Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ellis lauds Brogan, Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life

It's a very good weekend for history book reviews. ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE: A Life (Yale University Press), by Hugh Brogan, is reviewed in the Washington Post by Joseph J. Ellis. Ellis begins:
Alexis de Tocqueville is a towering figure in 19th-century political thought, on a par with Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill and more prophetic than either of them. It is therefore a bit confounding to realize that, despite all the books and essays about Tocqueville's masterpiece, Democracy in America, there was no full-scale biography in English of the man himself.

Now there is. Hugh Brogan's Alexis de Tocqueville is a magisterial account, 50 years in the making, that follows the precocious French nobleman through the swirling history of post-revolutionary France, the rutted roads of backwoods America, the bewildering comings and goings of different royalist and republican French governments, all the way to Tocqueville's somewhat controversial final hours in 1859, when the question of his religious convictions at the end remains blurry. If this is not the definitive life, it is only because no such thing is possible. It is surely the authoritative life for our time.

Wow! Later in the review, Ellis says: "Obligatory caveats aside, Brogan's achievement here is monumental....This is a book virtually certain to win some major prizes."

For the rest, click here.