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Alexis de Tocqueville : a life /
Hugh Brogan.
imprint
New Haven : Yale University Press, 2007, c2006.
description
724 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
ISBN
9780300108033
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
New Haven : Yale University Press, 2007, c2006.
isbn
9780300108033
catalogue key
6093810
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [686]-692) and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2007-01-08:
This magisterial biography, selected by the Economist on its U.K. publication as one of the best 100 books of 2006, serves up all the interesting personal details (constant health struggles, an unsuitable marriage to a woman of lesser means) in the life of Tocqueville (1805-1859), the man who most influenced America and its self-perception. But the heart of the book is Tocqueville's travels in the United States and the writing of Democracy in America. Tocqueville both appreciated, and was discomfited by, American egalitarianism. Raised in a Catholic environment, the French aristocrat "could not see the logic" of Protestantism. (His visit to a Shaker settlement was especially unnerving.) British historian Brogan is not uncritical: he notes that Tocqueville never understood that democracy relies "principally on elections to control majorities," rather than on a system of legislative and judicial checks and balances. Brogan's greatest contribution may be his reading of the second volume of Democracy in America as autobiography, arguing that Tocqueville wrote it in part to justify his own break with the expectations of his elite family and social circle. All in all, this is an engrossing and erudite account. 16 b&w illus. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2007-03-01:
Since its first publication in 1835, Tocqueville's Democracy in America has remained at the center of the discussion of American character and of the nature-and dangers-of democracy in the modern world. His Recollections remains the starting point for study of the Revolution of 1848; his Ancien Rogime, which transformed the historiography of the French Revolution, is livelier reading than current histories of the event. British historian Brogan has written a masterly biography of this modern original whose thoughts remain relevant after 150 years. Writing in clear, often lapidary prose, Brogan judges when judgment enlightens and suspends judgment when not; his humanity and his immersion in the literature are evident on every page. The spaciousness of this book permits a more nuanced picture than that found in Joseph Epstein's quite good study of last year, Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide. Brogan's will be the definitive account of Tocqueville's life for generations to come. Though not a sentimentalist, this reviewer teared up as he read of Tocqueville's last days. Enthusiastically recommended for all libraries.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2007-09-01:
Exploiting a treasure trove of correspondence, notes, and political writings, Brogan (retired, Univ. of Essex) delivers a lively biography of this 19th-century intellectual giant, hewing closely to the chronology of Tocqueville's experiences and meticulously chronicling his passions and prejudices. The result is an intimate portrait of a liberal coming to grips with a society wracked by unstable and usually illiberal regimes. Brogan's axiomatic premise is that every aspect of Tocqueville's life and thought was dominated by his time and place, his noble origin, and nostalgia for a glorious ancestral tradition. However, sustained scholarly analysis of the gestation of Tocqueville's masterworks, the two volumes of Democracy in America (1835/1840) and The Old Regime (1856), have undermined the myth of their author as a closet aristocrat. The traditional interpretation creates a conundrum that deepens in proportion to Tocqueville's exponentially expanding resonance. Why have such "past-bound" ideas about history and society become far more influential than they were in their author's time? One should luxuriate in this well-crafted narrative to appreciate Tocqueville's life and times. To fathom the fascinating life of his mind and its legacy, readers should turn to The Cambridge Companion to Tocqueville (2006), edited by Cheryl Welch, or the special bicentennial issue of The Tocqueville Review (2006). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. S. Drescher University of Pittsburgh
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A monumental life-and-times biography, as rich in detail about post-Revolutionary France as it is about Tocqueville himself."�Jeff Broadwater, Journal of the Early Republic
"A monumental life-and-times biography, as rich in detail about post-Revolutionary France as it is about Tocqueville himself."Jeff Broadwater, Journal of the Early Republic
"A monumental life-and-times biography, as rich in detail about post-Revolutionary France as it is about Tocqueville himself."Jeff Broadwater,Journal of the Early Republic
