How the French Think

An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People


By Sudhir Hazareesingh

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An award-winning historian presents an absorbing account of the French mind, shedding light on France’s famous tradition of intellectual life

Why are the French such an exceptional nation? Why do they think they are so exceptional? The French take pride in the fact that their history and culture have decisively shaped the values and ideals of the modern world. French ideas are no less distinct in their form: while French thought is abstract, stylish and often opaque, it has always been bold and creative, and driven by the relentless pursuit of innovation.

In How the French Think, the internationally-renowned historian Sudhir Hazareesingh tells the epic and tumultuous story of French intellectual thought from Descartes, Rousseau, and Auguste Comte to Sartre, Claude Lé-Strauss, and Derrida. He shows how French thinking has shaped fundamental Westerns ideas about freedom, rationality, and justice, and how the French mind-set is intimately connected to their own way of life-in particular to the French tendency towards individualism, their passion for nature, their celebration of their historical heritage, and their fascination with death. Hazareesingh explores the French veneration of dissent and skepticism, from Voltaire to the Dreyfus Affair and beyond; the obsession with the protection of French language and culture; the rhetorical flair embodied by the philosophes, which today’s intellectuals still try to recapture; the astonishing influence of French postmodern thinkers, including Foucault and Barthes, on postwar American education and life, and also the growing French anxiety about a globalized world order under American hegemony.

How the French Think sweeps aside generalizations and easy stereotypes to offer an incisive and revealing exploration of the French intellectual tradition. Steeped in a colorful range of sources, and written with warmth and humor, this book will appeal to all lovers of France and of European culture.



The Skull of DescartesThe Skull of Descartes

For the three hundredth anniversary of the death of René Descartes, the French journalist Pierre Dumayet traveled in 1950 to La Haye, where the philosopher had been born in 1596. This village in the Indre-et-Loire had been renamed La Haye–Descartes in his honor in the early nineteenth century, and Dumayet was keen to find out what the locals thought of their most illustrious son, whose seminal work had laid the foundations of rationalist thought. Dumayet’s most memorable interviewee was an elderly inhabitant whose name, appropriately enough, was Madame Raison. She affirmed that the inhabitants were delighted to honor their grand homme, for he had not only been one of the iconic figures of his age, universally admired for his scientific achievements, but also the “lover of a queen.” Intellectual excellence combined with sexual prowess: the cult of Descartes was still flourishing in this remote corner of central France.1

In the eighteenth century, the Abbé de Saint-Pierre hailed Descartes not just as an eminent Frenchman but as “one of the greatest men who ever lived” on account of “the remarkable advances he procured to human reason.” That Descartes should have played such a central role in French thought is in many respects paradoxical, in view of his life. His early interests were not especially philosophical: he was fascinated by warfare, and his first piece of writing was on the rules of fencing; he spent the period between 1620 and 1627 traveling around Europe and living the life of a gentleman in Paris. Even when he devoted himself to philosophy, he read little: he was fascinated by mathematics and was contemptuous of the classics. For the last two decades of his life, largely to avoid the scrutiny of his work by religious authorities in France, he chose to live in Holland, where he was noted for his “passion for solitude”—not a typically French trait at the time (or, for that matter, since).2

Descartes’s eminence as a philosopher rests largely on his Discourse on Method (1637), one of the most famous texts in the French language. Its fourth part concisely summarizes his notion of philosophical rationalism: a belief in the separation of mind and matter (dualism), the identification of the essence of the soul with thought, and the deductive certainty of existence through the skeptical method of reasoning. The passage in which he presented the latter conclusion was characteristic of Descartes’s style, both engaging and intimate:

          I resolved to pretend that nothing which had ever entered my mind was any more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterwards I became aware that, while I decided thus to think that everything was false, it followed necessarily that I who thought thus must be something; and observing that this truth: I think, therefore I am [cogito ergo sum], was so certain and so evident that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were not capable of shaking it, I judged that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.3

