, French and Dutch eighteenth-century revolutions. Instead of a traditional side-by-side comparison of the three revolutions, René Koekkoek demonstrates that political ideas on citizenship and equality circulated in an Atlantic political space and cannot be well understood in national frameworks. Koekkoek identifies a radical-democratic Atlantic historical moment in the early seventeen-nineties, followed by a conservative turn impacted by the Terror in France and the successful slave revolution in Haiti. His book is an inspiring example of intercrossing history, highlighting the entanglement of domestic and colonial politics in the making of citizenship in the Age of Revolutions."

Siep Stuurman, author of The Invention of Humanity: Equality and Cultural Difference in World History (Harvard, 2017)
All interested in the history of the Age of Atlantic Revolutions, the American, French, Dutch, and Haitian revolutions, as well as the history of political thought, citizenship, and empire. Keywords are citizenship, revolution, Atlantic world, equality, participation, Haitian Revolution, Terror, rights, civilization, 1790s, exclusion, inequality, popular societies.
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