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.
In this compelling account, the French Revolution stands once again as a culmination of the emancipatory and democratic ideals of the Enlightenment. That it ended in the Terror represented a betrayal of those ideas—not their fulfillment.
Originating as a clandestine movement of ideas that was almost entirely hidden from public view during its earliest phase, the Radical Enlightenment matured in opposition to the moderate mainstream Enlightenment dominant in Europe and America in the eighteenth century. During the revolutionary decades of the 1770s, 1780s, and 1790s, the Radical Enlightenment burst into the open, only to provoke a long and bitter backlash. A Revolution of the Mind shows that this vigorous opposition was mainly due to the powerful impulses in society to defend the principles of monarchy, aristocracy, empire, and racial hierarchy--principles linked to the upholding of censorship, church authority, social inequality, racial segregation, religious discrimination, and far-reaching privilege for ruling groups.
In telling this fascinating history, A Revolution of the Mind reveals the surprising origin of our most cherished values--and helps explain why in certain circles they are frequently disapproved of and attacked even today.