This notion that thought was the defining attribute of humankind was the cornerstone of Descartes’s rationalism. It was a metaphysical proposition, and less an affirmation of particular substantive principles than an invitation to order one’s thinking according to clear logical rules—with the potential implication that doing so might elicit different, and possibly conflicting, patterns of reasoning. Hence one of the abiding paradoxes of the Cartesian tradition is that even among his own devotees, the interpretations of Descartes’s legacy were enormously varied. The philosopher Jean Le Rond d’Alembert held Descartes as the inspiration for French resistance to tyranny; for the critic Désiré Nisard, he was the force behind French literary genius; the republican thinker Edgar Quinet viewed him as a symbol of Christian humility; and the playwright Marcelle Joignet was only one in a long retinue who lauded him as the progenitor of feminism.4

Like all canonical thinkers (and this, of course, added to his renown), his work also provoked criticism and hostility. From the outset, many Catholics believed that his insistence on the primacy of individual reason was a tacit encouragement of irreligiosity and even atheism—hence his work being put by the Vatican on the Index of Prohibited Works. Voltaire thought his science was wrong on all major counts, and that his conception of man was “far removed from reality.” Some of his critics deplored his abstraction and rootless universalism; others deemed him a shallow thinker, citing Blaise Pascal’s terse dismissal of his philosophy as “useless and uncertain.” To this day, Descartes is lambasted for his ruthless determination to provide experimental proof that animals were not sentient beings. Summarizing his seminal influence on the history of Western cruelty to animals, a pet-loving Descartophobe claimed that the philosopher “cut open his [own] wife’s poodle.”5

To exacerbate this glorious cacophony further, the habit also developed of using Cartesianism as a shorthand to describe a range of French cultural traits. For the essayist Charles Péguy, who saluted Descartes as a “cavalryman who set out at a good stride,” Cartesian thought was irreducibly Christian (and French) because of its spiritual quality, notably its ability to convey a sense of the experience of God. However, Cartesian skepticism was also associated with more negative collective attitudes, as indicated in one writer’s frustrated account of his compatriots’ temperament: “Just as Descartes rested his method on his cogito ergo sum, whoever wishes to devise the political system which suits us best should start from this premise: we are French, therefore we are born to oppose. We love opposition not for its results, but despite its results: we love it for its own sake. Our mood is combative, and we always need an enemy to fight, a fortress to capture. We like to launch the assault, not so as to enjoy the spoils of victory, but for the pleasure of charging up the ladder.”6

Nothing more perfectly symbolizes France’s obsessive passion for its national philosopher than the fate of Descartes’s remains. His body was brought back to his native land from Sweden (where he died) and reburied in 1667, whereupon he became a celebrity even among occultists: a poem refers to a young woman conversing with “the illustrious and learned ghost” of Descartes. The revolutionaries joined in the exchanges a century later, with several abortive attempts to transfer his remains into the Panthéon in the 1790s. After a brief transit at the convent of the Petits Augustins in Paris, his ashes were eventually reinterred in the Saint-Germain-des-Près Church in 1819—where they remain to this day. But two years later, there was a further twist, as the Institut de France received a skull purporting to be that of Descartes, complete with the signatures of all its former Swedish owners (including a certain Arngren, who, no doubt in honor of the philosopher’s mathematical accomplishments, had allegedly displayed it in his gambling den). For the next hundred years, the skull was an object of scientific controversy. Successive generations of French anatomists, phrenologists, and anthropologists argued vigorously about its authenticity. The results fell somewhat short of Cartesian certainty, but were conclusive enough to allow the relic’s temporary exhibition in the Jardin des Plantes collection. No doubt to enhance its credibility, the skull was placed next to another cranium bearing the inscription, “Subject who indulged in excessive self-abuse, died an imbecile.”7

A Broad Church

If, as will be seen in the following chapter, occultism reflected the French penchant for mystery, and the uncovering of what was hidden from plain sight, the Cartesian heritage represented the opposite inclination: a form of reasoning based on logical clarity and the search for certainty. A key aspect here was the rejection of arguments based on religious faith. As the revolutionary playwright Marie-Joseph Chénier put it, Descartes’s primary contribution was to “accustom men increasingly to found their knowledge on examination rather than belief.” And so, particularly from the nineteenth century onward, the adjective “Cartesian” ceased to be a purely philosophical term and was increasingly used to denote a style of reasoning deemed to be distinctively Gallic. It was a style that emphasized the importance of providing a fixed and unvarying meaning to concepts; expressing the truth in clear and distinct ideas; arguing with precision and elegance; moving from simple to complex forms; cultivating a sense of moral autonomy and intellectual audacity; and overcoming one’s passions and instead approaching issues rationally.8

