Jonathan Israel

Contesting American Values

Jonathan Israel
Institute for Advanced Study
October 28, 2016
The American Revolution had an enormous, but bitterly divisive impact on European (and Canadian and Latin America) political thought and attitudes. From 1776 began a furious ideological war within the USA over the question of democracy that helped precipitate an even more ferocious conflict between democratic and aristocratic forms of government in Europe. By the 1820s, it seemed that the aristocratic-monarchical system, led by Britain, had finally extinguished "Americanism" everywhere outside the USA.

Celebrating Modern Democracy’s Beginning: The “British Club” in Paris (1789–93)

Jonathan Israel
Institute for Advanced Study
March 7, 2012

Prior to the Terror (1793–94), the French Revolution was generally viewed very positively by progressive constitutional thinkers and law reformers. On November 18, 1792, more than a hundred distinguished Anglo-American democrats, including several founders of modern feminism, gathered at the British Club in Paris to celebrate liberty, human rights, and the spread of democracy across the world—what they viewed as the assured democratic future of mankind. In this lecture, Jonathan Israel, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, explores the vast significance of the toasts drunk at this banquet and of the public address that was afterward presented to the French National Assembly. They illuminate the relationship between the French Revolution and modernity, the history of our own time, and the many ironies of the values and propositions that the “British Club” in Paris proclaimed to the world.