The Voltaire Society of America


The chief purpose of THE VOLTAIRE SOCIETY OF AMERICA INCORPORATED is to foster the spirit of the Enlightenment, tolerance and respect for the rights of the individual as exemplified by the life of Voltaire and as reflected in the beliefs of his contemporaries, the founders of the United States.

Our projects now include the presentation of lectures and the creation of educational materials such as a video on Voltaire and Jefferson, development of a French version of such materials in conjunction with groups in Ferney, and cooperation with other cultural and educational organizations in furtherance of such goals.

Contents of this page:

Site contents:


Negotiations between the French government and the branch office of Christie's in Geneva, acting on behalf of the private owners of Voltaire's château, have finally been successfully completed. In March 1999, a ceremony will take place in Ferney marking the transfer of ownership of Voltaire's former home and estate to the State. The event will be celebrated again on May 30th, the anniversary of Voltaire's death. The Minister of Culture, Mme Catherine Trautmann, may return to Ferney for that occasion.

Recently, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced plans for the creation of a virtual (web) encyclopedia at the château dedicated to the Rights of Man. This project will be set up in cooperation with the United Nations.

Progress also has been made with respect to the formation of a non-profit Fondation Voltaire, under the aegis of the Fondation de France in Paris.

THE VOLTAIRE SOCIETY OF AMERICA has established excellent relations with the local civic group Voltaire à Ferney, and expects to establish equally good ties with the Fondation Voltaire once it is formally organized.


We are pleased to report that filming in Ferney-Voltaire was completed last fall for the video on Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson that the Voltaire Society is producing. Academy-Award-winning actor Cliff Robertson has done the narration and we have footage from Monticello. We hope to have the video ready for distribution this summer. The film is being directed and produced by Patrick H. Ryan of Dellarobbia Productions.


Last August I visited the town of Ferney-Voltaire to present to local officials and cultural leaders the pro-jects and goals of the VOLTAIRE SOCIETY OF AMERICA and to explore ways in which we might cooperate to preserve and promote Voltaire's rich and multi-faceted heritage on both sides of the Atlantic.

I met with the Mayor of Ferney-Voltaire, M. Georges Vianès, the Deputy Mayor for Culture and Communication, M. Alex Décotte, M. Lucien Choudin, a widely respected expert on Voltaire and the history of Ferney, who is president of the International Center for 18th-Century Studies, which relocated to Ferney last year from Oxford University.

My visit began with a private tour by Lucien Choudin of the château, grounds and chapel. I was briefed by him on Ferney's economic exansion during Voltaire's day. He explained to me how Voltaire championed urban and agrarian reforms in Ferney and its modest rural environs, and how he advocated enlightened economic planning designed to make the region a competitive rival to its much richer and larger neighbor, Geneva.

During my visit I suggested to town officials ways in which the SOCIETY and the several Voltaire associations in Ferney might cooperate in order to promote U.S.-French cultural cooperation.

First of all, I requested permission to film segments of Patrick Ryan's Voltaire-Jefferson video at Ferney, and stated that, subject to availability of funds, the SOCIETY would be interested in developing a French-language version of the video for French cultural institutions, schools and universities.

This proposal was enthusiastically received. On behalf of the town, Mayor Vianès generously offered to absorb virtually all on-site costs for the film crew led by Mr. Ryan, which, as planned, came to Ferney for several days last October.

Although the acquisition of the château and estate by the French government is virtually complete, it has not yet been decided how much financial support the Minister of Culture will provide in order to restore and preserve the château, the grounds, and the chapel. Assisting in the restoration of the chapel was one of the stated goals of the SOCIETY.

Our interest in such a project is still very much appreciated by the town. But, for the immediate future, the SOCIETY and Ferney have agreed to concentrate on cooperation in terms of projects such as the Voltaire-Jefferson video.

Once the château and site as a whole are operational and open to the public under some form of joint national and local authority, the town of Ferney also would welcome our assistance in drafting English-language texts relating to the estate and Voltaire's association with it. The town likewise would welcome our disseminating such materials in the United States.

My visit also laid the groundwork for cooperation between the SOCIETY and the International Center for 18th-Century Studies. Andrew Brown, Director of the Center, proposed that that the Center and the SOCIETY act as joint organizers of an international symposium on "Voltaire and the Financial World" (Voltaire et les milieux financiers).

This project enjoys the support of the town of Ferney and we tentatively plan to hold the event at Ferney in the spring of 2000. The conference would focus on business, economic and financial issues involving Ferney, Geneva, Voltaire's capitalist and entrepreneurial philosophy, and his pioneering commitment to what today would be considered a Europeanist vision.

The focus of this symposium--on the role of international financial cooperation, a growing emphasis on European regionalism, and U.S.-French partnerships--would be germane to many timely and key issues.

Finally, earlier this month Andrew Brown informed the SOCIETY of plans to establish a Société Voltaire in France and expressed a desire to coordinate parallel initiatives.

Thus I can report that our still relatively young VOLTAIRE SOCIETY OF AMERICA is now very much acknowledged by the town of Ferney-Voltaire and its civic and cultural leaders as playing a vital and effective role in encouraging both scholarly and popular awareness of Voltaire and his historical, cultural and moral contribution to American and European life.

February 1999

Site maintained by Jack Iverson, ARTFL Project, University of Chicago: (September 1996).

Updates: December 1996; April, June 1997; September 1997, June 1998, March 1999; Latest update: August 1999

Page statistics by Nedstatbasic

Family-Friendly Site