Professor Peter Jones BA, DPhil

Department of History
Emeritus Professor of French History

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I studied at the University of Leeds for my first degree (1967-70) and then moved to the University of Oxford (Balliol College) in order to prepare a doctorate under the supervision of Professor Richard Cobb (1970-73). Whilst undertaking research in France I was a boursier of the French government attached to the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail (1971-72).


I am currently Emeritus professor of history at the University of Birmingham and have held a personal chair in French History since 1995. Most of my career has been spent at Birmingham, albeit with secondments (visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille in 1999 and a similar position, also at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, in 2011),


Between 2003 and 2007 I took ‘leave’ from French rural history in order to work on a project in the field of the cultural history of science and technology. This project has now been written up and delivered in the form of a book entitled Industrial Enlightenment: Science, Technology and Culture in Birmingham and the West Midlands. It was published by Manchester University Press in 2009. The book was awarded the Wadsworth Prize in 2010 for an outstanding contribution to the study of British business history.

In 2009 I was also involved in the preparations to mark the bicentenary of the death of Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) whose career as the entrepreneur and savant who founded the Soho Manufactory epitomised the coming together of Industry and Enlightenment in the West Midlands. Together with colleagues in the Department of History, the Department of the History of Art, Birmingham City University and the Birmingham Assay Office, I organised the bicentenary conference on Matthew Boulton. It took place on the campus of the University of Birmingham in July 2009 and a selection of the papers delivered on that occasion is being prepared for publication by Ashgate.

Now that the science and technology project is complete, I divide my time between research into the French Revolution and research into knowledge transfer in eighteenth-century Europe. The current focus of my investigations is the circulation of industrial and agricultural ‘know how’ between Britain, France, Germany and Scandinavia.

Past research

In 1976 I completed a doctorate on ‘The Revolutionary Committees of the Department of the Aveyron’, in other words a case-study of the French Revolutionary Terror. This study led me in the direction of more wide-ranging  research into the ways in which traditional rural societies become politicised. A distillation of that research can be found in my monograph Politics and Rural Society: the Southern Massif Central, c. 1750-1880 published by Cambridge University Press in 1985. The political engagement of country dwellers has been the abiding theme of my research activity over many years. It has resulted in a series of articles and books, the best known of which are two text books The Peasantry in the French Revolution (Cambridge, 1988) and The French Revolution, 1787-1804 (Longman Seminar Studies, 2003, revised and expanded edition 2009).

More recently, concern about the interpretive capacity of synthetic history-writing has prompted me to explore the methodology of comparative micro-history as a way of capturing the rich texture of country dwellers’ lives. This attempt to view the ordinary inhabitants of France from a fresh perspective resulted in a book entitled Liberty and Locality in Revolutionary France, 1760-1820: Six Villages Compared which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2003.

Other activities


I am member of the editorial boards of the journals French History and Annales du Midi, and I sit on the management committees of The Archives of Soho and Revolutionaryplayers.  I am also a jury member for the Prix Baluze (European local history), and an 'expert étranger' attached to the Agence de l' and , and I sit on the management committees of and  I am also a jury member for the Prix Baluze (European local history), and an 'expert étranger' attached to the Agence de l'évaluation de la recherche st de l'enseignement (AERES), Paris.

  • Cambridge University Press publications
  • Matthew Boulton 2009 conference
  • Revolutionaryplayer
  • Wadsworth Prize