Not that these attributes were always welcomed: a fetish for precision could easily turn into a love of formalism for its own sake; deductive thinking could lead one away from knowledge based on experience; too much autonomy could undermine the benefits of moral solidarity; and excessive boldness could degenerate into the “intoxication of superiority.” It was precisely this double-edged quality that the sociologist Émile Durkheim had in mind when he affirmed that Cartesian thinking was “profoundly rooted in [France’s] national spirit,” before concluding, “Every French person is to some degree, whether consciously or not, a Cartesian.”9

Part of the appeal of this shared sensibility lay in its flexibility, and indeed its somewhat hazy quality. This fluidity allowed the Cartesian flag to be flown by thinkers and philosophical movements that interpreted rationalism in different ways. During the first half of the nineteenth century, one of the most original standard-bearers of Cartesianism was Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism, whose wider thought will be explored in Chapter 4. Such was Comte’s intellectual identification with Descartes (and such, too, was his immodesty) that he compared one of his own early works to the Discourse on Method and hailed Descartes as the master of modern philosophy; he also shared Descartes’s view that common sense was the best guide to practical morality.10

Comte’s philosophy was geared toward one overriding goal: the completion of the scientific revolution in human understanding, a revolution he believed had been initiated by Descartes (along with Francis Bacon and Galileo). Comte continued to profess his admiration for Cartesianism in his later, more spiritual works, notably, when he suggested that women were drawn to his philosophy, as they had been to Descartes’s, because of their capacity for empathy and their practical common sense. Comte admired Descartes because he had elaborated a new scientific method based on geometric certainty—an approach that had constituted the most decisive breakthrough in modern knowledge and paved the way for Comte’s own “social physics.” In overall terms, Comte’s Cartesianism represented the dogmatic side of the tradition—especially in its search for a unifying, homogeneous doctrine of human understanding and its attachment to the notion of internal discipline and self-mastery, the necessary condition for reconciling man with the objective laws of nature.11

A different but no less authoritarian (and metaphysical) form of Cartesian rationalism was invoked by the Doctrinaires, a collection of thinkers who shaped the conservative politics of the July Monarchy, the regime that governed France under the reign of King Louis-Philippe between 1830 and 1848. For François Guizot, one of its principal intellectual figures, Descartes was the symbol of a particular kind of French common sense that was both practical and philosophical: “This common sense is reason, and the French spirit is both rational and reasonable.” Against those who viewed skepticism as a potentially subversive philosophical method, the Doctrinaires hastened to quote the first moral maxim of the Discourse, in which Descartes stressed the virtue of obeying the laws and customs of one’s country and governing oneself “in all other matters according to the most moderate opinions and those furthest from excess.” More generally, they emphasized that the purpose of Cartesian doubt was to produce certainty. The Doctrinaire intellectual Charles de Rémusat thus observed that “Cartesian doubt is the method of a genius full of confidence and youthfulness, marching toward the conquest of the new world of the human spirit.”12

A key element of this modern vision was the separation of philosophical thinking from religious belief: as Victor de Broglie, another of the leading Doctrinaire thinkers, noted, “Descartes set himself and attained the goal of establishing the absolute independence of philosophy from religion, without which there can be neither a philosophy worthy of the name, nor a religion which is solidly grounded.” To the extent that the Doctrinaires sought to secularize public life and establish a political system resting on purely rational philosophical foundations, their conception of reason was progressive. However, their cloistered liberalism was neither egalitarian nor individualistic: its central purpose was to enshrine the ideal of bourgeois rule and to discredit any idea of radical political change.13

This agenda left no room for utopian daydreaming: as the quasi-official philosopher of the July Monarchy, Victor Cousin, put it, Descartes’s thinking was to be cherished for its “absence of chimeras and illusions.” Cousin was Descartes’s most enthusiastic and effective nineteenth-century champion, producing a new edition of his works and reorganizing the teaching of philosophy in educational curricula so as to anchor it around his sanitized and ideologically neutered version of Cartesianism: a doctrine whose purpose was to “reveal known truths” about human psychology, spirituality, and the existence of God, and thus justify the status quo.14

