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Une contre-révolution du consommateur ? Le comte Rumford à Boston, Munich, Londres et Paris (1774-1814)1


  • Vincent, Julien G.R.


Benjamin Thompson, better known as “count Rumford”, reached international fame in the late 1790s and early 1800s. He was known as a social reformer as well as the author of various fuel-saving inventions, including stoves, chimneys or lamps. His famous “Rumford soups” were also used to feed soldiers, workers or paupers. In a context of political turmoil, Rumford can be seen a consumption engineer and an expert in moral and political conservation. Instead of relying on political philosophy or constitutional law, Rumford offered governments various consumption technologies that were meant to consolidate civil society and prevent political change. By tracing how Rumford offered his services and inventions successively to the British Crown, the Bavarian Great-Electorate, and the French Republic, this article argues that during the revolutionary era, “consumption” became not only a contested concept of political economy, but also an art of government. This art enrolled theories, legal procedures and technologies, that varied from place to place, but were part of a same endeavour to construct a politically “useful” science of man. Rumford’s career illustrates the plasticity of such useful knowledge, and its ability to circulate across political borders and ideologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincent, Julien G.R., 2013. "Une contre-révolution du consommateur ? Le comte Rumford à Boston, Munich, Londres et Paris (1774-1814)1," Histoire, économie & société, Editions NecPlus, vol. 2013(03), pages 13-23, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:nec:hecoso:v:2013:y:2013:i:03:p:13-23_00

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