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Hero of Two Worlds
The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution
By Mike Duncan
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Few in history can match the revolutionary career of the Marquis de Lafayette. Over fifty incredible years at the heart of the Age of Revolution, he fought courageously on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a soldier, statesman, idealist, philanthropist, and abolitionist.
As a teenager, Lafayette ran away from France to join the American Revolution. Returning home a national hero, he helped launch the French Revolution, eventually spending five years locked in dungeon prisons. After his release, Lafayette sparred with Napoleon, joined an underground conspiracy to overthrow King Louis XVIII, and became an international symbol of liberty. Finally, as a revered elder statesman, he was instrumental in the overthrow of the Bourbon Dynasty in the Revolution of 1830.
From enthusiastic youth to world-weary old age, from the pinnacle of glory to the depths of despair, Lafayette never stopped fighting for the rights of all mankind. His remarkable life is the story of where we come from, and an inspiration to defend the ideals he held dear.
THE ORPHAN MARQUIS
NESTLED IN THE HILLY COUNTRY OF PROVINCIAL AUVERGNE sat an unremarkable château in the unremarkable village of Chavaniac. Then, as now, Auvergne was rustic and sparsely populated—far from the modern world. It was beautiful and natural, with huge outcroppings of volcanic rock erupting from the rich soil. Pastures, fields, and ancient primordial forests sprawled in all directions. Isolated in the vast empty space of south central France, Chavaniac was little more than a few dozen poor houses huddled together around the château for protection.
Elsewhere in the Kingdom of France, noble families embraced the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. They rebuilt their homes in the latest and most expensive styles. But the château in Chavaniac was a product of its environment—simple and sturdy, bereft of adornment, splendor, or ornamentation. There was no need to show off, for there was no one to show off to.
In the late summer of 1757, Château de Chavaniac was the home of Gilbert du Motier, the marquis de Lafayette. The Lafayettes claimed an ancient noble lineage stretching back to the year 1000, which included a maréchal de France who fought alongside Joan of Arc; a knight who participated in the Crusades; and most recently, the celebrated novelist Madame de Lafayette. But despite these ancient claims, the Motier branch of the family descended from the younger sons of younger sons. It was only thanks to a cascade of sonless deaths in the main branch of the family a century earlier that the title “marquis de Lafayette” landed on the shoulders of their obscure Motier cousins.
Gilbert du Motier married up in the world. His wife, Julie de La Rivière, now styled the marquise de Lafayette, came from a family of Breton nobles who traced their lineage to the great medieval king Louis IX. Wealthier and more respectable than the Lafayettes, the Rivières made their home in the center of Paris rather the peripheral outskirts of the kingdom. Julie’s grandfather was a legendary colonel once awarded the Cross of St. Louis, and who remained a fixture of the French military establishment. Her father, the comte de La Rivière, owned lucrative estates in Brittany. Rare among his noble brethren, he possessed a head for business and parlayed shrewd investments and modern agricultural techniques into an enviable fortune.
Gilbert and Julie married in May 1754. In the world of the French nobility, marriage was about dynastic alliances and the consolidation of property. Love was irrelevant. By these standards, their union was a huge success for both families. As an aspiring young soldier, Gilbert’s new connection to the Rivières promised to advance to his career. In exchange, they gave their daughter’s hand to a poor rustic noble willing to accept a modest dowry that wouldn’t strain the family fortune. It was only by happy accident the newlyweds discovered they actually liked each other. Julie didn’t even mind relocating from the heart of Paris to the rugged pastures and hills of Auvergne.
Thanks to his entrance into the Rivière family orbit, Gilbert du Motier secured a commission as a colonel on the eve of yet another European war of dynastic ambition. In the history books, this latest round of royal bickering and imperial maneuvering is called the Seven Years’ War. It started in 1756 as a limited contest in central Europe between Prussia and Austria, but soon drew in all the great European powers and spread across the world from India to the Americas. After receiving orders to join his regiment along the Rhine river, Colonel Gilbert du Motier left Julie in the company of his widowed mother, Marie-Catherine de Chavaniac, his unmarried sister Madeleine, and a small host of servants and staff. Emerging from this little pocket of quiet timeless peace, he rode off to join the destructive thunder of a modern global war.
