Catalogue


Before the deluge : public debt, inequality, and the intellectual origins of the French Revolution /
Michael Sonenscher.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2007.
description
x, 415 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
069112499X (hardcover : alk. paper), 9780691124995 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2007.
isbn
069112499X (hardcover : alk. paper)
9780691124995 (hardcover : alk. paper)
catalogue key
6055242
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [373]-402) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
""Before the Deluge" could be a paradigm-shifting book for the history of eighteenth-century political thought. Sonenscher's knowledge of the subject is amazing. Highly original in its arguments, the book is also unusually ambitious in the way it links history to current issues."--Keith Michael Baker, Stanford University"Michael Sonenscher's clear, lean, and jargon-free history of eighteenth-century France's coming to terms with the crisis of modernity is important, erudite, and imaginatively conceived. His consideration of what in less able hands would be an almost impossibly daunting array of prominent and lesser-known political thinkers is the product of deep immersion in the sources and of a considered reflection on the modern historiographical tradition of the French Revolution. Complex and multilayered, this book asks for and richly rewards careful study. This is the way intellectual history should be written."--E. J. Hundert, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2008-02-01:
Sonenscher (King's College, Cambridge) argues that the 18th century was haunted by fears of coming catastrophe. This was not, however, an anticipation of the coming French Revolution, but rather anxieties regarding the threat that the rise of public credit posed to the social and political order. The ability of states to contract ever-growing debts, it was feared, threatened to upset the balance between state and society, leading to despotism and ever more destructive wars. Sonenscher traces the development of political and economic theory in France from Fenelon and Montesquieu through the physiocrats to Emmanuel Sieyes, Pierre-Louis Roederer, and Jean-Baptiste Say. Both physiocrats and the later political economists broke with earlier ideas rooted in classical antiquity regarding Spartan frugality and virtue in order to develop new theories promoting economic growth and differentiation, international trade and peaceful coexistence between states, and natural, rational hierarchies within society as a barrier to state despotism. At the same time, they advanced arguments regarding the forms that "representative government" might take in a "republican monarchy" or "monarchical republic." Sonenscher's erudition is dazzling, but his arguments are complex and sometimes difficult to follow. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and above. D. A. Harvey New College of Florida
Reviews
Review Quotes
Michael Sonenscher's clear, lean, and jargon-free history of eighteenth-century France's coming to terms with the crisis of modernity is important, erudite, and imaginatively conceived. His consideration of what in less able hands would be an almost impossibly daunting array of prominent and lesser-known political thinkers is the product of deep immersion in the sources and of a considered reflection on the modern historiographical tradition of the French Revolution. Complex and multilayered, this book asks for and richly rewards careful study. This is the way intellectual history should be written.
Before the Delugecould be a paradigm-shifting book for the history of eighteenth-century political thought. Sonenscher's knowledge of the subject is amazing. Highly original in its arguments, the book is also unusually ambitious in the way it links history to current issues.
We now think of the French Revolution as a political revolution that had a social effect, but 'the eighteenth century's concern' was of an 'extant and ongoing social revolution that would soon have political consequence'. This is the central insight of Michael Sonenscher's new book. [In this] highly interesting book...Sonenscher's emphasis on public credit is novel and useful. [I]t is a genuinely meaningful contribution to the history of Enlightenment Europe. -- Patrice Higonnet, Times Literary Supplement
"We now think of the French Revolution as a political revolution that had a social effect, but 'the eighteenth century's concern' was of an 'extant and ongoing social revolution that would soon have political consequence'. This is the central insight of Michael Sonenscher's new book. [In this] highly interesting book...Sonenscher's emphasis on public credit is novel and useful. [I]t is a genuinely meaningful contribution to the history of Enlightenment Europe."-- Patrice Higonnet, Times Literary Supplement
We now think of the French Revolution as a political revolution that had a social effect, but 'the eighteenth century's concern' was of an 'extant and ongoing social revolution that would soon have political consequence'. This is the central insight of Michael Sonenscher's new book. [In this] highly interesting book...Sonenscher's emphasis on public credit is novel and useful. [I]t is a genuinely meaningful contribution to the history of Enlightenment Europe.
