Genealogy and Social Status in the Enlightenment

BookGenealogy and Social Status in the Enlightenment

Genealogy and Social Status in the Enlightenment

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2021:08


August 9th, 2021

Access Token


Other Formats



Genealogy and Social Status in the Enlightenment is at the crossroads of the history of science and the social history of cultural practices, and suggests the need for a new approach on the significance of genealogies in the Age of Enlightenment.

While their importance has been fully recognised and extensively studied in early modern Britain and in the Victorian period, the long eighteenth century has been too often presented as a black hole regarding genealogy. Enlightened values and urban sociability have been presented as inimical to the praise of ancestry and birth. In contrast, however, various studies on the continental or in the American colonies, have shed light on the many uses of genealogies, even beyond the landed elite. Whether it be in the publishing industry, in the urban corporations, in the scientific discourses, genealogy was used, not only as a resilient social practice, but also as a form of reasoning, a language and a tool to include newcomers, organise scientific and historical knowledge or to express various emotions.

This volume aims to reconsider the flexibility of genealogical practices and their perpetual reconfiguration to meet renewed expectations in the period. Far from slowly vanishing under the blows of rationalism that would have delegitimized an ancient world based on various forms of hereditary determinism, the different contributions to this collective work demonstrate that genealogy is a pervasive tool to make sense of a fast-changing society.

Author Information

Stephane Jettot is Assistant Professor at Sorbonne University. His research focuses on several subjects related to the British Isles in the 17th and 18th centuries. His first book considered the importance of the London Parliament in Late Stuarts diplomacy (Représenter le Roi ou la Nation? Les parlementaires dans la diplomatie anglaise. (1660-1702), Sorbonne UP, 2012). Together with other European scholars, he has explored the relation between genealogies and collective memories in various publications, notably S. Jettot, The Genealogical Enterprise: Social Practices and Collective Imagination in Europe (15th-20th century) with Marie Lezowski, Peter Lang, 2016. Dr. Jean-Paul Zuniga is a professor of History at EHESS, Paris, where he specializes in Spanish Imperial history. His research first focused on Spanish migration to colonial America and on the meaning of notions such as blood, lineage and “race” in an imperial context. He currently works on urban workers in Hispanic America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of figures and tables9
Introduction: genealogies reconfigured13
I. Enlightened locations and genealogical awareness33
Middle-class genealogies in eighteenth-century Paris: fathers or progeny?35
Nobility and genealogy: circulation and appropriation of debates over nobility in genealogical history books in France during the early modern period51
Mestizo police: administrative rationale versus Spanish blood (Mexico City, late eighteenth century)79
II. Rethinking individual and family memories97
‘Sighing for past greatness’? Dynastic senses of family identity in England c.1650-180099
From dynastic to administrative directories: the changing scope of genealogical writings in eighteenth-century Germany123
‘Our domestic misfortunes’: perpetuating the lineage at all costs in Prévost’s Le Doyen de Killerine (1735-1740)143
III. Renewed potentials for librarians, antiquarians and natural scientists155
Ancestry in France: from privilege to proscription157
‘Minutely attentive to every circumstance’: John Nichols and the culture of genealogy in the late eighteenth century167
The genealogical order and the emergence of the concept of ‘race’ in natural history199
Works cited221