" Brogan has written the definitive English language biography of the best known and most perceptive foreign interpreter of the American experience. The work''s major achievement, however, is its lucid presentation of Tocqueville in the French contexts of monarchy and revolution that shaped his perceptions of the emerging democracy across the Atlantic." -- Dennis Showalter, Colorado College
"Brogan has written the definitive English language biography of the best known and most perceptive foreign interpreter of the American experience. The work''s major achievement, however, is its lucid presentation of Tocqueville in the French contexts of monarchy and revolution that shaped his perceptions of the emerging democracy across the Atlantic."Dennis Showalter, Colorado College
�Brogan has written the definitive English language biography of the best known and most perceptive foreign interpreter of the American experience. The work's major achievement, however, is its lucid presentation of Tocqueville in the French contexts of monarchy and revolution that shaped his perceptions of the emerging democracy across the Atlantic.��Dennis Showalter, Colorado College
"Brogan''s book reads like a novel, weaving aspects of Tocqueville''s private life into a grand narrative about the ideas and actions of Tocqueville."Aurelian Craiutu, American Historical Review
"Brogan''s book reads like a novel, weaving aspects of Tocqueville''s private life into a grand narrative about the ideas and actions of Tocqueville."Aurelian Craiutu,American Historical Review
"Brogan's book reads like a novel, weaving aspects of Tocqueville's private life into a grand narrative about the ideas and actions of Tocqueville."�Aurelian Craiutu, American Historical Review
"Brogan''s expertise pays constant rewards to the reader, his knowledge of 19th-century French politics is comprehensive and his attention to context punctilious. . . . It is a brisk and admirably accessible account of how Tocqueville gave a name to certain misgivings about democracy that are with us still."Christopher Caldwell, New York Times Book Review (Editor''s Choice)
"Brogan''s expertise pays constant rewards to the reader, his knowledge of 19th-century French politics is comprehensive and his attention to context punctilious. . . . It is a brisk and admirably accessible account of how Tocqueville gave a name to certain misgivings about democracy that are with us still."Christopher Caldwell,New York Times Book Review(Editor''s Choice)
"Brogan's expertise pays constant rewards to the reader, his knowledge of 19th-century French politics is comprehensive and his attention to context punctilious. . . . It is a brisk and admirably accessible account of how Tocqueville gave a name to certain misgivings about democracy that are with us still."�Christopher Caldwell, New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
" Brogan vividly captures the brilliance and complexity of Alexis de Tocqueville: prophet of modern democracy bound to the old regime by family and feeling; lover of liberty and the rule of law who felt the lure of empire; bold and restless spirit who recoiled from revolution. This is a vibrant and compelling biography." -- Alan Houston, University of California San Diego
"Brogan vividly captures the brilliance and complexity of Alexis de Tocqueville: prophet of modern democracy bound to the old regime by family and feeling; lover of liberty and the rule of law who felt the lure of empire; bold and restless spirit who recoiled from revolution. This is a vibrant and compelling biography."Alan Houston, University of California San Diego
�Brogan vividly captures the brilliance and complexity of Alexis de Tocqueville: prophet of modern democracy bound to the old regime by family and feeling; lover of liberty and the rule of law who felt the lure of empire; bold and restless spirit who recoiled from revolution. This is a vibrant and compelling biography.��Alan Houston, University of California San Diego
"This is a magnificent biography. Hugh Brogan's knowledge of the details of Tocqueville's life is extraordinary, as is his erudite account of his family life and of French politics and society in the first half of the nineteenth century. And how splendidly the book is written! Tocqueville's life was marked by a triumph of character; Hugh Brogan's biography is a triumph of history and letters."--John Lukacs
"This is a magnificent biography. Hugh Brogan's knowledge of the details of Tocqueville's life is extraordinary, as is his erudite account of his family life and of French politics and society in the first half of the nineteenth century. And how splendidly the book is written! Tocqueville's life was marked by a triumph of character; Hugh Brogan's biography is a triumph of history and letters."John Lukacs
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, January 2007
Booklist, March 2007
Library Journal, March 2007
Wall Street Journal, March 2007
Boston Globe, April 2007
Globe & Mail, April 2007
Choice, September 2007
Washington Post, April 2008
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Author Comments
