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Ronan Love

History, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

Revolutionary Debts: The Politics of Financial and Moral Obligation in the French Revolution

Every student of the French Revolution knows that its outbreak was the result of the staggering debt crisis of the Ancien Régime. Historians, however, have not fully acknowledged how debt continued to inform the Revolution’s course and radicalisation. In light of this omission, my project explores how the politics of sovereign debt under the Old Regime not only brought about the Revolution, but also how these politics became a principal driver of revolutionary radicalisation and a key vehicle through which revolutionary government sought to assert its authority, legitimacy, and power. 

This project, as such, investigates the nexus between sovereign power and financial obligation during the French Revolution. By honouring the debt of the Old Regime on 17 June and simultaneously consituting itself as the National Assembly, revolutionaries, I argue, both embarked upon a process to overturn the King’s moribund debt-politics and also sought to establish their own constitutional power through their newfound ownership of the debt. After they had done this at the expense of the Crown, revolutionary government then sought to re-establish power over the state’s creditors and foster obligations to the republican regime amongst the population at large. This attempt, and ultimate failure, to reconstruct sovereign authority and remake French society around a new politics of debt is the process this thesis seeks to analyse. 

Research Area

  • History


Online, peer-reviewed:

"Sympathy in Adam Smith's moral philosophy", The Digital Encyclopedia of British Sociability in the Long Eighteenth Century [online], ISSN 2803-2845, URL: https://www.digitens.org/en/notices/sympathy-adam-smiths-moral-philosophy.html

"Jacques Necker (and public opinion)", The Digital Encyclopedia of British Sociability in the Long Eighteenth Century [online], ISSN 2803-2845, URL: https://www.digitens.org/en/notices/jacques-necker-and-public-opinion.html


'"Une Nation fidèle à l'honneur et à ses promesses": The Politics of Debt and Default at the End of the Old Regime, 1770-1789'. Conference Paper, M4C Digital Research Festival (July 2020).  

Conference Chair and Organising Committee, Pandemic Perspectives 2021: 'Reflections on the Post Pandemic World' (20 April 2021). 

'The Moral Economy of Privilege'. Conference Paper, Economic Justice in Early Modern Europe (1450-1850): Commemorating Fifty Years of E. P. Thompson's 'Moral Economy' Midlands Eighteenth-Century Research Network (21 May 2021).

Other Research Interests

  • History of government finance 
  • History of political economy and political-economic thought 
  • Political economy of sovereign debt
  • History and anthropology of debt relationships 
  • Comparative history of revolutions and regime change



BA (Hons), History, University of Warwick, 2015-2018. 
Dissertation: 'Recasting Bourgeois Revolution: The French Revolution and Modes of Exchange'. 
Felix-Dennis Dissertation Prize for Best Dissertation. 

MA, Modern History, University of Warwick, 2018-2019.
Dissertation: 'The Government of Obligation: Debt, Sovereignty, and Power in the French Revolution'. 
MA Dissertation Prize for Best Dissertation