The 2024 George Rousseau lecture



Event type

College, Public


30 April 2024



Francesca Trivellato gives this year’s George Rousseau lecture on ‘Images of Jews’ Economic Roles from the Enlightenment to the French Revolution’.

France was the first country in Europe to grant Jews full citizenship rights in 1790-91. Why emancipation occurred then and there is a question that historians continue to grapple with. Many have looked for an answer in the relative positive views of the Jewish merchants of Iberian descent who lived in the Southwest of France among eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers.

Starting from a new reading of a famous passage by Montesquieu, the talk will challenge this prevailing interpretation and show that even the most ardent advocates of Jewish emancipation regarded any association between Jews and commerce or finance with great suspicion. In so doing, it will contend with the widespread notion according to which economic utility paved (and, more generally, can pave) the way for political and human rights.

Francesca Trivellato is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the School for Historical Studies of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton. A leading historian of early modern Italy and continental Europe, Trivellato has made significant and ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of the organization and culture of the marketplace in the pre-industrial world. Trivellato’s original and imaginative research has revitalized the study of early economic history, and her influential work on cross-cultural trade intersects the fields of European, Jewish, Mediterranean, and global history, religion, and capitalism.

Admission is free but please book your tickets at ticketsource