From the mid-nineteenth century onward, alongside these elitist Comtian and Doctrinaire sensibilities, there also emerged more distinctly democratic versions of Cartesian rationalism. Describing his initiation into Rousseau’s thought in his youth, Jules Michelet compared it to “that disposition toward uncertainty and doubt which Descartes requires for the search of the truth.” At the time of the 1848 Revolution, which overthrew the July Monarchy and founded the democratic government of the Second Republic, Claude Husson, a philosophy teacher from Caen, hailed Descartes’s cogito as the dawn of a new age of freedom because it had opened the path toward human enlightenment: “Thought, the spirit, the human self had at last become the defining principle of politics.” This Cartesianism, too, was grounded in a metaphysical conception of man. But this was not an egotistical self, retrenched in private contemplation, but rather an individual at one with the universe and imbued with the true spirit of God. By liberating humanity from its false idols, Husson wrote, Descartes’s cogito had thus “proclaimed the true republican principle.”15

The philosopher Étienne Vacherot concurred, hailing Descartes (somewhat exaggeratedly) as the initiator of the “complete and absolute emancipation of the human mind.” In the opening of his Politique radicale (Radical politics) in which he paid fulsome tribute to Descartes, the republican thinker Jules Simon was just as emphatic: “I believe only in my own reason, I submit only to its evidence. Prophecy, tradition, majority have to appear before my reason, as before their supreme judge.” The republican statesman Jules Ferry appealed to this humanist conception of rationalism centered around the notion of moral autonomy when he placed his education reforms “in the tradition of Descartes and Bacon, who two centuries ago secularized human knowledge and philosophy.”16

Yet this Cartesian pedagogy could also be interpreted conservatively. An edited collection of philosophical texts for schoolteachers in the late nineteenth century gave a prominent place to Descartes’s “provisional morality,” stressing the imperatives of deference to national laws and customs and “self-improvement rather than changing the order of the world”; this was a logical continuation of Victor Cousin’s authority-loving Cartesianism. But there were also more combative interpretations. Freemasons of the Grand Orient de France (the largest Masonic organization in the country) struggling to secularize their movement invoked the spirit of Cartesianism (there was a Descartes lodge in Tours).17

For those of a more robustly anticlerical disposition, Descartes became a symbol of religious persecution. According to the socialist freethinker Maurice Barthélemy, the philosopher had been a “martyr” of the rationalist cause, as throughout his life he had been “tormented and slandered by religious bigotry.” Above all, Cartesian reason could inspire the ideal of a justice based on evidence and rigorous proof, as during the Dreyfus Affair, the case of a Jewish army officer who in 1894 was wrongly convicted of spying for Germany (he was later exonerated). In his memoirs, the socialist leader Léon Blum explained the writer Anatole France’s support for the “Dreyfusard” cause as an expression of his “rationalist faith,” which he summarized in these terms: “[Anatole France] was a Dreyfusard because the methodical and scientific work of the intellect was in his eyes the only certain reality.”18

The sheer breadth of this Cartesian rationalism—its positivist celebration of science, its Doctrinaire association with the essence of reason, and its republican emphasis on moral autonomy—naturally invited controversy. In his writings on the Dreyfus Affair, the nationalist Maurice Barrès accused the republicans’ obsessive Cartesianism of undermining tradition: in this view, which was widely shared among French conservatives, true reason was not an individual but a collective property. From within the education system, some voices criticized the teaching of Cartesian skepticism, saying it led to a particular type of facile French mentality and ultimately produced “rebellious minds without a will to act, quibblers rather than hard workers, critics and dreamers rather than men of action.”19

The most wide-ranging attack on this type of rationalism came in the first volume of the historian Hippolyte Taine’s Les Origines de la France contemporaine (The origins of contemporary France), in which Descartes was identified as the source of a mode of reasoning that had perverted the entire modern French way of thinking. This “classical spirit” purported “to follow in all inquiry, in all confidence, and without any restraint or precaution, the methods of mathematics; to extract, circumscribe, and isolate a few very simple and general notions, then, without any reference to experience, to compare and combine them, and from the artificial compound thus obtained, to deduce by pure reasoning all the consequences which it contains.” For Taine, a critic of the French revolutionary tradition, this Cartesianism had exercised its baleful influence far beyond the confines of pure rationalism: Rousseau and his disciples had fallen under the influence of this mode of reasoning while they were deducing an entire set of political institutions from an abstract theory of human nature.20

