Boris Porshnev – the two editions of Les soulèvements populaires en France: a book by one of Foucault’s key sources in Théories et institutions pénales

PorchnevRussian historian Boris Porshnev is one of Foucault’s key sources for the discussion of the Nu-Pieds revolts of 1639-40 in Théories et institutions pénales. Following my regular practice of reading Foucault’s sources as well as his own work using them, I bought a copy of Porchnev’s book Les soulèvements populaires en France au XVIIe siècle. I recently turned to the book to begin the work of going beyond Foucault’s own lectures – in this case it is especially useful, since Foucault’s course is edited on the basis of his manuscript, which is fragmentary and note-like, rather than a transcript of what he actually said. I’ll be speaking about Foucault and Porshnev in November at the Historical Materialism conference (abstract here).

(Incidentally, Porchnev seems to be the French rendering of his name; Porshnev the English one.)

But on turning to Porshnev’s book, I was surprised to discover there is nothing about the Nu-Pieds in it. Part 1 is on revolts between 1620-30 and 1640-50; Part 2 is on the Fronde (1648-53). But Porshnev’s book was the subject of a strong critique by Roland Mousnier in 1958 (based on the German translation), which was reprinted in 1970. Foucault uses Mousnier’s critique, as well as his own work on the revolts, and that of his students, in his analysis.

Porchnev-Boris-Les-Soulevements-Populaires-En-France-De-1623-A-1648-Livre-251106879_MLThe reason for the absence is quite simple – I’d picked up a copy of the 1972 reedition of Porshnev’s text from Flammarion, whereas Foucault used the 1963 original edition from SEVPEN. And the 1963 edition has three parts. Parts I and III appear to be exactly the same as the 1972 version; Part II is on the Nu-Pieds. So, even though the reading of the Nu-Pieds was the subject of the key Francophone debate about his work, it is the part which is excised in the pocket re-edition. A chronology and bibliography are also missing; as are an ‘Avant-Propos’ and a preface to the French edition. (The Russian preface appears in both.) The original edition has a slightly different title: Les soulèvements populaires en France de 1623 à 1648So, the original, which includes more, has the more specific title.

It misled me, since online bibliographies suggested it was a simple reprint with a slightly amended title. And the one I bought was appealing especially because the 1963 edition is quite a bit more expensive from online book stores than the 1972 one. I’ve taken a look at the 1963 version in the British Library, but have now ordered a copy from an online second-hand book store too. I’m writing this because there doesn’t seem to an online resource that explains the difference between the two editions, and especially with Foucault’s use of this work, interest in Porshnev might increase again.

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4 Responses to Boris Porshnev – the two editions of Les soulèvements populaires en France: a book by one of Foucault’s key sources in Théories et institutions pénales

  1. Pingback: Boris Porchnev/Porshnev on feudalism – were any of his works translated from Russian? | Progressive Geographies

  2. Pingback: Top posts on Progressive Geographies this week | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: Books received – Schmitt, Kurelić, Porchnev, JUCS, Annals, RP, The Funambulist | Progressive Geographies

  4. Pingback: Foucault: The Birth of Power Update 3 – Théories et institutions pénales and activist work on health and asylums | Progressive Geographies

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