Underrated:Before the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher (Princeton). Most modern political debates can be traced back to rival stories about the French revolution; but this tough, fascinating book shows that these stories were constructed out of materials (concerning political ruin and public debt) that were circulating before the event--which makes the whole of modern politics look rather different. -- Jonathan Ree, Prospect Magazine
"Underrated: Before the Deluge , Michael Sonenscher (Princeton). Most modern political debates can be traced back to rival stories about the French revolution; but this tough, fascinating book shows that these stories were constructed out of materials (concerning political ruin and public debt) that were circulating before the event--which makes the whole of modern politics look rather different."-- Jonathan Re, Prospect Magazine
Underrated:Before the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher (Princeton). Most modern political debates can be traced back to rival stories about the French revolution; but this tough, fascinating book shows that these stories were constructed out of materials (concerning political ruin and public debt) that were circulating before the event--which makes the whole of modern politics look rather different.
Underrated: Before the Deluge , Michael Sonenscher (Princeton). Most modern political debates can be traced back to rival stories about the French revolution; but this tough, fascinating book shows that these stories were constructed out of materials (concerning political ruin and public debt) that were circulating before the event--which makes the whole of modern politics look rather different. -- Jonathan Ree, Prospect Magazine
"[T]his is a formidable book by a historian at the height of his powers. No eighteenth-century scholar or historian of political thought can afford to ignore its fresh interpretation of Enlightenment political economy. Readers will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation for the intellectual ramifications of the birth of the modern state."-- Michael Kwass, Journal of Modern History
[T]his is a formidable book by a historian at the height of his powers. No eighteenth-century scholar or historian of political thought can afford to ignore its fresh interpretation of Enlightenment political economy. Readers will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation for the intellectual ramifications of the birth of the modern state. -- Michael Kwass, Journal of Modern History
"This is an intensely interesting book, a striking achievement, based on copious and careful rereading of a huge corpus of intellectual debate over more than a century. . . . It is . . . good in this age of sweeping claims for significant revelation to encounter a book showing you so much you didn't know, and only suggesting, rather than demanding, that it change everything you thought you knew."-- David Andress, European History Quarterly
This is an intensely interesting book, a striking achievement, based on copious and careful rereading of a huge corpus of intellectual debate over more than a century. . . . It is . . . good in this age of sweeping claims for significant revelation to encounter a book showing you so much you didn't know, and only suggesting, rather than demanding, that it change everything you thought you knew. -- David Andress, European History Quarterly
The best history-of-political-thought volume I read this year was Michael Sonenscher's Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution , which goes to show how the eighteenth-century political economy scholarship of the last generation or so can be put to work to address the really big historiographical questions. -- Christopher Brooke, The Virtual Stoa
The best history-of-political-thought volume I read this year was Michael Sonenscher'sBefore the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution, which goes to show how the eighteenth-century political economy scholarship of the last generation or so can be put to work to address the really big historiographical questions. -- Christopher Brooke, The Virtual Stoa
This brief review cannot begin to capture the nuance and sophistication of Sonenscher's careful, complex archaeology of the intellectual origins of the French Revolution. He reminds readers that all the thinkers he profiles experienced the creation of the modern European world over a lifetime, changing their minds, reformulating questions, and reexamining inherited ideas as events unfolded, trying to hit on if not universal then at least workable solutions to the perdurable problems of balancing liberty with security. We can appreciate the difficulties they encountered during their journey if only because it continues in our own day, and for that abiding lesson we have much for which to thank Michael Sonenscher.
[T]his is a formidable book by a historian at the height of his powers. No eighteenth-century scholar or historian of political thought can afford to ignore its fresh interpretation of Enlightenment political economy. Readers will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation for the intellectual ramifications of the birth of the modern state.
Superbly researched and thoroughly referenced, the originality of Michael Sonenscher's study lies in illuminating the very real political problems faced by French Revolutionary regimes in the 1790s through an examination of the fraught relationship between public credit and social inequality as debated in contemporary political thought. . . . [A] fascinating reconstruction of the sophisticated, contradictory dynamics of eighteenth-century French political thought. -- David McCallam, French Studies
The best history-of-political-thought volume I read this year was Michael Sonenscher'sBefore the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution, which goes to show how the eighteenth-century political economy scholarship of the last generation or so can be put to work to address the really big historiographical questions.
