Revolutionary Ideas: The Rights of Man to Robespierre, by Jonathan Israel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-691-15172-4) 870 pp. Hardcover, $39.95.
Was Maximilien Robespierre always the “all-consuming crocodile” Swedish radical Thomas Thorild found him to be? On what issues did the Hébertistes differ from the parti Brissot? Les Enragés from your garden-variety sansculotte? Why did the radical Left prefer Diderot to Rousseau? How did a revolution that began by preaching the “rights of man” in a secular society based on reason fall victim, first, to the authoritarian populism of Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat and then, a few years later, to the coup of 18 Brumaire, which delivered the country into Napoleon’s hands?