Spring 2008

Comparative Revolutions: America and France

Listed in: Special Seminar, as COLQ-24


Daniel R. DiSalvo (Section 01)


This course will compare the American and French Revolutions. It has been pointed out that the French Revolution could never have happened in America and the American Revolution could never have happened in France. The events of each were so different and the circumstances producing them so dissimilar that it seems hardly fair to refer to them by the same word. Yet important thinkers who have reflected on both revolutions have pronounced judgment upon them. As one scholar has written, "Fate seems to have decreed that these two revolutions, rivals for the honor of inaugurating democracy and modernity, should be eternally measured against each other." In order to understand both the theory and practice of the two revolutions, this course will study philosophical-political texts, examine the debates surrounding constitutions and political institutions, and reflect on key historical actors and events. In sum, the course invites students to explore the relationship between political ideas and statesmanship. Our readings will include Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Abbe Sieyes, Comte de Mirabeau, Turgot, Condorcet, Robespierre, Paine, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Washington, Franklin, Madison, Burke, and Tocqueville. The course will be conducted in a seminar setting with an emphasis on discussion. Second semester. Visiting Professor Di Salvo.