"The best history-of-political-thought volume I read this year was Michael Sonenscher's Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution , which goes to show how the eighteenth-century political economy scholarship of the last generation or so can be put to work to address the really big historiographical questions."-- Christopher Brooke, The Virtual Stoa
"Superbly researched and thoroughly referenced, the originality of Michael Sonenschers study lies in illuminating the very real political problems faced by French Revolutionary regimes in the 1790s through an examination of the fraught relationship between public credit and social inequality as debated in contemporary political thought. . . . [A] fascinating reconstruction of the sophisticated, contradictory dynamics of eighteenth-century French political thought."-- David McCallam, French Studies
"Sonenscher's opera magna constitute an enormous achievement. Revealing a new face of eighteenth-century intellectual history and recovering a myriad of forgotten works, they are sure to be read--indeed to be used as references--for years to come."-- Carolina Armenteros, French History
Superbly researched and thoroughly referenced, the originality of Michael Sonenscher's study lies in illuminating the very real political problems faced by French Revolutionary regimes in the 1790s through an examination of the fraught relationship between public credit and social inequality as debated in contemporary political thought. . . . [A] fascinating reconstruction of the sophisticated, contradictory dynamics of eighteenth-century French political thought.
Sonenscher is widely recognized as one of the most versatile historians of ancien régime France, an ambitious thinker who writes knowledgeably about subjects as diverse as guild life, social class, natural law theory, and political philosophy. The versatility is on display in [Before the Deluge]. -- Jay M. Smith, American Historical Review
"Sonenscher is widely recognized as one of the most versatile historians of ancien rgime France, an ambitious thinker who writes knowledgeably about subjects as diverse as guild life, social class, natural law theory, and political philosophy. The versatility is on display in [ Before the Deluge ]."-- Jay M. Smith, American Historical Review
Sonenscher is widely recognized as one of the most versatile historians of ancien r gime France, an ambitious thinker who writes knowledgeably about subjects as diverse as guild life, social class, natural law theory, and political philosophy. The versatility is on display in [ Before the Deluge ]. -- Jay M. Smith, American Historical Review
Sonenscher is widely recognized as one of the most versatile historians of ancien rÉgime France, an ambitious thinker who writes knowledgeably about subjects as diverse as guild life, social class, natural law theory, and political philosophy. The versatility is on display in [Before the Deluge].
Before the Deluge provides an intellectual history of French political life in the eighteenth century which, for the first time, makes the events of 1789 explicable in their own terms. . . . The result is a perspective on the early revolution, its ideological origins and consequences, that is brilliant, politely iconoclastic and thoroughly revisionist. -- Richard Whatmore, History of Political Thought
Before the Delugeprovides an intellectual history of French political life in the eighteenth century which, for the first time, makes the events of 1789 explicable in their own terms. . . . The result is a perspective on the early revolution, its ideological origins and consequences, that is brilliant, politely iconoclastic and thoroughly revisionist. -- Richard Whatmore, History of Political Thought
Before the Delugeprovides an intellectual history of French political life in the eighteenth century which, for the first time, makes the events of 1789 explicable in their own terms. . . . The result is a perspective on the early revolution, its ideological origins and consequences, that is brilliant, politely iconoclastic and thoroughly revisionist.