The Republican Patriot

As the historian Claude Nicolet observed, “Descartes was not a republican, but one could not be a republican without Descartes.” The first half of the twentieth century marked the apogee of this republican rationalism, with the tricentenary of the Discourse in 1937 turning into a national celebration. The French government issued a special commemorative stamp in Descartes’s honor, and the philosopher Henri Bergson came up with his very own Cartesian maxim: “We must act as men of thought, and think as men of action.” Commenting on the impact of Descartes’s works on his generation, the philosopher Gérard Milhaud observed that “there exists in France a sort of Cartesian mystique which makes of our man a ‘hero of the nation.’”21

Descartes biographer Charles Adam was barely exaggerating when he noted that “in France today, not a week, indeed not a day passes without someone publicly proclaiming his adhesion to the Cartesian method, or the Cartesian spirit.” Adam’s Descartes was an imaginative reinvention, a genial philosopher who had founded the “great charter of modern society” and foreshadowed the republican principles of solidarity and fraternity. Likewise, Adam presented Descartes’s belief in the universality of common sense as an anticipation of the Third Republic’s educational reforms in the late nineteenth century. All the branches of the republican family found a place for Descartes in their pantheon: in his Descartes social (The social Descartes), the progressive writer Maxime Leroy sought to demonstrate that the philosopher’s concern for social hygiene anticipated the French Saint-Simonian and socialist traditions.22

The figure who helped to popularize this republican version of the Cartesian spirit the most was the philosopher Émile Chartier (Alain), whose Radical movement dominated the politics of the later Third Republic. Alain regarded Descartes as the father of modern French thought, “the Prince of Understanding.” Through his skeptical method, he said, Descartes had invented a form of reasoning that was centered around the reflective, thinking individual: “No man is more whole than Descartes, no one is less open to fragmentation, no one has thought better from the perspective of the self.” (Alain’s anthropocentrism extended to embracing the Cartesian postulate that animals were incapable of thought.) In his Propos (Commentaries), short and pithy pieces published in the French press and aimed at a general audience, Alain elaborated a practical moral code that drew heavily on Cartesian maxims; he often repeated that there was something Cartesian in every man. Among the values celebrated in this ethic were the spiritual quality of freedom; the importance of self-understanding and of containing one’s negative passions; the avoidance of irresolution and the cultivation of self-confidence; the quest for happiness through optimism; the intellectual rewards of solitude; and, above all, the formation of judgment through patient and careful reflection.23

Alain’s rationalism, too, was highly metaphysical. He likened the justification of republicanism to Descartes’s geometry: “an a priori truth and an established rule, to which experience has to be bent.” Yet this apparent dogmatism was tempered by a strong dose of individualism, which also was inspired by Cartesian skepticism. Thus Alain’s concept of “civic distrust,” the cornerstone of his political philosophy, was an extrapolation of Descartes’s method of doubt. He believed that citizens should constrain their rulers not by trying to govern in their place, but by subjecting their utterances and deeds to systematic scrutiny in the same way as a logician would treat a philosophical proposition. This “power of refusal” (and this concept, too, was very Cartesian) was to be forged away from large gatherings, where individual judgment could too easily be swayed by wider groups. Instead, it was ideally exercised by the “solitary” citizen “seeking not to harmonize his thought with that of his neighbor.” Alain’s conception of citizenship was an original synthesis of Cartesianism with republicanism: “If we wish a public life which is worthy of Humanity, the individual must remain the individual everywhere. Only the individual is capable of thought.”24

The culmination of this celebration of Descartes as the emblem of republican rationalism was his coronation as symbol of the nation. One of the philosopher’s most valuable assets in the later nineteenth century, in the context of the heightened salience of German thought in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, was precisely his Frenchness: he was incontrovertibly Gallic in his catholic spirit as well as in his literary genius, which was “embedded in the French language, proceeding from the same order and following its movement and rhythm.” World War I was a turning point in this nationalist metamorphosis. Alain, who was a combatant, made a number of pointed references to Descartes’s “swordsmanship” in his postwar writings.25