Colonel Lafayette remained stationed along the Rhine as Julie gave birth to the couple’s first child on September 6, 1757. The next day, a priest baptized the baby boy Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier. Despite this mouthful of an official title, the boy would be called Gilbert, like his father. Acutely aware his parents saddled him with an absurd procession of names, Lafayette later said, “I was baptized like a Spaniard. But it was not my fault. And without pretending to deny myself the protection of Marie, Paul, Joseph, Roch, and Yves, I more often called upon Saint Gilbert.”1 Which is to say he relied on himself.
AT THE TIME of little Gilbert’s birth, the Kingdom of France was divided into three social and legal “estates.” The First Estate comprised the clergy. The Second Estate comprised the nobility. And the Third Estate comprised… everyone else. The first two privileged estates numbered perhaps 5 percent of the population and enjoyed all the wealth, privileges, and power the kingdom had to offer. Of them little was asked and much was given. The Third Estate accounted for the remaining 95 percent of the population. Of them much was asked and little was given.
Gilbert was born into the Second Estate—the nobility. He joined the tiny elite of ducs, comtes, vicomtes, and marquises who ruled the kingdom and claimed a litany of special privileges, exemptions, powers, and responsibilities carried over from the ancient days of feudal society. Young Gilbert was destined to be the noble lord of Chavaniac—where the common peasants who lived around his family estates were obligated to pay certain rents and taxes while displaying social and legal subservience. The Lafayettes enjoyed a local reputation as honest and fair masters. But they were still masters, and they never failed to collect what their vassals owed.
Not all nobles were cut from the same cloth, and the Second Estate itself contained important legal, social, and economic stratifications. As the nobility originally derived from the warrior knights who supported the kings of medieval France, families who traced their lineage back to those armor-clad retainers were called the noblesse d’épée—the sword nobles. But in recent years, a new breed of noble rose up alongside them: the noblesse de robe, or robe nobles. Chronically short of cash, the Crown sold offices and titles to rich members of the Third Estate who ambitiously hoped to transcend their common origins and enjoy the privileges of nobility, particularly exemption from taxes. A one-time payment to the cash-starved Crown secured such titles and privileges. The old sword nobility scorned this upstart class of robe nobles. They were especially bitter because the economic fortunes of many of the sword nobles declined as those of the robe nobles improved. The sword nobility believed they deserved their rank and status because their ancestors once stood courageously by the king at Agincourt and Castillon, not because their father recently made a fortune selling barrels of salted fish.
At the very apex of French society were those who boasted ancient titles and still retained vast personal wealth. The kings of France called upon this innermost elite to make their homes at Versailles, where they were systematically domesticated, tamed, and transformed from independent lords of the realm into pampered courtiers maneuvering for the right to hand the king his stockings or watch him eat dinner. There was very little chance baby Gilbert would ever lay eyes on this world. The Lafayettes were poor provincial sword nobles. Their job was to make sons to inherit their modest family title, then go die in service to the king. This was the fate of many Lafayettes. It would be the fate of Lafayette’s father. It was likely the fate Lafayette expected for himself.
THE NEXT TWO years passed happy and contented. Julie and baby Gilbert lived at Chavaniac under the care of the elderly Madame Chavaniac. Colonel Lafayette remained tied to his regiment on the frontier, only making brief visits home. There was little action on the front lines, though, and he wrote home in July 1759, “We are always in the greatest tranquility, I send this to you with as much pleasure as in the hope of calming your worries. The enemies are in the same position, and we in our unassailable camp.… As we are not in any of the sieges to be made, you can, my dear mother, be in the greatest security on my account.” He closed with expressions of tender affection for his wife and his sister, but he reserved the final line at the bottom of the letter for his only child: “I kiss my son.”2 This was the last letter he ever wrote home.
After a long period of inactivity, the French army finally launched an offensive at the end of month. This advance swept Colonel Lafayette into the thick of the Battle of Minden, one of the largest battles of the war. On August 1, 1759, Colonel Lafayette’s commander brazenly advanced onto an exposed ridge in an apparent show of reckless bravado. British artillery sighted this surprisingly exposed French regiment and pummeled it with shells. The reckless commander was killed immediately. Colonel Lafayette briefly took his place, before a shell blew him to pieces. He was just twenty-seven years old.
An older Lafayette noted ruefully his father’s death fit into a long Lafayette family tradition. Historically the family produced “such a large proportion of people killed on the battlefields, from father to son, that it had become a kind of proverb in our province.”3 Colonel Lafayette left behind a young widow and a two-year-old son who now bore the auspicious and possibly cursed title “marquis de Lafayette.”