A Conversation with Hugh Brogan Q: Tocqueville spent less than a year in America, and yet he is perhaps the most widely quoted observer of American culture and politics. How do you account for this? A: Tocqueville did not waste his ten months in the U.S.: he observed, questioned, and reflected ceaselessly. When he returned to France, he continued to study America, through books, documents, and discussion, for nearly eight years. But the most important answer--though it may injure American pride--is that his subject was not America but democracy. His book is informed by lengthy study and reflection on France and Britain as well as the U.S. This gives his conclusions enormous weight. Q: In what ways did his personal experience shape his political outlook? A: Tocqueville knew himself to be a member of a defeated caste--he was born into the high nobility of France. He accepted that the changes wrought by the French Revolution were irreversible--and as a matter of justice he welcomed an increased social and political power of the middle class. His thought was dominated by what he called "the advance of democracy." But increasingly he realized that pressing behind the middle class was the working class, infected with ideas about equality of opportunity and equality between men and women. He was extremely reluctant to acquiesce in this further revolution. Q: Tocqueville's family was deeply scarred by the Reign of Terror; how did Tocqueville believe such atrocities could be prevented? A: Tocqueville believed that political atrocities of all kinds were the result of the folly and impatience of human beings. He hoped that through persuasive demonstration they might be convinced to know better and behave better. He believed that a democratic system such as he had observed in America was the best way of educating the people and the best protector of their real interests. A true liberal, he did not believe that revolution, aggressive war, dictatorship, or demagogic humbug could ever be justified as instruments of human progress. Two hundred years after his birth, we can see that he was right: his conceptions of democratic justice are those to which most of the world nowadays pays lip service, even if at times they still seem unattainable.
Long Description
Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the greatest political thinkers of all time. Born a French aristocrat, he lost nearly his entire family in the Reign of Terror, and he spent most of his adult life struggling for liberty under the unsuccessful regimes of nineteenth-century France. At age twenty-five he travelled to America and encountered democracy for the first time. This firsthand experience contributed to his incisive writing on liberty and democracy. The" ancien regime" launched the scholarly study of the French Revolution, and "Democracy in America" remains the best book ever written by a European about the United States. This is a brilliant account of his life.
Main Description
Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the greatest political thinkers of all time. Born a French aristocrat, he lost nearly his entire family in the Reign of Terror, and he spent most of his adult life struggling for liberty under the unsuccessful regimes of nineteenth-century France. At age twenty-five he travelled to America and encountered democracy for the first time. This firsthand experience contributed to his incisive writing on liberty and democracy. Theancien regimelaunched the scholarly study of the French Revolution, andDemocracy in Americaremains the best book ever written by a European about the United States. This is a brilliant account of his life.
Main Description
Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the greatest political thinkers of all time. Born a French aristocrat, he lost nearly his entire family in the Reign of Terror, and he spent most of his adult life struggling for liberty under the unsuccessful regimes of nineteenth-century France. At age twenty-five he travelled to America and encountered democracy for the first time. This firsthand experience contributed to his incisive writing on liberty and democracy. The ancien regime launched the scholarly study of the French Revolution, and Democracy in America remains the best book ever written by a European about the United States. This is a brilliant account of his life.
Table of Contents
Mapsp. ix
Young Tocqueville
Noblessep. 1
Royalistsp. 19
A Sentimental Educationp. 37
First Flightp. 63
Pupillagep. 76
Julyp. 102
Upheavalp. 128
A Voyage Outp. 148
A Republic Observedp. 179
Writing Prisonsp. 214
Between Booksp. 235
Writing Americap. 253
Famep. 283
Into Politicsp. 312
Writing Democracyp. 340
Monsieur De Tocqueville
Deputyp. 375
Februaryp. 407
Junep. 430
Retrospectionp. 465
Decemberp. 502
Writing Historyp. 525
Writing Revolutionp. 556
Retreatingp. 585
Cannesp. 619
Epiloguep. 640
Notesp. 645
Bibliography
Abbreviationsp. 686
Primary sourcesp. 686
Other printed worksp. 688
List of illustrationsp. 692
Acknowledgementsp. 693
Indexp. 697
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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