By Alexis de Tocqueville

ISBN-10: 014144164X

ISBN-13: 9780141441641

A robust new translation of de Tocqueville?s influential examine the origins of contemporary France

during this penetrating examine, Alexis de Tocqueville considers the French Revolution within the context of France?s historical past. de Tocqueville apprehensive that even supposing the progressive spirit was once nonetheless alive and good, liberty was once now not its fundamental goal. simply because the first Republic had fallen to Napoleon and the second one had succumbed to his nephew Napoleon III, he feared that every one destiny revolutions may possibly event an analogous destiny, perpetually imperiling the improvement of democracy in France.

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Additional info for Ancien Regime and the French Revolution

Example text

It is not surprising that in his new-found leisure he aspired to write something as good as Democracy in America, to make another experiment in what, following Montesquieu, he called philosophical history (he is often labelled a sociologist, but that is surely a mistake: even in his Democracy his preoccupation was less with society in itself, with how it worked, than with how it changed). His first thought was to obey a long-felt impulse and write a study of Napoleon I, a figure who fascinated him as he fascinated everyone in the nineteenth century.

I confess, therefore, that the study of our former social order, in all its aspects, has never entirely removed the present from my gaze. Liberty, he felt, was the only corrective for the vices of Frenchmen, new and old. Only liberty could drag them away from the worship of money and their preoccupation with their small private affairs and could make them: notice and sense at every moment their own country over and around them. There are times when liberty alone can replace the love of personal comfort with higher and more active enthusiasms, can provide ambition with loftier aims than the acquisition of wealth and can shed enough light to lead people both to see and to judge the vices and virtues of men.

Readers will have to be constantly on their guard, or they may not notice that The Ancien Regime is more than merely an item of historiography, and Tocqueville himself much more than an out-of-date theorist of the causes of the Revolution. True, he does not quite escape the fate of obsolescence. There is a paradox here. He is an absolutely limpid writer who occasionally rises to great eloquence; his thought is complex but his style, over which he took enormous pains, is simple. As a result he is enjoyable and instructive at first reading, and each new reading will yield new discoveries.

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Ancien Regime and the French Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville


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