A major intellectual history of the American Revolution and its influence on later revolutions in Europe and the Americas
The Expanding Blaze is a sweeping history of how the American Revolution inspired revolutions throughout Europe and the Atlantic world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jonathan Israel, one of the world’s leading historians of the Enlightenment, shows how the radical ideas of American founders such as Paine, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe set the pattern for democratic revolutions, movements, and constitutions in France, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Greece, Canada, Haiti, Brazil, and Spanish America.
The Expanding Blaze reminds us that the American Revolution was an astonishingly radical event—and that it didn’t end with the transformation and independence of America. Rather, the Revolution continued to reverberate in Europe and the Americas for the next three-quarters of a century. This comprehensive history of the Revolution’s international influence traces how American efforts to implement Radical Enlightenment ideas—including the destruction of the old regime and the promotion of democratic republicanism, self-government, and liberty—helped drive revolutions abroad, as foreign leaders explicitly followed the American example and espoused American democratic values.
The first major new intellectual history of the age of democratic revolution in decades, The Expanding Blaze returns the American Revolution to its global context.
Israel (Revolutionary Ideas), professor emeritus of modern history at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, stoutly makes the case that the American Revolution was "of immense consequence for America's future and for the rest of globe." Though not a new argument, it has never before been made so fully or with such convincing force. Known for many works on the Enlightenment, Israel here carries onto the American scene his controversial argument that there were two "Enlightenments": the "moderate" and the "radical." Only American representatives of the radical one, he argues, fully gave up on traditional religion, mixed government, and superstition in favor of secular representative government and thought. While open to the same criticisms that his moderate-radical dichotomy has long faced, i.e. that it is oversimplistic, Israel's argument here doesn't detract from the work's exhilarating urgency. Nor does it mar Israel's success in showing the American Revolution's influence on spurring revolutionary activity in such places as Haiti, Ireland, and Latin America. He follows others in placing American events into their broadest transatlantic context and he puts intellectual currents at the center of his story by arguing against others that the relevance of the American Revolution to world affairs has never ended. Like Israel's previous books, this bravura, complex, learned interpretation of 75 years of revolutionary history is sure to stir debate.