I really enjoyed Jay Winik’s last book, April 1865, so was super-excited to see this book come out, even though I had just recently finished American Creation, by Joe Ellis, and in spite of the fact that it weighed in at 688 pages (or about 11,000 Kindle locations, for those of you following along at home). It took me a few weeks to get through, but was really worth it — I enjoyed it a bunch. The writing wasn’t, I think, the best part — it was a little repetitious — but the research and the weaving together of a complicated global story of the 1790s in America, Europe and Russia, is amazing & masterful.
Winik’s basic premise is that we often see the history of the 1790s — a period in which much of the world was questioning the right of kings & queens, and moving boldly towards democracy (although not without some reversals) — as a set of mostly independent histories: the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the reign of Catherine the Great, …
But in truth it was a hyper-connected time, with notables like Thomas Paine, Thaddeus Kosiuszko, and and Lafayette moving from one hot spot to another around the globe, in which kings and queens were more often than not related to each other, and in which the ideas of the Enlightenment spread like fire around the world. That the events in America affected France (and vice versa) is well known & well understood — that they were intertwined with some of the things happening in broader Europe, including Poland and Russia, was learning for me.
Anyway, I thought this book was great, and worth the time it took to read it. I’ll look forward to his next book. (And I’m going to take a break from the late 1700s for a while myself.)