Germaine de Staël
Woman of Letters, 1766-1817
Germaine de Staël was a woman of letters during the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, and one of the brightest political and philosophical minds of her era.
The only child of Jacques Necker, a Geneva banker and minister of Louis XVI, Germaine de Staël was born in Paris in 1766. As an active French-Swiss writer and moderate Republican, she supported the French Revolution in 1789 and the liberty that it promised, and stood against the monarchy, centralism and the Napoleonic conquests. She was exiled in 1803 and took up residence at the family’s castle in Coppet in Switzerland, which became a refuge and an important centre of the intellectual life of the time. A fierce opponent of Napoleon Bonaparte, she wrote numerous novels, polemics and travelogues in which she defended equality and personal freedom. Madame de Staël took issue with the conventions of her time, and her works, which prefigured Romanticism and contained the seeds of various feminist ideals, left their mark on European thought.
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