The French Idea of History
Joseph de Maistre and His Heirs, 1794–1854
"A fierce absolutist, a furious theocrat . . . the champion of the hardest, narrowest, and most inflexible dogmatism . . . part learned doctor, part inquisitor, part executioner." Thus did Émile Faguet describe Joseph-Marie de Maistre (1753–1821) in his 1899 history of nineteenth-century thought. This view of the influential thinker as a reactionary has, with little variation, held sway ever since. In The French Idea of History, Carolina Armenteros recovers a very different figure, one with a far more subtle understanding of, and response to, the events of his day.
Maistre emerges from this deeply learned book as the crucial bridge between the Enlightenment and the historicized thought of the nineteenth century. Armenteros demonstrates that Maistre inaugurated a specifically French way of thinking about past, present, and future that held sway not only among conservative political theorists but also among intellectuals generally considered to belong to the left, particularly the Utopian Socialists.
Carolina Armenteros is Rosalind Franklin Fellow, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, and Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. She is coeditor of Joseph de Maistre and the Legacy of Enlightenment, Joseph de Maistre and his European Readers, The new enfant du siècle: Joseph de Maistre as a Writer, and Historicising the French Revolution.