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The World of the Salons is an ambitious book. It shoots loads of ammunition and promises much. An abridged version of Le Monde des salons: Sociabilité et mondanité à Paris au 18e siècle (Fayard 2005), this English translation includes the substantive material of the original book, minus the suavity of the original French prose.
From the moment it was first published in 1997, Maria Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans became an instant must-read, in particular but not only, for readers interested in the history of the ‘Balkans’. Concerns about the situation in Southeast Europe at the time, in the aftermath of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, guaranteed that its impact reached beyond the specialist public.
Knowledge is power. Over the last three decades this old aphorism of political philosophy has been central to the study of colonialism in history, anthropology, and literary and cultural post-colonial studies. Revised and re-launched in social theory by Michel Foucault, the theme gained momentum after the publication of Edward Said’s highly influential book, Orientalism, in 1978.
Benjamin Franklin in London is a narrative biography of the American ‘founding father’ Benjamin Franklin. As the title suggests, the book substantively concentrates on Franklin in London between 1757 and 1775. During this time, Franklin was an agent advocating colonial interests in Parliament.
In 1775, Samuel Johnson had already identified the central paradox of United States history. He notoriously challenged British readers to explain why ‘we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes’. Generations of historians have tried to answer that question. How could a movement espousing belief in liberty include so many slaveholders?
The sub-title says it all. This is a book about the elites of Belle Epoque Paris, primarily about the cultural elites, but also about their patrons, high society, industrialists and fashion designers, and all those who made the headline contributions to that Paris which sticks in the popular imagination.
‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies’.(1) These famous lines from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address serve as a stark point of contrast in the introduction of Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South. For whilst Lincoln implored the nation to avoid violent confrontation, the war of words had already begun.
Exile has long been central to our understanding of certain Early Modern topics. The flight of English Protestants, and then Catholics, to the Continent in the 16th century, or the exodus of Huguenots (many to England and Ireland) after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th, are perhaps the best known examples to UK audiences.
The mention of the Southern plantation tends to bring to mind one of two competing images: either the white-columned antebellum mansion and its manicured grounds, or the desolate home of African-American sharecroppers in the post-Civil War era.