This book reasserts the importance of the French Revolution to an understanding of the nature of modern European politics and social life. Scholars currently argue that the French Revolution did not significantly contribute to the development of modern political values. They no longer hold that the study of the Revolution offers any particular insight into the dynamics of historical change. James Livesey contends that contemporary historical study is devalued through this misinterpretation of the French Revolution and offers an alternative approach and a new thesis.
Livesey argues that the European model of democracy was created in the Revolution, a model with very specific commitments that differentiate it from Anglo-American liberal democracy. The fundamental argument in the book is that these democratic values were created by identifiable actors seeking to answer political, economic, and social problems. The book traces the development of this democratic idea within the structures of the French Republic and the manner in which the democratic aspiration moved beyond formal politics to become embedded in institutions of economic and cultural life. This innovative work rewrites the history of French politics between 1795 and 1799.
An important and timely book. There has been a stirring among historians of the Revolution to rethink the 1794-1799 period, but James Livesey is the first to examine in any depth its contribution to the making of "modern" democracy. It will be controversial because it significantly advances our knowledge and insight in areas where others failed to tread. What more could we ask?
A singularly original study of the French Revolution's ultimately failed project to imagine, articulate, and build a republican democracy. James Livesey obliterates numerous conventional borders and categories in writing about the Revolution. There is much to learn here about the history of ideas, symbolic representations, government debates and policies, and partisan politics. This is a bold and free-ranging work, warranting the oft-abused term "brilliant."
This important book promises to be a landmark in the history of its field. James Livesey's thoughtful claim is that terroristic Jacobinism was not--as has often been assumed--the procrustean mold of French Republicanism. He shows that neo-Jacobin thinking during the Directory in 1795-1799 was a sophisticated and wide-ranging effort to rethink Republican theory and to create a new "language of democracy." This is a striking work that rewrites the history of French Revolutionary politics and locates this period in a frame of North Atlantic thinking that ranges from Scotland and France to Ireland and the New World.
After noting that the French Revolution is no longer an inspiration, Livesey...assumes the imposing task of reassessing the revolution to demonstrate that it continues to be relevant for an understanding of modern politics and society. He believes that the revolution created the European model of democracy that established values different from those found in Anglo-American liberal democracy...Livesey develops several case studies focusing on economic, educational, and cultural issues. His discussion of the movement for the breakup of communal land, partage...is especially fascinating. He creatively utilizes archival sources about relatively mundane matters, and exhibits a mastery over a wide range of pertinent secondary literature...Livesey has produced a distinguished intellectual history.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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