AP European History Students Recreate French Salon

AP European History Students Recreate French Salon

Gabby Landry '18, Editor-in-Chief

On Thursday, November 17th, Sophomores and Juniors in Mrs. Forsgard’s AP European History class transformed into monarchs, scientists, and philosophes of the 17th century Enlightenment.  They entered Room 10 not for a regular history class, but to attend a Salon, a 17th-century event held primarily in France in which philosophes, monarchs, and others met to discuss Enlightenment ideas, current events, and other topics.

The monarchs, scientists, philosophes, and other important figures donned costumes and accessories, and sat in a circular arrangement in the Paris home of the hostess, Marie-Therese de Geoffrin (Mrs. Forsgard).  Madame Geoffrin served us sparkling water and treated us to French delicacies after the Salon ended.

During the Salon, attendees took on the roles and perspectives of people like Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Catherine the Great.  We engaged in thoughtful debate and discussion on the topics of religion, the justice system, women’s rights, the rights of man, and the role of the monarchs.

Alex Rider ‘18, who took on the role of philosophe Pierre Bayle, said: “I really enjoyed the Salon! I think that, despite discussing non-current event topics, I was not only able to put into better perspective and context the issues prevalent throughout the 18th century Enlightenment, but also connect them to events, beliefs, and issues prevalent today.  My favorite aspect of the Salon is probably how everyone ‘got so into’ the discussions, truly responding with an accurate representation of what their figure might have said. I know when Mary Wollstonecraft (Nora Clancy ‘18) brought up the topic of women’s place in society, our conversation became heated, and I know how difficult it was for many of the contributors to not express their personal beliefs, but rather, that of the figure they were representing.”  Similarly, Ciara Young ‘18, who played Benjamin Franklin, added: “I loved the Salon! I thought it was incredibly fun seeing our classmates act in character while discussing the topics. The Salon was a great way to learn and remember the various philosophers!”

Aine Ford ‘18 appeared in full regalia as Catherine the Great all the way from Russia.  She added, “My favorite part was the questions and hearing everyone person’s different answer. Everyone got really into it and it was awesome!”

Alex concluded, “I really wish that we had more time for our Salon, for the discussions were just so captivating, and I wish I could ask more questions and hear others’ questions and ideas!”  The Salon was a unique opportunity to actively and enjoyably engage in the ideas of the Enlightenment.