Julie, pregnant with the couple’s second child, was grief-stricken. She returned to live with her own family in Paris, where she would give birth to a baby girl a few months later. She left little Gilbert behind under the care of his grandmother Madame Chavaniac. Julie leaving her young child was no great scandal. It was common enough for tutors, nurses, or older relatives to raise the children of the aristocracy. Lafayette’s contemporary Talleyrand, who would serve as foreign minister to multiple French governments, said in his own memoirs he did not enjoy “the sweetness of being under [my] parents’ roof” for a single week of his childhood.4
Despite a dead father and an absent mother, little Gilbert enjoyed a happy childhood. As the little lord of Chavaniac, he stood at the exuberant center of a warm circle of caregivers. His grandmother was revered locally for her prudence, generosity, and judgment. Madame Chavaniac was also a canny estate manager who carefully supervised her grandson’s inheritance. His dead father’s two sisters also joined the household: Aunt Madeleine, who never married, and Aunt Charlotte, who was herself recently widowed. Charlotte came bearing a daughter, Marie, who was just a few years older than Gilbert. Marie became a beloved surrogate sister, for whom Lafayette bore nostalgic affection his entire life, saying, “Never did brother and sister love each other more tenaciously.”5 These women ran the household and watched over the little lord as he romped through the fields, hills, and forests surrounding Chavaniac.
Shortly after the death of his father, two more deaths shaped the course of the little lord’s young life. In April 1760, his younger sister Marie-Louise Jacqueline died after just three months of life. Gilbert would forever after remain an only child—and thus the sole receptacle of all the family’s titles, fortunes, and expectations. The following year his maternal uncle died. As the only heir to the Rivière fortune, his death meant Julie’s three-year-old son Gilbert was now destined to inherit property and riches dwarfing the rustic Lafayette estates—however well they were managed by Madame Chavaniac. The little marquis now represented the future of the Rivières as much as the Lafayettes.
When Gilbert turned seven, Madame Chavaniac hired a young local priest, Abbé Fayon, to serve as a live-in tutor. Fayon taught young Gilbert reading, writing, and math. He introduced classics like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War, which was the story of the conquest of Lafayette’s own homeland. The province of Auvergne derived its named from the Arverni, an ancient Gallic tribe that produced Vercingetorix, the last and greatest leader of the Gallic resistance to the Roman conquest. The Battle of Gergovia, one of Caesar’s rare defeats in the war, occurred practically in Lafayette’s backyard. The boy thrilled with these tales of daring, adventure, courage, rebellion, and glory. He said later, “I can recall no time in my life when I did not love stories of glorious deeds, or have dreams of traveling the world in search of fame.”6
Under the guidance of Abbé Fayon, Gilbert blossomed. An older cousin, the marquis de Bouillé, visited Chavaniac and found the young lord of the house “singularly well-informed for his age… remarkable for his thinking, his wisdom, his discretion, his self-control, and his powers of judgement.” But he also said he detected in the boy “the seed of self-esteem and even ambition.”7 In that time and place, this was not meant as a compliment, but a warning.
No biographer can resist illustrating Lafayette’s emerging character with the story of the Beast of Gévaudan—especially as it is a story Lafayette himself used to illustrate such points. In the late 1760s, local shepherds attributed a string of mysterious attacks on their livestock to a half-mythical beast living in the dark forests. The story of the beast spread, drawing the best hunters in France hoping to win fame by killing the monster. Eight-year-old Gilbert convinced himself that as a local lord, he bore a special responsibility to find and kill the creature. But despite bold marches through the forest, he found no trace of the beast.
This vignette of boldly adventurous youth also shines a light on another side of Lafayette’s personality. One day he was mortified by a notice he read in the newspaper. He later wrote, “I was furious that, by an error in name, they gave mine to another man who was said to have been unable to kill the beast because he was afraid.”8 Intuitively aware of the importance of projecting a heroic public image, this eight-year-old boy went so far as to write an angry letter to the journalist demanding a correction. His guardians possessed the good sense not to send it.
AFTER GILBERT TURNED ten, Julie called him to Paris. The change could not have been more drastic. Chavaniac was an isolated rural hamlet. Paris was one of the largest cities in the world. Gilbert moved from a tiny rural village to a sprawling world capital. Chavaniac was frozen in timeless feudal tradition. Paris was at the cutting edge of art, science, literature, architecture, and philosophy. The natural serenity of the forests, hills, and pastures were replaced by the cacophonous bustle of human civilization: porters, merchants, travelers, artisans, bankers, aristocrats, laborers, and students all sharing the same crowded, muddy, and noisy streets. In Chavaniac, the Lafayette family governed a small collection of peasants—humble and impoverished people led by humble and impoverished nobles. In Paris, the richest aristocrats in France indulged their pretensions to rule the whole world.
