Constantin François Volney

Volney, Constantin François


Born Feb. 3, 1757, in Craon; died Apr. 25, 1820, in Paris. A representative of the French Enlightenment; philosopher, political figure, and Near East scholar. He received the title of count under Napoleon I and became a peer of France during the Restoration. In his philosophical outlook Volney was an adherent of deism, of the sensationalism of J. Locke and E. Condillac, and of the theory of interest of C. Helvetius. In the work Ruins, or Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires (1791; Russian translation, 1928) he tried to ascertain the causes of the growth and decline of states and criticized the church and religion as a stronghold of feudal despotism. Volney’s social ideal was a bourgeois society headed by an enlightened monarch. From among Volney’s works on the Near East the one that is still valuable is the work on his travels in Syria and Egypt, Volney’s Voyage to Syria and Egypt During the Years 1783, 1784, and 1785 (parts 1-2; Russian translation, 1791-93). In this work, as well as in his work on the war between the Turks and the Russians published in 1788, Volney presents a vast amount of factual material about Turkish feudal oppression and argues for the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1-8. Paris, 1821.
La Loi naturelle.… Paris, 1934.
In Russian translation:
In Izbr. ateisticheskie proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1962.


Smirnov, N. A. “Voprosy istorii Turtsii i kolonial’noi politiki Frantsii kontsa XVIII v. v trudakh Vol’neia.” Tr. Moskovskogo in-ta istorii, filosofii i literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1941. Pages 436-38.