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The French Revolution of 1848 and Its Aftermath
Alexis de Tocqueville. Edited by Olivier Zunz. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer

BUY Cloth · 392 pp. · 6.13 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813939018 · $39.50 · Nov 2016
BUY Ebook · 392 pp. · ISBN 9780813939025 · $39.50 · Nov 2016

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Souvenirs was his extraordinarily lucid and trenchant analysis of the 1848 revolution in France. Despite its bravura passages and stylistic flourishes, however, it was not intended for publication. Written just before Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s 1851 coup prompted the great theorist of democracy to retire from political life, it was initially conceived simply as an exercise in candid personal reflection. In Recollections: The French Revolution of 1848 and Its Aftermath, renowned historian Olivier Zunz and award-winning translator Arthur Goldhammer offer an entirely new translation of Tocqueville’s compelling book.

The book has an interesting publishing history. Yielding to pressure from friends, Tocqueville finally approved its publication, although only after those portrayed in the work—most, unflatteringly—had died. After Tocqueville’s death, his grandnephew published a redacted version, but it was not until 1942 that French editors restored the potentially offensive passages.

Goldhammer’s is the first English translation to do justice to Tocqueville’s original uncensored masterpiece of analytical description, stylistic subtlety, vivid social panorama, and incisive critique of political blundering and cowardice. Zunz’s introduction—and his addition of several of Tocqueville’s ancillary speeches, occasional texts, and letters—round out a unique volume that significantly enhances our understanding of the revolutionary period and Tocqueville’s role in it. In this new edition, Zunz highlights the persistent influence of the United States on the life and work of a man who tirelessly, albeit futilely, promoted the American model of government for the New French Republic.


Recollections is unique among Tocqueville’s major writings. In this devastating chronicle of the failures of friends and foes in the Revolution of 1848, he abandons the distance of his more analytical writings to reveal his candid reactions to the ultimate moral and political challenge of his time. We now have the definitive English edition: beautifully presented by Olivier Zunz, punctuated by the satirical sketches of Daumier, and wonderfully translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Capturing the stylistic brilliance of Tocqueville as immediate political portraitist and juge de soi, this new version of the Recollections also reminds us that some firsthand accounts of collective crisis can speak across time and culture. Like the best of political novels, they expand our sense of the possibilities and limitations of our own political world.

Cheryl Welch, Harvard University, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Tocqueville

This is the definitive English edition of Tocqueville’s Recollections. It has been splendidly edited and introduced by Olivier Zunz, who has chosen key documents from Tocqueville and others to accompany this greatest of all French political memoirs. And it has been marvelously translated by Tocqueville’s greatest English translator, Arthur Goldhammer. Tocqueville is a difficult writer to render into English. He is subtle, nuanced, ironic, and many earlier generations of French thought and literature breathe through his prose. Goldhammer captures it all, while explaining his approach in a luminous essay on Tocqueville’s style.

David A. Bell, Lapidus Professor, Princeton University, author of Shadows of Revolution: Reflections on France, Past and Present

A shrewd, on-the-ground account of how political change is made—and unmade—by the author of Democracy in America.... [T]he author is seemingly incapable of writing a dull sentence.... In many ways as relevant as the day it was written and great fun to read.

Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: 

Olivier Zunz, Commonwealth Professor of History at the University of Virginia, is the author of Philanthropy in America: A History and editor of Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America: Their Friendship and Their Travels (Virginia), among other books. Arthur Goldhammer, an affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University and a member of the editorial board of French Politics, Culture, and Society, has translated more than one hundred and twenty-five works from the French, including Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution.

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