After a two-week carriage ride across bumpy roads, Gilbert entered Paris and joined his mother in family apartments at the Luxembourg Palace, a sparkling and ornate monument to the high Renaissance surrounded by meticulously cultivated gardens. Here, the Rivière family rented a cluster of apartments in one of the most opulent buildings in the world. He was very far from the simple and sturdy Château de Chavaniac.
For Gilbert, the move to Paris in 1768 also meant leaving behind a world where he was the star of the show—where even the village elders doffed their caps—to enter a world where he was a nobody. Just some boy. Adults ignored him. Other children gawked at his provincial accent and clumsy manners. But over time, Julie helped him adapt to this new environment, and after years apart, they forged a special bond as she guided him through this bizarre new world.
Though Abbé Fayon escorted Gilbert to Paris, the boy needed more rigorous and formal education to prepare him for life as a Parisian noble. Gilbert’s grandfather enrolled him at the Collège du Plessis, a secondary school operating alongside the Sorbonne since 1322. His classmates did not come from the highest rungs of the French nobility—those types were all at Versailles. Gilbert’s classmates were, instead, sword nobles headed for a career in the military; recently elevated robe nobles bound to become lawyers, civil servants, or clergymen; or particularly bright young boys from the Third Estate attending school on scholarship. This last group produced many future revolutionaries, including Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, who were just a few years younger than Lafayette and attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand around the corner.
The curriculum of these schools later became infamous for the contradiction of ideals and reality planted in the generation raised in the 1760s and 1770s—the generation who would tear down the world they inherited in the 1780s and 1790s. On top of standard courses in grammar, rhetoric, and mathematics, students learned the latest in natural science and philosophy. They read Newton, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, drinking from intellectual waters laced with science, skepticism, and rational idealism. But the core of the destabilizing contradiction was the heavy emphasis on the classics: Cicero, Virgil, Livy, Polybius, and above all Plutarch’s moralizing biographies of famous Greeks and Romans.
It was not lost on observers, then or now, how crazy it was for this most absolutist of monarchies to require an entire generation of students to steep themselves in the literary, moral, and political virtues of the ancient heroes of Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic. Louis-Sébastien Mercier, a famous writer and dramatist slightly older than Lafayette, later wrote of his own education, “The name of Rome was the first to strike my ear.… The names Brutus, and Cato and Scipio pursued me in my sleep, the familiar epistles of Cicero are stuck in my memory.”9 He said when he read Livy, “I was a republican among republicans.”10 He further noted the difficulty of readjusting from a fantasy life as a citizen of republican Rome to the reality of being a subject in an absolute monarchy.
Others were less willing to make this readjustment. Desmoulins later wrote, “The first Republicans who appeared in 1789 were young people, who, fed on the reading of Cicero in the colleges, were passionate about freedom. We were raised in the schools of Rome and Athens and in the pride of the republic.”11 He thought the government insane for believing they could exalt the old Romans without naturally abhorring “the man-eaters of Versailles,” or that young men like himself could “admire the past without condemning the present.”12 And condemn it they would.
Gilbert staked out his own unique position in this tense frontier between ancient freedom and modern oppression. Unlike his friends, who worshipped Cato, Brutus, and Cicero, Lafayette preferred to idolize the free, independent, and martyred glory of his ancient Gallic ancestor Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix was a great leader who lived and died fighting for liberty from the Romans his classmates worshipped. Lafayette even preferred the independent Gauls to their Frankish successors who founded what became the Kingdom of France: “I will not tell you if I am Gaul or Frank,” he said. “I hope to be Gaul… I prefer Vercingétorix defending our mountains than Clovis and his successors.”13
This early attachment to the spirit of freedom is further illustrated in a school assignment that gives us, like the Beast of Gévaudan, another animal avatar through which the young marquis channeled his identity. “I was given one task,” he later wrote, “of composing the description of a perfect horse.” But instead of following his classmates by highlighting ready obedience or an eagerness to please, Lafayette said, “I painted this perfect horse throwing, on the main street, its rider on the ground.”14 Lafayette believed a truly perfect horse would live free of the whips and whims of mankind.
