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We’ve decided to experiment with a new feature on the blog called “close-reading Tocqueville.” The premise is simple: we’ll periodically select one chapter from Tocqueville’s corpus and comment on what we find.
To begin, I chose Tocqueville’s chapter, “On Certain Tendencies Peculiar to Historians in Democratic Centuries” (Democracy in America, II.1.20). The chapter follows a series of reflections on genre, in which Tocqueville asks how writers go about composing works of science, poetry, and drama in the democratic era. When it comes time to consider the genre of history, Tocqueville draws a customary contrast between the aristocratic and democratic style.
In many ways, aristocratic historians had it easier.Read More »