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Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life Paperback – Bargain Price, April 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136250
  • ASIN: B005M4RWDC
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,087,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This magisterial biography, selected by the Economist on its U.K. publication as one of the best 100 books of 2006, serves up all the interesting personal details (constant health struggles, an unsuitable marriage to a woman of lesser means) in the life of Tocqueville (1805–1859), the man who most influenced America and its self-perception. But the heart of the book is Tocqueville's travels in the United States and the writing of Democracy in America. Tocqueville both appreciated, and was discomfited by, American egalitarianism. Raised in a Catholic environment, the French aristocrat "could not see the logic" of Protestantism. (His visit to a Shaker settlement was especially unnerving.) British historian Brogan is not uncritical: he notes that Tocqueville never understood that democracy relies "principally on elections to control majorities," rather than on a system of legislative and judicial checks and balances. Brogan's greatest contribution may be his reading of the second volume of Democracy in America as autobiography, arguing that Tocqueville wrote it in part to justify his own break with the expectations of his elite family and social circle. All in all, this is an engrossing and erudite account. 16 b&w illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The subject of essayist Joseph Epstein's brief Alexis de Tocqueville (2006) here receives the complete examination from British historian Brogan. His theme is de Tocqueville's intellectual distancing from his family's political pedigree, which was landed, noble, and instinctually royalist, and de Tocqueville's diffident approach to the democratic trajectory of the age. During de Tocqueville's lifetime (1805-59), France's six regime changes supplied a surplus of political turbulence for an observer of de Tocqueville's acuity, and his major writings, such as Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution, naturally structure Brogan's account. However, readers who gravitate more toward the active rather than the cerebral aspects of an intellectual's life won't be disappointed. De Tocqueville was emotionally expressive, a traveler, a magistrate, a significant politician in the revolution of 1848, and foreign minister of the Second Republic, all of which Brogan draws upon to illustrate the man's character and dramatize his experiences. This biography is most significant for the way it integrates de Tocqueville's daily life with the development of his political thought. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
His close attention and careful work in the archives bears abundant fruit in this biography.
Christian Schlect
It read like a novel for me, and though I purchased it strictly as a research and general knowledge tool, it became a warmly-regarded pleasure read.
Amy R. Nix
This very enjoyable book is an excellent study of the very interesting French writer and politician Alexis de Tocqueville.
R. Albin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This very enjoyable book is an excellent study of the very interesting French writer and politician Alexis de Tocqueville. Known best for his analysis of contemporary America, de Tocqueville is a notable figure in the history of political thought and a key source for the history of 19th century America. Brogan's Tocqueville is an essentially conservative figure. The descendent of relatively liberal aristocrats under the Ancien Regime, a number of whom were executed during the Terror, Tocqueville grew up in a legitimist household that detested the Bonapartist state and feared the radicalism that led to the Terror. Tocqueville, however, was too intelligent and preceptive to be a dogmatic Throne and Altar conservative. Following his famous trip to the USA in the early 1830s, he published Democracy in America, a case study in how a liberal society dedicated to political equality, property rights, and respect for law could produce lasting stability. Brogan points out well that Democracy in America, while about American democracy, was inspired by concerns about the role of democracy in France. At the same time, while Democracy affirmed a liberal vision, Brogan is careful to point out that it was a somewhat conservative version of liberalism and that Tocqueville did not really understand important aspects of American democracy. He didn't really understand the role of Congress and appears to have been completely clueless about the crucial role of the party system in providing stability.
Tocqueville's failure to understand crucial aspects of the American democratic system would prove to be hindrance in Tocqueville's political career. Brogan devotes much of the book to a thoughtful description of Tocqueville the politician.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on March 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A detailed overview of the life of a remarkable observer of the human/political condition in both France and America. The British professor, Hugh Brogran, has spent a good deal of his long academic career studying Tocqueville. His close attention and careful work in the archives bears abundant fruit in this biography.

Not for most casual readers, but very rewarding for those with an interest in democracy in the early United States, French politics after Napoleon, and of the social/literary life of a liberal noble in the decades after the fall of the Ancient Regime. But above all, a book for Brian Lamb of C-SPAN.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Philip Brantingham on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
He seems the unlikeliest person to write an incisive study of American democracy: a rather spoiled son of a French aristocrat of the ancien regime, and one who suffered from a sense of futility in his own life. But the amazing truth is the Alexis de Tocqueville was exactly the best qualified man to do exactly that. Scholarly, intelligent, a precise writer, de Tocqueville was the one to write an immortal study of American life that would become in time a classic. Best of all, he wrote his work not in his study, but after an intense journey through America itself in the early 1830s.

Hugh Brogan's biography is an excellent study of this young author, and probably the very best modern biography. He uses de Tocquevilles' letters and other contemporary writings to illuminate the life and thought of the young aristocrat. And aristocrat he was, his father having stoutly stood by the French crown through its many vicissitudes (and nearly executed by the Jacobins for this). Young Alexis himself clung to the aristocracy until the turbulent days of the July Monarchy, when the Bourbons were unseated by the Orleanists. After this, the young writer lost much of his loyalty to the crown.

Brogan's book is well written, and covers the political scene in France during de Tocqueville's time quite thoroughly. It is simply a book not to be missed about the world of this very talented young man, who proved to be so influential in studies about America and democracy in general.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy R. Nix on July 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book as one of many sources I would be using in a research paper. When I got it, I was dismayed at the length (700+ pages, which I had not paid any attention to at the time of purchase). I was wary, not because I did not wish to read it, but because I thought such a lengthy biography would be tough to get through in the short period available to me for reading it (along with many other articles and books). Anyway, I sat down with the book, pen and highlighter in hand, with every intention of skimming like a freshman cramming for finals. To my delighted amazement, I simply could not put this book down. Professor Brogan writes with such a passion for the subject and with prose that is so engrossing and accessible, the reader can't help but fall into the story.

The annotation in this biography is excellent, thorough, and easy to use. If utilized, one can find many sources to further one's research or interest, and much of the primary source material Brogan uses (often translated from the French by the author) is available in English nowhere else that I could find.

I can't praise the book enough. It read like a novel for me, and though I purchased it strictly as a research and general knowledge tool, it became a warmly-regarded pleasure read.
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