GILBERT’S HAPPY CHILDHOOD came to a startling and tragic end in the spring of 1770 when his mother came down with a sudden illness. She was young and healthy, however, so at first her illness was merely worrisome, not cataclysmic. After a week, her health improved, but without warning she took a sharp turn for the worse. On April 3, 1770, Julie de La Rivière de Lafayette died at the age of just thirty-two.
Twelve-year-old Gilbert was shattered. He was unmoored, left emotionally and psychologically alone in the world. His love for his mother, and hers for him, had become a solid foundation of his life. In our contemporary age of advanced medicine, there reigns a persistent myth that people in the past must have somehow been emotionally tougher and harder than us. More distant from each other. How else can one explain living in a world filled with so much death? But the truth is they were not harder and more distant. They loved each other and were loved by each other. The death of a small child was a deep tragedy. The sorrow, tears, grief, and rage were real. When a twelve-year-old boy is told his mother has died, the wretchedness of lonely depression haunts him no less in the eighteenth century than in the twenty-first century. Just a few weeks later, the family tragedy was compounded by the sudden death of his grandfather—widely considered the result of heartbreak over the death of his beloved daughter Julie.
After the death of his mother, loving guardians no longer protected Gilbert. Now detached agents supervised his development. To this new coterie of minders, he was not Gilbert, a twelve-year-old boy with hopes and dreams and feelings, but the marquis de Lafayette, a young nobleman with lands and estates to manage. And there were lots of lands and estates to manage. He inherited a fortune. After merging the Lafayette property and the Rivière property, the ledgers now bearing Lafayette’s name showed the young marquis to be one of the richest people in the kingdom. He ultimately inherited land generating 100,000 livres annually, in an age where common laborers might make 1,000 livres over the course of their entire lives. In his grief, Gilbert hardly registered this increase in fortune. He said others were more impressed with the revelation than he was, while he “only thought of regretting my mother.”15
This windfall of riches changed his life in ways he could not expect or anticipate. For example, it immediately made him one of the most eligible bachelors in France. Word circulated through society the young marquis de Lafayette just inherited a massive portfolio of estates. As both an orphan and an only child, the boy would not have to split his fortune with anyone. He was a rare unicorn and attracted suitors from the best noble families in the kingdom. Among the first to come calling were representatives from the very best noble family: the Noailles.
The Noailles were the highest of the high nobility, as ancient as they were rich. When John Adams arrived in Paris a few years later, he wrote, “I was very inquisitive concerning this great family of Noailles, and I was told by some of the most intelligent men in France… that there were no less than six marshals of France of this family; that they held so many offices, under the King, that they received eighteen millions of livres annually… this family was in short become more powerful than the house of Bourbon.”16 The most important family in France now aimed to make this orphan marquis from the provinces one of their own.
JEAN DE NOAILLES, duc d’Ayen, was the quintessential enlightened courtier. He was the eldest son of the aging duc de Noailles, the grand patriarch of the Noailles clan. Plump, intelligent, and confident, the duc d’Ayen was a patron of the arts, literature, and culture. He was also an amateur scientist who used every string, lever, and favor at his disposal to secure an appointment to the famous Académie de science. In those chambers he was respected for diligently respecting the scientific method. In the high society of Paris and Versailles, he was praised for his wit and casual ease in the grandest of settings.
But d’Ayen had a problem. His marriage to Henriette d’Aguesseau, now styled the duchesse d’Ayen, produced a happy brood of five young girls. But in patriarchal France, the social and legal ramifications posed by this happy brood were enormous. No sons meant an uncertain future for the great House of Noailles. On a strictly financial level, it meant carving out money and estates to pay the expected dowries of each of his five daughters. A practical man, and not one to avoid unpleasant puzzles, d’Ayen started hunting for husbands even before his eldest daughters reached puberty. For Louise, the oldest, a match had long since been made to her cousin Louis, who already bore the title vicomte de Noailles. This positioned the young man to play the role a natural son would have otherwise played. And as he already bore the name Noailles, the dynastic sleight-of-hand would hardly register in the all-important tables of genealogical lineage.
