Anglo-French cultural transmission: the case of John Locke and the Huguenots


  • This article is a revised version of a paper first given at the European History Seminar (1500–1800), Institute of Historical Research, University of London, on 9 March 2009. The author is very grateful to Dr. Roger Mettam for inviting her to speak, and to Dr. Mark Goldie for being so generous with his time, advice and support in the preparation of the article. The paper was also presented at the Early Modern British and Irish History Seminar of the University of Cambridge on 24 Feb. 2010. The author would like to thank the convenors for their invitation. She is also grateful to the audiences at both seminars for their thought-provoking questions and remarks.


This article purports to open windows onto the world of cultural transmission by offering a case study on the Huguenots who worked on the translation of Locke's texts and ideas into French at the turn of the eighteenth century. After arguing that there was, at that time, a threefold cultural necessity to translate English books into French, the article shows how Locke's translators rose to the challenge. It argues that through their bricolage, they were responsible for colouring and shaping Locke's texts and ideas, and concludes that they played a fundamental but overlooked role in setting the tone and orientation of the Enlightenment debates generated by the discussion of Locke's ideas. This article emphasizes the fact that the Anglo-French cultural transmission of Locke's ideas was a two-way exchange and invites historians to pay more attention to the adaptation of texts and ideas as they pass from one language to another.