Do you speak French?
Believe it or not, in the 1790s many Americans spoke French. They may not have spoken the French language, but they understood and embraced French culture, art, and culinary traditions.
Early Americans experimented with and adopted many forms of French culture as they sought to define their new identity as Americans.
François Furstenberg, Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and author of When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, joins us to explore how and why the United States spoke French during the 1790s.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In this episode, we explore how the United States came to speak French with François Furstenberg, Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins and author of When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation.
François leads us on an exploration of France, the United States, and Haiti during the 1790s and early 1800s.
Throughout our voyage, François reveals how five French aristocrats and early leaders of the French Revolution came to settle in the United States during the 1790s; How those five Frenchmen and their fellow exiles influenced American art, culinary tastes, fashion, politics, and culture; and why so many early Americans used French culture to help them define their early identity as Americans.
As a bonus, François also shares how Napoléon Bonaparte almost settled the Louisiana Territory instead of selling it to Thomas Jefferson and the United States in 1803.
What You’ll Discover
- How François came to study the lives of 5 early leaders of the French Revolution
- A brief overview of the French Revolution
- Why aristocrats and early French revolutionaries such as Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the duc de Liancourt, Louis-Marie Vicomte de Noailles, Moreau de Saint-Méry, and the Comte Volney fled to the United States instead of seeking safety in other parts of Europe
- Why so many French refugees chose to settle in Philadelphia
- What Philadelphia looked like in the 1790s
- The activities the French aristocrats undertook upon their arrival in Philadelphia
- How the French refugees influenced American art, culinary tastes, fashion, and culture
- Why Americans used French culture to help them define their early identity as Americans
- How some of the French refugees gained access to influential early Americans such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson
- Letters of introduction and how they facilitated travel during the 18th and early-19th centuries
- Whether the French émigrés attempted to influence the politics of the United States
- Goals and provisions of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (1778)
- Brief overview of the Haitian Revolution and its connections with the French Revolution
- The French purchase of the Louisiana Territory and their attempt to settle it in 1801/1802
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- François Furstenberg
- François’ Johns Hopkins University Webpage
- When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation
- In the Name of the Father: Washington's Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation
- History Camp 2015
- History Camp 2014 Program
Time Warp Question
What might have happened if Napoléon Bonaparte had sent his army to Louisiana instead of Haiti in 1801/1802?
Would the French have secured a foothold on the North American continent?
What would the map of the United States look like today?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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