" Before the Deluge provides an intellectual history of French political life in the eighteenth century which, for the first time, makes the events of 1789 explicable in their own terms. . . . The result is a perspective on the early revolution, its ideological origins and consequences, that is brilliant, politely iconoclastic and thoroughly revisionist."-- Richard Whatmore, History of Political Thought
" Before the Deluge offers many exciting intellectual avenues for further pursuit, especially in terms of eighteenth-century political thought, but also with regard to nineteenth-century liberalism and the development of various philosophies of history which took 1789 as a main event in the advent of modernity."-- Isabel DiVanna, Perspectives on Politics
At its best, the book is a tour de force of state-of-the-art intellectual history. . . Before the Deluge is at bottom a supremely learned and forcefully engaged contribution to topics of vital interest to a wide audience of eighteenth-century French specialists, and one whose analyses and arguments consistently take place at a very high level of sophistication. Even in an age of praise inflation, it is not excessive to call this one essential reading. -- Henry C. Clark, H-France Review
At its best, the book is a tour de force of state-of-the-art intellectual history. . .Before the Delugeis at bottom a supremely learned and forcefully engaged contribution to topics of vital interest to a wide audience of eighteenth-century French specialists, and one whose analyses and arguments consistently take place at a very high level of sophistication. Even in an age of praise inflation, it is not excessive to call this one essential reading. -- Henry C. Clark, H-France Review
"Before the Deluge could be a paradigm-shifting book for the history of eighteenth-century political thought. Sonenscher's knowledge of the subject is amazing. Highly original in its arguments, the book is also unusually ambitious in the way it links history to current issues." -- Keith Michael Baker
At its best, the book is a tour de force of state-of-the-art intellectual history. . .Before the Delugeis at bottom a supremely learned and forcefully engaged contribution to topics of vital interest to a wide audience of eighteenth-century French specialists, and one whose analyses and arguments consistently take place at a very high level of sophistication. Even in an age of praise inflation, it is not excessive to call this one essential reading.
"At its best, the book is a tour de force of state-of-the-art intellectual history. . . Before the Deluge is at bottom a supremely learned and forcefully engaged contribution to topics of vital interest to a wide audience of eighteenth-century French specialists, and one whose analyses and arguments consistently take place at a very high level of sophistication. Even in an age of praise inflation, it is not excessive to call this one essential reading."-- Henry C. Clark, H-France Review
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, February 2008
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Summaries
Main Description
Ever since the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's comment, "Après moi, le déluge" (after me, the deluge), has looked like a callous if accurate prophecy of the political cataclysms that began in 1789. But decades before the Bastille fell, French writers had used the phrase to describe a different kind of selfish recklessness--not toward the flood of revolution but, rather, toward the flood of public debt. InBefore the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher examines these fears and the responses to them, and the result is nothing less than a new way of thinking about the intellectual origins of the French Revolution. In this nightmare vision of the future, many prerevolutionary observers predicted that the pressures generated by modern war finance would set off a chain of debt defaults that would either destroy established political orders or cause a sudden lurch into despotic rule. Nor was it clear that constitutional government could keep this possibility at bay. Constitutional government might make public credit more secure, but public credit might undermine constitutional government itself. Before the Delugeexamines how this predicament gave rise to a widespread eighteenth-century interest in figuring out how to establish and maintain representative governments able to realize the promise of public credit while avoiding its peril. By doing so, the book throws new light on a neglected aspect of modern political thought and on the French Revolution.
Main Description
Ever since the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's comment, "Après moi, le déluge" (after me, the deluge), has looked like a callous if accurate prophecy of the political cataclysms that began in 1789. But decades before the Bastille fell, French writers had used the phrase to describe a different kind of selfish recklessness--not toward the flood of revolution but, rather, toward the flood of public debt. In Before the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher examines these fears and the responses to them, and the result is nothing less than a new way of thinking about the intellectual origins of the French Revolution. In this nightmare vision of the future, many prerevolutionary observers predicted that the pressures generated by modern war finance would set off a chain of debt defaults that would either destroy established political orders or cause a sudden lurch into despotic rule. Nor was it clear that constitutional government could keep this possibility at bay. Constitutional government might make public credit more secure, but public credit might undermine constitutional government itself. Before the Deluge examines how this predicament gave rise to a widespread eighteenth-century interest in figuring out how to establish and maintain representative governments able to realize the promise of public credit while avoiding its peril. By doing so, the book throws new light on a neglected aspect of modern political thought and on the French Revolution.
Main Description
Ever since the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's comment, "Apr s moi, le d luge" (after me, the deluge), has looked like a callous if accurate prophecy of the political cataclysms that began in 1789. But decades before the Bastille fell, French writers had used the phrase to describe a different kind of selfish recklessness--not toward the flood of revolution but, rather, toward the flood of public debt. In Before the Deluge , Michael Sonenscher examines these fears and the responses to them, and the result is nothing less than a new way of thinking about the intellectual origins of the French Revolution. In this nightmare vision of the future, many prerevolutionary observers predicted that the pressures generated by modern war finance would set off a chain of debt defaults that would either destroy established political orders or cause a sudden lurch into despotic rule. Nor was it clear that constitutional government could keep this possibility at bay. Constitutional government might make public credit more secure, but public credit might undermine constitutional government itself. Before the Deluge examines how this predicament gave rise to a widespread eighteenth-century interest in figuring out how to establish and maintain representative governments able to realize the promise of public credit while avoiding its peril. By doing so, the book throws new light on a neglected aspect of modern political thought and on the French Revolution.
