Future Perfect History: Historiography and Republican Space-Time in French Revolutionary Theater

The French Revolution was a moment when new conceptions of history and historiography were emerging and competing. The 1793 play, L’Heureuse Décade, uniquely stages the process by which a new history is created; it represents not the spectacle of history or current events, but the spectacle of a new historiography in the making. The play also supplies the French stage with its first historian-hero, as well as with a history play—and a notion of history and historiography—of a new kind. Yet to date the play has received no scholarly attention. This article reveals how L’Heureuse Décade puts forward a compelling paradigm of history—what we might call iterative history—that is neither backward-looking nor utopian, nor dialectical; rather, the play presents a complex rethinking of history’s relationship to the people, the everyday, and the future to posit a notion of history that lies ahead of France, not behind.