For many people, the American Revolution is purely about America achieving independence from Britain, but it had much, much deeper reverberations globally. This is the story that Jonathan Israel, one of the most exciting historians of early modern Europe, tells in The Expanding Blaze. This is an intellectual history, more than 700 pages in length, but Israel’s prose is highly readable, so don’t be too intimidated.
The book is part of Israel’s series of books on the Enlightenment, where he gives the credit for modernity to a group of radical thinkers. Israel is always contrarian in approach, which is part of what makes him so fun to read. Even if you don’t agree with all his arguments, they can’t help but get you thinking about where it was that modern society, and the values we cherish, came from.
You can also read our interview with Jonathan Israel on the Enlightenment.