Nicole Bauer

  • Fellowship year:2016-2017
  • University: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Early Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Title: In the Kingdom of Shadows: Secrecy and Transparency in Eighteenth-century France
  • In Nicole's dissertation, "In the Kingdom of Shadows: Secrecy and Transparency in Eighteenth-century France," she shows that the idea of secrecy took on a radically new meaning in the 18th century. The government and elites had long been seen as possessors of secrets, but what emerged in the 18th century was the idea that elites kept secrets illegitimately. By the eve of the Revolution, writers voicing concerns about corruption saw secrecy as part and parcel of depotism, and this shift went hand in hand with the rise of the idea of government transparency. At century's end, transparency had come to be seen as the cure-all for social ills. The emergence of the idea of transparency as a desired quality in a regime, however, was not inevitable or predetermined; it was not simply a development characteristic of what scholars like to call modernity. Rather, the emphasis placed on government transparency, especially the mania for transparency that we see in 18th- century France, was a result of a convergence of several factors.
    Rising nationalism and worries about hidden influences helped the Jansenists, a French Catholic sect with a Manichaean worldview, heap suspicion onto the Jesuits, a religious order loyal to the pope in Rome that was often portrayed as secretive and steeped in intrigue. Changing notions of the individual led to new ideas about personal responsibility and honor; where secrecy once sheltered and protected family honor, openness and honesty were now the safeguards of personal honor. Furthermore, a traditionally secretive state did nothing to counteract rumors of fictional abuses both in the courts and the prisons. All of these factors led to the emergence of the fledgling and often thorny issue of government transparency.