Many experts consider Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America the best book ever written on democracy and on the United States. Published in two series of separate volumes, in 1835 and 1840, Tocqueville’s political classic is filled with an astonishing number of penetrating insights and acute observations on the nature of democracy, the character of Americans and the exceptional nation they were carving out of the wilderness in the 1800s. Many of Tocqueville’s remarkably prescient judgments remain as valid today as they were when he wrote them more than 160 years ago. Hugh Brogan, political scientist and professor, provides an informative account of the life and times of this brilliant French intellectual who expertly captured the essence of America and Americans. Brogan’s heavily annotated, exhaustively referenced book is both exceedingly comprehensive and highly nuanced. Many say that to understand America, you should read Tocqueville’s classic book. getAbstract says that to understand its renowned author, you should read this commanding biography.


A Young Nobleman from Normandy

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was born in 1805 to a venerable aristocratic family in Normandy. He grew up to be a profound intellectual and the celebrated author of De la démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America). His forebears were proud members of the long-standing ancien régime that ruled France for hundreds of years up until the French Revolution in the late 1700s. Throughout his life, Alexis de Tocqueville enjoyed the many, though diminished, privileges that noble families retained after the Revolution, and he wrote a famous book entitled L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution.

Tocqueville was democracy’s prophet, champion and proselytizer. Yet, from his childhood to his death in 1859, he was, from his head to his toes, a nobleman, and always conscious of his and his peers’ aristocratic rights. His family strongly supported the Bourbon kings. In 1793, his great-grandfather, Chrétien-Guillaume Lamoignon de Malesherbes, served as Louis XVI’s counsel before the National Convention. Not only was this renowned philosopher unsuccessful in the King’s defense, but he also soon followed Louis...

About the Author

Hugh Brogan is a research professor of history at the University of Essex in England. He is a former journalist with The Economist. Brogan taught extensively at various U.S. universities. His principal field of study is the history of the United States, with an emphasis on politics.

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