Deciphering the Republic of Letters

From the Renaissance to the Age of Enlightenment, thinkers from many countries claiming Greco-Roman cultural heritage exchanged large quantities of handwritten letters and travel stories. Long before the advent of the Internet, they built a real virtual social network which transcended cultures and borders: the Republic of Letters. 

This network is under scrutiny by the Cercle interuniversitaire d'étude sur la République des Lettres (Inter-university Study Circle on the Republic of Letters). Researchers from several Quebec universities are being rallied around a common task: to find, in the writings of the Republic of Letters, the constituent traces of its heir, the modern intellectual. The strength of this study circle, directed by Thierry Belleguic, resides in pooling the knowledge of researchers from various disciplines – literature, political and religious history, art history, the history of science and philosophy – all of whom specialize in authors and themes spanning many centuries. 

Not content with producing theoretical reports, the Circle is working in collaboration with the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) on an innovative pilot project to create an inventory of Quebec's historical collections. Quebec's libraries contain many books that were printed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and which testify to the transfer of knowledge between the European Republic of Letters and North America. Yet these documents are neglected and little used. Obtaining an exact picture of these riches will help to return them into circulation and develop our understanding of the scholarly history of New France. 

The Circle has also published several collections and academic journals, such as Les Collections de la République des Lettres (awarded a prize in 2006 by the Académie française), the international journal Diderot Studies and the journal Tangence. Circle members publish numerous papers and collaborate frequently on international collective works.


Cercle interuniversitaire d'étude sur la République des Lettres


Thierry Belleguic, Université Laval

Regular members

  • Craig Baker, Université Laval 
  • Pascal Bastien, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Alban Baudou, Université Laval 
  • Marc André Bernier, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières 
  • Frédéric Charbonneau, Université McGill 
  • Sébastien Charles, Université de Sherbrooke 
  • Michel De Waele, Université Laval 
  • Lucie Desjardins, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Daniel Dumouchel, Université de Montréal 
  • Philip Knee, Université Laval 
  • Claude La Charité, Université du Québec à Rimouski 
  • Roxanne Roy, Université du Québec à Rimouski 
  • Laurent Turcot, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières 
  • Luc Vaillancourt, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi 
  • Éric Van der Schueren, Université Laval 
  • Sabrina Vervacke, Université Laval