Carolina Armanteros’ new important book on de Maistre is out. ‘The French Idea of History: Joseph de Maistre and his Heirs, 1794-1854’, was published with with Cornell University Press.
This is a book about the beginnings of historical thinking as a philosophical enterprise. The historical rupture represented by the French Revolution compelled contemporaries to reflect on the nature and meaning of history. For the generation educated in the downfall of a whole world, history was no longer dead and distant, as it had often been for the detached writers of the Enlightenment. It was alive in blood and fire. Some who remained religious during those years felt history with particular intensity, awakening suddenly to the fear that God might have abandoned humankind altogether, and that his ways through time must be discovered if faith was to be kept and defended. To many who experienced the Revolution, history properly understood revealed Providence’s designs. This book focuses on the historical thought of a man to whom the Revolution brought profound spiritual anxiety. And it tells the story of the quiet upheaval that his reflections, dispersed across political and philosophical boundaries, effected in nineteenth-century French thought and politics. For Maistre’s bold propositions about the unfolding of time fired the imagination of friends as well as foes, inspiring socialists and royalists, positivists and traditionalists to recover the past, contemplate the future, and hasten the arrival of the utopia at the end of time.
“Gracefully written and deeply researched, this is quite simply the most important book on Maistre to appear in some time. Yet it is far more than just an intellectual biography of a single individual: Wide-ranging and consistently insightful, Carolina Armenteros’s book is a broad meditation on the paradoxes and power of the past.”—Darrin M. McMahon, Ben Weider Professor of History, The Florida State University
“The French Idea of History is a beautifully—even poetically—written book. Joseph de Maistre is unquestionably the most profound and influential representative of the theocratic school of post–French revolutionary political and social philosophers, and this book, altogether worthy of its subject, is the most profound biography of Maistre that now exists.”—Dale K. Van Kley, The Ohio State University, author of The Religious Origins of the French Revolution
“Maistre’s gifts as a stylist are sometimes used to discount his political theory; in Carolina Armenteros’s trenchant expression, Maistre has been ‘praised as a writer into oblivion as a political theorist.’ In fact, argues Armenteros in this subtle, provocative, and at times stunningly original book, the traditional image of Maistre is deeply misleading. Far from being a complete reactionary seeking a return to an idealized past, Maistre was in at least some respects a moderate who recognized the necessity for political change.”—Jonathan Beecher, UC Santa Cruz, author of Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World