Others were less subtle. In a study published in 1921, the philosopher Jacques Chevalier credited Descartes with inspiring France’s victory. He described the supreme military commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch as the highest embodiment of the Cartesian spirit. The heroism of the peasants who had fought to defend their land against German barbarity was also deemed “Cartesian,” as it expressed the philosopher’s cherished virtues of hard work, common sense, and dedication to the common good. The textual basis of the latter claim was slim, but this was no time for literary nuance. The Discourse on Method represented the “essence of French spirit,” a judicious synthesis of dualities: “realism and idealism, aptitude for action and taste for contemplation, the cold audacity of thought and the burning flame of sentiment, a cult of positivity, which always subjects its conclusions to the light of evidence, and a passionate belief in spiritual reality, which constantly drives humanity to transcend nature and surpass itself.” And just in case this lengthy catalog was somehow deemed insufficient, Chevalier also recruited Descartes’s philosophy to spearhead a supremely patriotic objective: “the liberation of French thought from the yoke of German thinking.”26

As World War II approached, this Cartesian nationalism resurfaced, as when the writer Georges Duhamel referred to the French cultural presence in Europe as the “Descartes Line,” an intellectual extension of the Maginot fortifications. The historian Henri Berr invoked Descartes’s spirit as the inspiration for the French values of “reason, truth and humanity,” which contrasted with Hitler’s Machiavellian spirit of “savagery and barbarity.”27


  • "An impressive study."—Economist
  • "A thoughtful, stimulating and witty historical survey of French thought."—Financial Times
  • "Superb.... Hazareesingh has done more than anyone writing in English to unravel what the sociologist Emmanuel Todd recently called the 'le mystere francais.'"—Prospect (UK)
  • "Scholarly, penetrating and sometimes very funny.... This is a marvellous, and marvellously readable book: by turns illuminating, affectionate and exasperated."—Independent (UK)
  • "A stimulating contribution.... In this work [Hazareesingh] displays not only a deep familiarity with French society, but a rare sense for a foreigner of what really matters in French intellectual life once you dig below the surface. He is an excellent teller of tales with a good eye for the revealing anecdote."—New York Review of Books
  • "Focusing with great intelligence and subtlety on distinctively French conceptions of history, nationhood, democratic participation, existentialism, and the creative tension between order and imagination.... Anyone who loves, loathes, or is just perplexed by self-styled French intellectuals--that is, most educated French people--should read this book.—Foreign Affairs
  • "[An] engaging, accessible book.... Hazareesingh's superbly researched work traces the history of this spirit, from Descartes, Rousseau and Voltaire to latter-day politicians who talk of France's 'great destiny'. Read this excellent book and next time you witness vigorous finger-pointing in a bistrot, you'll know why the subject being debated is likely to be very lofty indeed!"—France Today
  • "Hazareesingh has a gift for distilling mounds of information into clear, engrossing prose. This is above all a convivial book, true to its subtitle though not without a finely tuned bullshit detector.... What one comes away with is the unshakable sense that however they do it, the French really do think differently than we do--and this is what we love about them."—New Republic
  • "Few historians would have the courage to write a book with a title like How the French Think. But few historians know France, and the French, better than Sudhir Hazareesingh. He has brought his formidable knowledge and experience of the country to bear in a book that is consistently engaging and thought-provoking, and written with a light touch that makes it a delight to read."—David Bell, author of The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It
  • "It is unusual to laugh aloud when reading a history of ideas, but I did so more than once while reading How the French Think. Its sweep is thrilling and its expositions lucid, but it carries its learning lightly and is written with an astringent wit. Everyone interested in France and the French will enjoy and learn from this book."—Robert Tombs, professor of French history at Cambridge University
  • "Stendhal wrote that a novel was 'un miroir qu'on promene le long d'un chemin.' And no better mirror on the wandering path of French culture of yesterday and today could be found than this wise and gentle book, as learned as it is engaging. Peguy was worried about what God would have to think about if the French were not there to amuse and inform him. Now we know why this might still be so."—Patrice Higonnet, professor of French history at Harvard University

On Sale
Sep 22, 2015
Page Count
352 pages
Basic Books

Sudhir Hazareesingh

About the Author

Sudhir Hazareesingh is a Fellow in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy, and author of the prize-winning books The Legend of Napoleon and In the Shadow of the General. He divides his time between Paris and Oxford.

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