Long Description
Ever since the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's comment, "Apr's moi, le d'luge" (after me, the deluge), has looked like a callous if accurate prophecy of the political cataclysms that began in 1789. But decades before the Bastille fell, French writers had used the phrase to describe a different kind of selfish recklessness--not toward the flood of revolution but, rather, toward the flood of public debt. In "Before the Deluge," Michael Sonenscher examines these fears and the responses to them, and the result is nothing less than a new way of thinking about the intellectual origins of the French Revolution. In this nightmare vision of the future, many prerevolutionary observers predicted that the pressures generated by modern war finance would set off a chain of debt defaults that would either destroy established political orders or cause a sudden lurch into despotic rule. Nor was it clear that constitutional government could keep this possibility at bay. Constitutional government might make public credit more secure, but public credit might undermine constitutional government itself."Before the Deluge" examines how this predicament gave rise to a widespread eighteenth-century interest in figuring out how to establish and maintain representative governments able to realize the promise of public credit while avoiding its peril. By doing so, the book throws new light on a neglected aspect of modern political thought and on the French Revolution.
Back Cover Copy
" Before the Deluge could be a paradigm-shifting book for the history of eighteenth-century political thought. Sonenscher's knowledge of the subject is amazing. Highly original in its arguments, the book is also unusually ambitious in the way it links history to current issues."-- Keith Michael Baker, Stanford University "Michael Sonenscher's clear, lean, and jargon-free history of eighteenth-century France's coming to terms with the crisis of modernity is important, erudite, and imaginatively conceived. His consideration of what in less able hands would be an almost impossibly daunting array of prominent and lesser-known political thinkers is the product of deep immersion in the sources and of a considered reflection on the modern historiographical tradition of the French Revolution. Complex and multilayered, this book asks for and richly rewards careful study. This is the way intellectual history should be written."-- E. J. Hundert, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia
Bowker Data Service Summary
'Before the Deluge' sets out a new way of thinking about the intellectual origins of the French Revolution. It's starting point is not the revolution that actually occurred in 1789, but a range of predictions of revolution made well before the Bastille fell.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgementsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Facing the Futurep. 22
Three Descriptions of the French Revolutionp. 22
The Terror and Its Causesp. 34
Balanced Government and the English Constitutionp. 41
England's Future in a French Contextp. 52
Sieyes and His Contemporariesp. 67
True Monarchy, or the Idea of a Modern Republicp. 75
Montesquieu and the Idea of Monarchyp. 95
The Troglodytes and the Morality of Monarchyp. 95
Law's System, the Abbe de Saint-Pierre, and the Grand Designp. 108
From The Persian Letters to The Spirit of Lawsp. 121
The Inheritance of Property and the Inheritance of Thronesp. 131
The Problem of Sovereignty and the Nature of Monarchyp. 149
Jansenismp. 153
Fenelon and His Legacyp. 159
Trade, the System of Ranks, and the Alternative to Public Creditp. 166
Morality and Politics in a Divided Worldp. 173
Montesquieu's Legacyp. 173
Francois Veron de Forbonnais and the Limits of Tradep. 179
Physiocracy, or The Natural and Essential Order of Political Societiesp. 189
From Friendship to Mankind to Political Economyp. 199
Rousseau and Physiocracyp. 222
Rousseau and Mablyp. 239
Industry and Representative Governmentp. 254
Agriculture, Industry, and Inequalityp. 254
Helvetiusp. 266
Turgotp. 281
Chastelluxp. 290
Jacques Necker and Burke's Paradoxp. 302
Joseph Fauchet and Pierre-Paul Gudin de la Brenelleriep. 311
Pierre-Louis Roedererp. 322
Jean-Baptiste Sayp. 334
Conclusionp. 349
Bibliographyp. 373
Indexp. 403
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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