  • ‘Collaborations et rivalités entre savants et institutions savantes en France et en Grande-Bretagne à la lumière de la correspondance scientifique de Condorcet’ 2022 [forthcoming]
  • The French Revolution, 1787-1804 (4th edn, Routledge, London) 2022 [forthcoming]
  • ‘James Watt and the Steam Engine : a Calvinist Path to Enlightenment and Creativity’ in James Watt 1736-1819 : Culture, Innovation and Enlightenment, eds, M. Dick and C. Archer-Parre, Liverpool University Press, pp. 11-37 2020
  • ‘Réseaux épistolaires savants: un canal pour la circulation de matériel agricoleb en Europe à l’époque des Lumières’ [forthcoming] 2019
  • ‘ ‘‘Thinking outside the box” : How does a Craftsman become an Engineer. The Case of James Watt’ [forthcoming] 2019
  • ‘Translations into French of Arthur Young’s Travels in France (1791-1801)’, La Révolution française: Cahiers de l’Institut d’histoire de la Révolution française, issue 12, online journal (2017)
  • Industrial Enlightenment: Science, Technology and Culture in Birmingham and the West Midlands, 1760-1820 Translated into Chinese by Li Bin. Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press (monograph, 2017)
  • The French Revolution, 1787–1804 (Taylor & Francis / Routledge revised and expanded third edition, 2016)
  • ‘Making Chemistry the ‘Science’ of Agriculture, c. 1760–1840’, History of Science, 54:2, pp. 169-194 (2016)
  • Translations into French of Arthur Young’s Travels in France (end of the Eighteenth Century)’ series ‘Pariser historische Studien’ (2016)
  • Agricultural Enlightenment: Knowledge, Technology and Nature, 1760–1840 Oxford University Press (monograph, 2016)
  • ‘Agricultural Enlightenment et circulation des savoirs entre la Grande-Bretagne et les pays de l’Europe’, podcast (2015)
  • ‘Paysans et seigneurs dans la France de 1789: la construction d’une arène politique locale dans une Terre adjacente de Provence’, in Peuples en Révolution d’aujourd’hui à 1789, eds. C. Belmonte and  C. Peyrard, Presses Universitaires de Provence, pp. 11-24. (2014)
  • ‘Vivid Impressions: Visitors and the Impact of Industry’, History West Midlands, issue 3, pp. 37-39. (2013)
  • ‘The West Midlands and the Industrial Enlightenment’, History West Midlands, issue 1, pp. 9-12. (2013)
  • ‘Matthew Boulton, Birmingham and the Enlightenment’ in Matthew Boulton: Enterprising Industrialist of the Enlightenment,Proceedings of the Matthew  Boulton Conference, July 2009, eds, K Quickenden, S. Baggott and M. Dick, Ashgate, pp. 19-31. (2013)
  • ‘Choosing Revolution and Counter-Revolution’, P. McPhee ed. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the French Revolution, pp. 278-292. (2012)
  • ‘Arthur Young (1741–1829): For and Against’, English Historical Review, 127, pp. 1100-1120. (2012)
  • ‘The Challenge of Land Reform in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century France’, Past and Present, 216, pp. 107-142. (2012)
  • ‘Diversité et convergences dans l’administration villageoise en France au XVIIIe siècle’, in Clochemerle ou république villageoise ?La Conduite municipale des affaires villageoises en Europe du XVIIIe-XXe siècle, eds. L. Brassart, J.-P. Jessenne and N. Vivier. (Lille, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion), pp. 49-65. (2012)
  • ‘XIV: Agriculture’, The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Régime, ed. W. Doyle (Oxford, Oxford University Press), pp. 236-251. (2012)
  • ‘Becoming an Engineer in Industrialising Great Britain, circa 1760-1820’, Engineering Studies, vol 3, no 3, pp. 1-18. (2011)
  • ‘Agronomie et agriculture: histoires parallèles ?’, Agronomie, environnement et sociétés, vol 1, pp. 3-8. (2011)
  • ‘Knowledge and Technology Transfer during the Industrial Enlightenment: Swiss Visitors to the Soho Manufactory, Birmingham, c. 1765-1820’, Traverses: Zeitschrift für Geschichte / Revue d’histoire 3(2010), 37-53
  • The French Revolution, 1787-1804 (London, Longman, 2003, revised and expanded edn 2009)
  • Industrial Enlightenment: Science, Technology and Culture in Birmingham and the West Midlands, 1760-1820 (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2009)
  • ‘“Commerce des Lumières”: the International Trade in Technology, 1763-1815’, Quaderns d’història de l’enginyeria, 10(2009), 67-82.
  • ‘Industrial Enlightenment in Practice: Visitors to the Soho Manufactory, 1765-1820’, Midland History, 33(2008), 68-96 33(2008), 68-96
  • ‘The Life and Times of Dr Joseph Priestley’, Revolutionaryplayers.
  • ‘Les Inventeurs et l’activité inventive dans les archives de Soho’, M.-S. Corcy and L. Hilaire-Pérez (eds), Les Archives de l’invention: écrits, objets et images de l’activité inventive (CNRS / Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 2006), pp. 203-210 (CNRS / Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 2006), pp. 203-210
  • ‘ “Fraternising with the Enemy”: Problems of Identity during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars’, in J. Kalman, I. Coller and H. Davies (eds), French History and Civilisation. Papers from the George Rudé Seminar (Melbourne, 2005), 38-44 (Melbourne, 2005), 38-44
  • ‘ “England Expects…”; Trading in Liberty in the Age of Trafalgar’, in C. Crook, W. Doyle and A. Forrest (eds), Enlightenment and Revolution (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004), pp.187-203 (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004), pp.187-203
  • Liberty and Locality in Revolutionary France, 1760-1820: Six Villages Compared, 1760-1820 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  •  ‘Living the Enlightenment and the French Revolution: James Watt, Matthew Boulton and their Sons’, Historical Journal, 42 (1999), 157-182, 42 (1999), 157-182
  • The French Revolution in Social and Political Perspective (London, E. Arnold, 1996)
  • Reform and Revolution in France: the Politics of Transition (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995


The French Revolution; rural France; science and technology in the 18th century; the history of Birmingham and the West Midlands in the 18th century