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When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation by Francois Furstenberg at Abbey's Bookshop,

When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation

Francois Furstenberg


Penguin Press

Biography: historical, political & military;
European history;
History of the Americas;
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900;
Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions


498 pages

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In 1789, as the French Revolution shook Europe to the core, the new United States was struggling for survival in the face of financial insolvency and bitter political and regional divisions. When the United States Spoke French  explores the republic's formative years from the viewpoint of a distinguished circle of fiveFrenchmen taking refuge in America. When theFrench Revolution broke out, these men had been among its leaders. They were liberal aristocrats and ardent Anglophiles, convinced of the superiority of the British system of monarchy and constitution.

They also idealised the new American republic, which seemed to them an embodiment of the Enlightenment ideals they celebrated. But soon the Revolutionary movement got ahead of them, and they found themselves chased across the Atlantic. Francois Furstenberg follows these five men Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, Napoleon's future foreign minister; theorist reformer Rochefoucauld, the duc de Liancourt; Louis-Marie Vicomte de Noailles; Moreau deSaint-Mery; and Constantin-Francois Chasseboeuf, Comte Volney as they left their homes and families in France, crossed the Atlantic, and landed in Philadelphia then America's capital, its principal port, and by far its most cosmopolitan city and the home of the wealthiest merchants and financiers.

The book vividly reconstructs their American adventures, following along as they integrated themselves into the city and its elite social networks, began speculating on backcountry lands, and eventually became enmeshed in Franco-American diplomacy. Through their stories, we see some of the most famous events of early American history in a new light, from the diplomatic struggles of the1790s to the Haitian Revolution to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. By the end of this period, the United States was on its way to becoming a major global power. 

Through this small circle of men, we find new ways to understand the connections between U.S. and world history, and gain fresh insight into American history's most critical era. Beautifully written and brilliantly argued,  When the United States Spoke French  offers a fresh perspective on the tumultuous years of the young nation, when the first great republican experiments were put to the test.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash Broadway musical Hamilton has sparked new interest in the Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers. In addition to Alexander Hamilton, the production also features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Aaron Burr, Lafayette, and many more.

By:   Francois Furstenberg
Imprint:   Penguin Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 241mm,  Width: 168mm,  Spine: 40mm
Weight:   789g
ISBN:   9781594204418
ISBN 10:   1594204411
Pages:   498
Publication Date:   July 2014
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Francois Furstenberg is an associate professorof history at Johns Hopkins University. A native ofBoston and Washington, D.C., he taught history forten years in Montreal before returning to the UnitedStates, where he teaches and writes on a range of fieldsin early American history and the Atlantic world. He isthe author of In the Name of the Father: Washington s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation, published by PenguinPress in 2006.

The Wall Street Journal [A] fascinating account of French involvement in the economic and cultural life of the young American Republic.... Mr. Furstenberg has the vision to encompass a broad pageant in this splendid book, which combines erudition and great flair. Seattle Times Furstenberg opens a window into a lost world of glittering Philadelphian dinner parties, rough backwoodsmen speaking French and homesick emigres. It's a fascinating portrait of the diplomatic intrigue between France and England for power and position, with the United States displaying a disconcertingly astute aptitude for playing them off against each other. When the United States Spoke French is essential reading for understanding the complex relationship between France and the United States that, to this day, endures. JHU Gazette A fascinating examination of the United States at a pivotal moment in history that is as broadly sweeping and narratively captivating as a historical novel. Publishers Weekly A lush social and cultural history of French influences...riveting. Kirkus Reviews Furstenberg expands the historical outlook of the 18th century's great upheavals and shows the global effects of the Enlightenment. The author studies five former members of the French Assemblee Constituante who became refugees in Philadelphia...Though they were here to escape and to advance their personal fortunes, along the way, they helped the young country survive...[ When the United States Spoke French is] a bright, absorbing account of a short period in history that still resounds today.

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