Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Helena Rosenblatt

Committee Members

Maxime Blanchard

Bettina Lerner

Rachel Corkle

Subject Categories

French and Francophone Literature | Intellectual History | Political History | Women's History


Political economics, Physiocrats, Eighteenth-century France, Proto-romanticism, Capitalism


This dissertation identifies the significant presence of political economics in Lettres d’une Péruvienne by Françoise de Graffigny, née Françoise d'Issembourg du Buisson d'Happencourt (1695 –1758), to affirm its author as a pioneer in the field. It explores Graffigny’s use of the sentimental novel as a vehicle to carry those ideas to the reading community. It reviews Graffigny’s preparation to propose novel ideas in the area of political economics and to fully participate in the then-emergent discourse with her male contemporaries. Her wide reading in the subject of Political Economy, from Voltaire to Mandeville and Montesquieu and her interactions with contemporaries such as political economist Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, baron de l’Aulne (1727- 1781) and philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778) in the sphere of political economy offer further insights into her thought and its context.

My dissertation details Graffigny’s proposals and commentaries on internal and international policies. In the Lettres d’une Péruvienne, Graffigny indirectly instructs the monarch in how he should govern. She is at pains to demonstrate the advantages of peaceful trade and the problems caused by aggressive naval engagements. As such, she rejects mercantilism. This in turn points to a slew of legal issues surrounding contracts, merchant’s rights, and the issues of maritime property. Other major topics pursued in her work include the reconciliation of luxury with virtue and self-interest; agrarian capitalism; problems in mercantilism and international trade; the decentralization of the court; infrastructure; and agriculture. Graffigny addresses numerous issues that are vital to the development of a functional modern society. She interrogates the worth of the ancien régime and the tri-partitive system of government, as she reframes and questions the role of the monarch and asks what it means to have liberty and to be a citizen.

These elements and more will furnish ample grounding to substantiate the accuracy and timeliness of her observations about both French internal politics and her competence to present the broader ideas that were in formation about international policy and laws. It makes evident her place in the lineage of political economics and demonstrates her significant role in the advancement of pre-revolutionary political economic thought.