Nobility Reimagined: The Patriotic Nation in Eighteenth-Century France

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9780801489495: Nobility Reimagined: The Patriotic Nation in Eighteenth-Century France

The mature nationalism that fueled the French Revolution grew from patriotic sensibilities fostered over the course of a century or more. Jay M. Smith proposes that the French thought their way to nationhood through a process of psychic adjustment premised on the reimagining of nobility, a social category and moral concept that had long dominated the cultural horizons of the old regime. Nobility Reimagined follows the elaboration of French patriotism across the eighteenth century and highlights the accentuation of key, and conflicting, features of patriotic thought at defining moments in the history of the monarchy. By enabling the articulation of different futures for nobility and nation, the patriotic awakening that marked the old regime helped to create both the quest for patriotic unity and the fierce constitutional battles that flowered at the time of the Revolution. Smith argues that the attempt to redefine and restore French nobility brought forth competing visions of patriotism with correlating models of the social and political order. Although the terms of public debate have changed, the same basic challenge continues to animate contemporary politics: how to reconcile inspiring and unifying nationalist ideals―honor, virtue, patriotism―with persistent social frictions rooted in class, ideology, ethnicity, or gender.

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From the Inside Flap:

"In this elegant, thought-provoking book, Jay M. Smith challenges us to rethink the status of traditional elites in the social imaginary of prerevolutionary France. The book's thesis about the relationship between nobility and patriotism overturns many hallowed assumptions about images of a 'reactionary' aristocracy and should provoke lively debate in the field."—Sarah C. Maza, Jane Long Professor in the Humanities, Northwestern University

"Nobility Reimagined is a lively, nuanced, and learned account of the eighteenth century's political imagination. Jay M. Smith explores the complicated ways in which writers combined a shared repertory of ideas about social distinction and community; the result is a significant contribution to our understanding of the cultural and social origins of the French Revolution."—Jonathan Dewald, UB Distinguished Professor, University at Buffalo

About the Author:

Jay M. Smith is Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Culture of Merit: Nobility, Royal Service, and the Making of Absolute Monarchy in France, 1600–1789.

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