Magazine November 16, 2020, Issue

France before 1789: Jon Elster’s New Book on the Old Regime

The Chateau de Versailles, near Paris, France, June 6, 2020 (Charles Platiau/Reuters)
France before 1789: The Unraveling of an Absolutist Regime, by Jon Elster (Princeton University Press, 280 pp., $39.95)

Few events have drawn the attention of as many writers as the French Revolution. The literature on the topic is truly enormous; it is possible to find mono­graphs on everything from the condi­tions of peasant life in the various provinces to the intellectual currents that led to the formation of the radical revolutionaries’ republican ideology. And yet books on the history of the revolution continue to be published. Many of the questions it raised remain unresolved and contested, just as they were in the late 18th century.

One of the latest such contributions is Jon Elster’s France before 1789: The Unraveling

This article appears as “Emotion, Engine of History” in the November 16, 2020, print edition of National Review.

Something to Consider

If you enjoyed this article, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS. Members get all of our content (including the magazine), no paywalls or content meters, an advertising-minimal experience, and unique access to our writers and editors (conference calls, social-media groups, etc.). And importantly, NRPLUS members help keep NR going. Consider it?

If you enjoyed this article, and were stimulated by its contents, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS.

LEARN MORE

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

The Week

The Week

Biden said he would appoint a bipartisan commission to study Court-packing and other changes to the courts.

Most Popular

Immigration

What Now for Trump’s Border Wall?

The verdict on the U.S.–Mexico border wall President Trump promised to construct is decidedly mixed as the year comes to a close. The “big, beautiful wall,” as Trump referred to it, reached 400 miles in length by the end of October, when the Department of Homeland Security held a ceremony hailing the ... Read More
Immigration

What Now for Trump’s Border Wall?

The verdict on the U.S.–Mexico border wall President Trump promised to construct is decidedly mixed as the year comes to a close. The “big, beautiful wall,” as Trump referred to it, reached 400 miles in length by the end of October, when the Department of Homeland Security held a ceremony hailing the ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Culture

New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Reparations

Reparations would grant African Americans government benefits not paid to other Americans to rectify the awful sin of slavery and the "peculiar institution's" residual harm. It is a favored policy of hard progressives, so of course, the New England Journal of Medicine -- which regularly promotes left-wing causes ... Read More
Culture

New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Reparations

Reparations would grant African Americans government benefits not paid to other Americans to rectify the awful sin of slavery and the "peculiar institution's" residual harm. It is a favored policy of hard progressives, so of course, the New England Journal of Medicine -- which regularly promotes left-wing causes ... Read More