Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Friday, June 02, 2006
Schama's Citizens -- II

The American and French Revolutions were profoundly different. The reasons for this would be worth investigating at length (has any historian done this, do you know?); Schama does not do this, but he has interesting observations on the relationship between French participation in the American Revolution -- the work of aristocrats, without exception -- and the rise in France of a "ci-devant" aristocracy (Schama's term: it literally means "in front of that," and could be understood as "avant-garde," a Frenchism that has passed beyond need for translation). The ci-devant artistocrats, in turn, were essential to the progress of the French Revolution, though many ended up being killed by it.
The consequences of French involvement in the revolutionary war were, in fact, profoundly subversive and irreversible. The American historian Forrest McDonald attempted to show a high degree of correspondence between returning French veterans of the war and the outbreak of rural violence in 1789. Recently, this has been shown by more careful research to be suspect, although there remain striking cases of returning soldiers who show up in the chronicles of the Revolution.... But the case for an "American" cause of the French Revolution does not have to rest on this type of geographical literalism. A more qualitative approach can hardly fail to register the extraordinary importance of the flirtation with armed freedom to a section of the artisocracy that was rich, powerful and influential. On their own they could not conceivably have constituted any kind of independent "revolutionary" opposition to the crown. But once the money crisis of the monarchy was transformed into a political argument, the vocabulary of "liberty" was apt to take on a life of its own -- and become available to those who were prepared to play for very high stakes.... (p. 47)
Next: more about the monarchy's money crisis.