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An Eighteenth-Century Emblem in the French Revolution
Michael Sonenscher

Hardcover | 2008 | $67.50 | £56.95 | ISBN: 9780691124988
512 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 6 halftones.
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This is a bold new history of the sans-culottes and the part they played in the French Revolution. It tells for the first time the real story of the name now usually associated with urban violence and popular politics during the revolutionary period. By doing so, it also shows how the politics and economics of the revolution can be combined to form a genuinely historical narrative of its content and course. To explain how an early eighteenth-century salon society joke about breeches and urbanity was transformed into a republican emblem, Sans-Culottes examines contemporary debates about Ciceronian, Cynic, and Cartesian moral philosophy, as well as subjects ranging from music and the origins of government to property and the nature of the human soul. By piecing together this now forgotten story, Michael Sonenscher opens up new perspectives on the Enlightenment, eighteenth-century moral and political philosophy, the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the political history of the French Revolution itself.


"This is intellectual history as free jazz. Sonenscher rips and riffs through the links to be made between all manner of ideas across several generations of salon conversation and erudite writing. . . . This work's contribution . . . to illuminating the complexity of eighteenth-century French intellectual history cannot be gainsaid."--David Andress, Times Literary Supplement

"Close attention to his text will be repaid with a deepened awareness of the variety and power of the political writing in circulation in the late monarchy. He succeeds completely in establishing that political life was in most respects richer and more full of nuance than we might imagine."--James Livesey, American Historical Review

"Sans-Culottes is a challenging read, not least because of its style and structure. Sonenscher juggles a dizzying array of primary sources. . . . That said, the payoffs to reading this book are tremendous."--Charles Walton, H-France Forum

"Sonenscher is brilliant. . . . He is equally path-breaking. . . . Sonenscher provides the most convincing account of the nature of the ideological divisions of 1789–91. . . . In providing an overview . . . Sonenscher shows what has been missed by historians of the French Revolution."--Richard Whatmore, Reviews in History

"Sonenscher's insights into the moral and economic history of prerevolutionary France are wide ranging and extremely well documented; few can rival his breadth."--Julia V. Douthwaite, Eighteenth-Century Studies

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