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The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution

The Making of Modern Universalism

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN: 9780520241800
March 2005
$85.00, £62.95
In this age of globalization, the eighteenth-century priest and abolitionist Henri Grégoire has often been called a man ahead of his time. An icon of antiracism, a hero to people from Ho Chi Minh to French Jews, Grégoire has been particularly celebrated since 1989, when the French government placed him in the Pantheon as a model of ideals of universalism and human rights. In this beautifully written biography, based on newly discovered and previously overlooked material, we gain access for the first time to the full complexity of Grégoire's intellectual and political universe as well as the compelling nature of his persona. His life offers an extraordinary vantage from which to view large issues in European and world history in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and provides provocative insights into many of the prevailing tensions, ideals, and paradoxes of the twenty-first century. Focusing on Grégoire's idea of "regeneration," that people could literally be made anew, Sepinwall argues that revolutionary universalism was more complicated than it appeared. Tracing the Revolution's long-term legacy, she suggests that while it spread concepts of equality and liberation throughout the world, its ideals also helped to justify colonialism and conquest.
List of Illustrations
Prologue. Regenerating Biography, or In Search of Universalism

PART ONE. GRÉGOIRE’S EARLY YEARS: ENLIGHTENMENT AND RELIGION IN FRANCE, 1750–1789
1. From Tailor’s Son to Enlightened Abbé: A Provincial Journey
2. The “Bon Curé” of Emberménil
3. A Physical, Moral, and Political Regeneration of the Jews

PART TWO. GRÉGOIRE IN PARIS: REVOLUTION AND REGENERATION, 1789–1801
4. Creating a French Nation
5. A Religious Revolution? Regeneration Transformed
6. Overcoming the Terror, Rebuilding the Empire

PART THREE. KEEPING THE FAITH: GRÉGOIRE, REGENERATION, AND THE REVOLUTION’S GLOBAL LEGACY, 1801–1831
7. The Joys and Frustrations of the Atlantic Republican Network: Grégoire and the Americas
8. Exporting the Revolution: The Colonial Laboratory in Haiti
9. Christian Apologetics and the Universal Human Family
Epilogue. Icon Of Universalism: Grégoire’s Life after Death

Acknowledgments
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall is Associate Professor of History at California State University, San Marcos.
“Sepinwall’s scholarly work is riveting and always interesting as it sheds light not only on an important period of Jewish history, but on the present age of globalization as well.”—Jack Fischel New Jersey Jewish News
“The book conveys the author’s enthusiasm for her subject and provides a most exciting insight into the issues French Jews faced at a crucial period of time in our history. And I am pleased to state that its style is most attractive to lay readers and scholars alike. It certainly challenged me to learn more about the French revolutionaries’ and Napoleon’s attitude to the Jews.”—Dr. Yehuda Shabatay San Diego Jewish Times
“Makes an important contribution to French Revolution historiography.”—Catholic Historical Review
“What can be done with a people that produces 246 different cheeses? General De Gaulle's remark may be apocryphal - France has far more than 246 cheeses - but it captures a central dilemma in French history. How could such a diverse collection of peoples be forged into a single nation? . . . For Alyssa Sepinwall, the 'crucial question' of the Abbé Grégoire's life, and the central problem of the French Revolution, was 'how to build a coherent and egalitarian national community out of a diverse people'. . . . Sepinwall . . . convincingly demonstrates the way that his views on the Jews, the French peasantry and colonialism were shaped by his experiences in late 18th-century Lorraine and Alsace. . . . She is also excellent on his posthumous career.—David Garrioch London Review Of Books
“This is a first-rate study of a gifted but flawed individual whose vision for the future never became a reality.”—T.M. Keefe Choice: Current Reviews For Academic Libraries
“Very few leaders played as prominent role in the French Revolution as the Abbé Henri Grégoire. . . . Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall’s first-rate intellectual biography explains the contradictions and contexts that have made Grégoire’s ideas worth arguing about for over 200 years. . . . Sepinwall’s Grégoire is likely to sit on the shelf next to David Jordan’s Revolutionary Career of Maximilien Robespierre, Leo Gershoy‚s Bertrand Barère: A Reluctant Terrorist, R. B. Rose‚s Gracchus Babeuf, the First Revolutionary Communist, and Keith Michael Baker‚s Condorcet: From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics in a series of standard outstanding biographies in English of important French revolutionary leaders. . . . This is a book for all serious students of the French Revolution.”—Gary Kates H-France Review Of Books
“Excellent biography . . . . Masterful analysis.”—The Historian

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