The Expanding Blaze is a sweeping history of how the American Revolution inspired revolutions throughout Europe and the Atlantic world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jonathan Israel, one of the world’s leading historians of the Enlightenment, shows how the radical ideas of American founders such as Paine, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe set the pattern for democratic revolutions, movements, and constitutions in France, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Greece, Canada, Haiti, Brazil, and Spanish America.
The Expanding Blaze reminds us that the American Revolution was an astonishingly radical event—and that it didn’t end with the transformation and independence of America. Rather, the Revolution continued to reverberate in Europe and the Americas for the next three-quarters of a century. This comprehensive history of the Revolution’s international influence traces how American efforts to implement Radical Enlightenment ideas—including the destruction of the old regime and the promotion of democratic republicanism, self-government, and liberty—helped drive revolutions abroad, as foreign leaders explicitly followed the American example and espoused American democratic values.
The first major new intellectual history of the age of democratic revolution in decades, The Expanding Blaze returns the American Revolution to its global context.
Awards and Recognition
- One of Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Books of 2017 in American History
- Honorable Mention for the 2018 PROSE Award in U.S. History, Association of American Publishers
Jonathan Israel is professor emeritus of modern history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His many books include Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from “The Rights of Man” to Robespierre and A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (both Princeton).
"Stoutly makes the case that the American Revolution was ‘of immense consequence for America's future and for the rest of globe.’ Though not a new argument, it has never before been made so fully or with such convincing force. . . . Like Israel’s previous books, this bravura, complex, learned interpretation of 75 years of revolutionary history is sure to stir debate."—Publishers Weekly
"An impressively broad scholarly history whose readability and smooth organization make it a joy to read."—Kirkus Reviews
"A fascinating global look at how the American Revolution didn't simply conclude with the independence of 13 colonies from Great Britain, and the creation of the United States of America. . . . The author offers a compelling overview of how the American Revolution impacted on the rest of the world well into the 19th century and beyond."—American Magazine
"The Expanding Blaze is studded with interesting facts. . . . An important, necessary and convincing argument overall."—Elizabeth Cobbs, Times Higher Education
"This book’s wide-angle account of the nineteenth-century spread of revolutionary democratic ideals makes it impossible to see the American founding as simply a national event; it was, in reality, nothing less than a battle of ideas played out on a global stage."—G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
"The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World 1775-1848 offers a full blast of Israel from its very first page."—Catherine O'Donnell, Journal of Southern History
"Six decades after R. R. Palmer's epic Age of the Democratic Revolution, Jonathan Israel has revived and powerfully extended the argument about the world-shaking reach of the radical ideas of the American Revolution—universal and equal rights, democratic republicanism, secular rather than religious rule, and justice for all. In a shrewd, captivating analysis of the Atlantic-wide contest between the moderate and radical elements of the Enlightenment from the American Revolution to the revolutions of 1848, Israel shows that while the lamp of radical Enlightenment ideas could be deplored, dampened, and suppressed, it was impossible for generations to extinguish what Thomas Paine called ‘sparks from the altar of Seventy-six.’"—Gary B. Nash, author of The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America
"Jonathan Israel reveals an American Revolution radical in its philosophical inspiration, global in its impact, and universal in its conviction that the cause of America is the cause of all humankind. With a sweep that brings black emancipation, the expropriation of native populations, and revolutions on three continents into a worldwide panorama, The Expanding Blaze illuminates a past that we only thought we knew. This is the Revolution as America's founders and their far-flung successors experienced it."—Matthew Stewart, author of Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic
"With The Expanding Blaze, Jonathan Israel more than makes good his claim to be the only real successor to Enlightenment historians Peter Gay and R. R. Palmer. Indeed, Israel surpasses both, by joining their themes and ambitions in a single totalizing vision. His book combines a sweeping interpretation of the Enlightenment and a comprehensive account of the age of democratic revolution."—Johnson Kent Wright, Arizona State University