Anthony Pagden

A Light unto the World?

The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775–1848

By

Princeton University Press 755pp £32.95 order from our bookshop

Jonathan Israel’s latest book claims to be ‘an overview of the revolutionary process in the Western and colonial worlds down to the 1850s viewed from the particular perspective of the American revolutionary example, experience and ideas’. And so, in part, it is. It covers the stories of the North American, French and Haitian revolutions, the wars of independence in Spanish America, the ‘nationalist’ – although Israel forcefully rejects the use of this term – uprisings in Europe in the 1830s and the democratic republican revolutions of 1848 in exhaustive detail and with all Israel’s wide-ranging, resolutely unprovincial erudition, though everything of substance he has to say about the French Revolution is drawn from his Revolutionary Ideas of 2014. It is a subject that, as Israel rightly says, has been ‘rarely examined and discussed in broad context’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,
    • 'The wicked are truly revolting and the rage is wholly understandable' on new thrillers by John Le… ,
    • In @aaciman's sequel to 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Erotic urgency has merged with middle age’s frugality of heart', s… ,
    • 'The repression of free speech in Uganda is common. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 Press Freedom Index ranks Ugand… ,
    • RT : The Topeka School is out today! I reviewed it for and I'm psyched to see him talking at the Tate tonigh… ,