Francophilia and political failure: Lord Shelburne and Anglo-French interactions, c1760-1789
journal contributionposted on 18.11.2016, 12:28 by Nigel Aston
This essay draws attention to William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne’s (1737-1805) capacity for fostering a culture of mutual respect and constructive interaction in Anglo-French relations that had no contemporary equivalent, and explores his contacts with the French political world before the Revolution. For someone who was usually lambasted for sophistry and inconsistency, his career long commitment to Anglo-French cordiality over three decades stands out, and his activities thus offer the historian a major case study in Gallophilia, that neglected enlightened counterpart to its obverse: rooted antipathy to the French ‘other’. This paper argues that this apparently enlightened attitude played a significant and neglected part in explaining why an individual as gifted as Shelburne failed so conspicuously as a politician.