- “My favorite history book I’ve read this year so far!"—Jeff Glor, CBS This Morning: Saturday
- “Pleasingly informal….Duncan’s biography is written in a loose, colloquial style that sometimes startles with its informality but more often delights with its directness.”—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
- “Mr. Duncan’s ‘Hero of Two Worlds’ offers, in readable prose, much informative description alongside measured interpretation. The author’s sympathetic yet balanced and sensible rendering, some may think, mirrors Lafayette’s eventful life in a revolutionary age.”—The Wall Street Journal
- “[I]n an age of self-indulgent polemics, deranged conspiracy theories, and pervasive disinformation, to listen to Duncan while washing dishes or folding laundry is to believe that facts are knowable, that historical events of immense complexity can be made legible, and—to attempt to answer the question with which I started this review—that history is made neither by singular individuals nor by social forces, but by the idiosyncratic interplay of decisions within well-placed vanguard classes….This is the kind of detail-oriented storytelling that Duncan excels at.”—The New Republic
- “An immensely compelling biography of Lafayette and a disquisition on the limits of bourgeois liberalism.”—Jamelle Bouie, The New York Times
- “Mike Duncan has dug deep into the world of revolutions, and the richness of detail in this book is beguiling. But Mike’s superpower is his storytelling skill. Hero Of Two Worlds hooks you from page one with humor, a sly perspective and a page turning narrative drive worthy of a life like Lafayette’s.”—Rian Johnson, award-winning filmmaker
“Duncan displays impressive skill in keeping his Lafayette an admirable figure…. An outstanding account of an almost impossibly eventful life.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred
- “Engrossing… Duncan effectively balances Lafayette the man with Lafayette the public figure and helps delineate the relationship between the United States and France….His impressive biography provides an insightful look at the American Revolution that can be appreciated by history lovers and general readers alike.”—BookPage
- "Mike Duncan’s excellent, well-researched book portrays Lafayette’s extraordinary life as a fascinating, transatlantic drama with three great revolutions and transitional interludes that carry the reader through seven explosive decades of historical change. The hero of this drama plays starring public roles in the American Revolution and the French Revolutions of 1789 and 1830. But Duncan weaves the people, conflicts, and legacies of these vast public events into stories about a personal life that was always entangled with complex family networks and multi-generational friendships as well as a loving marriage and emotionally-charged relationships with other women."—Lloyd Kramer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and author of Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions
“Lafayette gets his due in this magisterial biography.”
- “Comprehensive and accessible…. Duncan marshals a wealth of information into a crisp and readable narrative. This sympathetic portrait illuminates the complexities of Lafayette and his revolutionary era.”—Publishers Weekly
"Historian and popular history podcaster Duncan brings Lafayette to center stage in a carefully researched biography… [he] offers solid historical research in a hip, humorous, and appealing voice."
- “This is just great writing. Duncan really knows how to assemble a compelling story and with Lafayette he has an amazing subject with which to work. Restores some of the well-deserved luster to the Frenchman’s historical reputation.”—Dan Carlin, host of Hardcore History
- "I first learned of Mike Duncan's work when a prominent politician told me he'd been addicted to his podcast on the French Revolution, and found it startlingly relevant in 2021. Duncan's work is a reminder that history can also be a gripping yarn full of compelling characters, and in Hero of Two Worlds he brings alive one of the great characters of American history."—Ben Smith, New York Times
- “Duncan reintroduces a celebrated hero….A highly readable biography of a committed liberal activist caught up in the fickle political passions of revolutionary extremism, violence, and war. Like Duncan's previous work, this book is engaging and accessible.”—Library Journal
- "All listeners of The History of Rome and Revolutions – as well as readers of The Storm Before The Storm -- know the joy of Mike Duncan guiding them through epic, operatic moments in western history. Now Duncan has zeroed in on his perfect subject, a towering figure through whom Duncan can explore and even upend the birth of political liberalism. Duncan has reintroduced the Marquis de Lafayette for a whole new generation, bringing him to life with all his passions, contradictions and hypocrisies. Never mind the Broadway musicals, here's the Hero of Two Worlds." —Spencer Ackerman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Reign of Terror: How The 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump
- "Mike Duncan's ability to weave a rich and compelling story is on full display in Hero of Two Worlds. He takes the reader on a gripping roller-coaster ride that follows the Marquis de Lafayette's fortunes through decades of victory, defeat, and revolution on two continents… Duncan has an exceptional eye for both human potential and human fallibility, grasping the qualities that make figures like Lafayette real, three-dimensional people, simultaneously victims of circumstance and active participants driving forward the course of history. Hero of Two Worlds is biography and narrative at its best, an informative page-turner crafted by a master of historical storytelling."—Patrick Wyman, creator of Tides of History and author of The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World
- On Sale
- Aug 24, 2021
- Page Count
- 512 pages