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Higonnet, Patrice 1938- (Patrice L.-R. Higonnet, Patrice Louis-Rene Higonnet)


Born February 3, 1938, in Paris, France; son of Rene (an engineer) and Marie-Therese Higonnet; married Ethel Parmele Cardwell, June 3, 1970 (de- ceased); married Margaret Randolph Cardwell (a professor), August 13, 1974; children: Anne, Philippe. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1958, graduate study, 1960-63; Oxford University, graduate study, 1958-60.


Office—Minda de Gunsburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University, 27 Kirkland St. at Cabot Way, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and educator. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Robert Walton Goelet Professor of French History.


Grants from Social Science Research Council and American Philosophical Society.


(As Patrice L.-R. Higonnet) Pont de Montvert: Social Structure and Politics in a French Village, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1971.

Class, Ideology, and the Rights of Nobles during the French Revolution, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1988.

(Editor, with David S. Landes and Henry Rosovsky) Favorites of Fortune: Technology, Growth, and Economic Development since the Industrial Revolution, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

Goodness beyond Virtue: Jacobins during the French Revolution, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.

Paris: Capital of the World, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Attendant Cruelties: Nation and Nationalism in American History, Other Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals and professional journals.


Harvard professor Patrice Higonnet has published several books and numerous articles on the social and political history of eighteenth-century France. In Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism, Higonnet explores why the French Revolution was less successful than its American counterpart in realizing democratic values and why it generated so much more violence. Writing in the New Republic, Simon Schama called Higonnet's study "a challenging and important comparison between French and American experience." Likening Sister Republics to the works of François Furet and other historians who have examined such questions, Schama noted that Higonnet "locates the problems once more in different social structures and traditions of authority. Like Furet, he sees the origins of disaster in France in the virtual impossibility of reconciling the opposite tendencies of individualism and collectivism in French politics." Observing that works such as those of Higonnet and Furet "may not be the most light-hearted way to toast the [French] bicentennial," Schama added that "the historian is a commentator, not a naive celebrant, and the quality of intelligent disenchantment in these works vindicates that role."

In Goodness beyond Virtue: Jacobins during the French Revolution Higonnet offers a detailed examination of the Jacobins and presents a new explanation of how their humanitarian ideals degenerated into the terror they unleashed during the French Revolution. Stanley Hoffman, writing in Foreign Affairs, pointed out that traditional historical theory has portrayed the Jacobins "as a pre-totalitarian terrorist force, an omen of the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution." Colin Jones of the Times Literary Supplement observed that the weight of responsibility for the Jacobins' outrages has often been placed upon their leader, Maximilian Robespierre. Higonnet serves up a more generous and decentralized view of the Jacobins. Using ample firsthand sources he shows how many of the decisions the Jacobins made that subsequently led to acts of terror originated not with Robespierre but on the fringes of the group, at times even from elements outside of Paris. He also contends that the Jacobins' well-meaning Enlightenment ideas could not overcome the ideological inheritance of French history, namely intolerance and authoritarianism. Higonnet concludes that the Jacobins were the victims of their own historical circumstances and believes that, while one can be repulsed by their actions, one can still admire their intentions. Hoffman described Goodness beyond Virtue as "deeply informed, compassionate and fair," and felt that it "has brought fresh scholarship, judicious reflections, and intriguing social comparisons to bear on this endlessly fascinating subject."

In Paris: Capital of the World, Higonnet advances the argument that his native city of Paris, both as a reality and as a subject of mythology, nostalgia, and romance, has long led the world in areas as distinct as science, art, sex, crime, self-identity, and revolution. The author "draws a fresh social, cultural and political portrait of Paris from the mid-eighteenth century through the nineteenth century," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. In what Library Journal critic Marie Marmo Mullaney called a "complex work of cultural and intellectual history," Higonnet provides not a standard political history of Paris, but a "history of how the city has been seen, remembered, conceived, and visualized," Mullaney stated. "The book, then, is not so much a history of Paris as a history of perceptions of Paris," observed James R. Lehning in History: Review of New Books. Higonnet delves deeply into the many ways that Paris has been seen and interpreted over the years by artists, writers, poets, residents, political figures, and others enraptured by the considerable charms of the city. "Perceptions of events, and myths, are given priority over the events themselves," remarked Philip Mansel in the English Historical Review. "Higonnet's vivid intellectual style is graceful, mesmerizing, and laced with irony," observed Historian reviewer Rosemary Wakeman. "This work displays immense scholarship, and a huge range of points of reference," commented David Andress, writing in the Canadian Journal of History. Higonnet's volume presents readers with a "seamless synthesis between the myth and the history of modern Paris," observed the Publishers Weekly writer. His "account is literate, knowledgeable, and gracefully presented," Lehning remarked.

Attendant Cruelties: Nation and Nationalism in American History presents a careful analysis and scholarly discussion of the multiple causes and effects of American nationalism as it influences politics both in the United States and throughout the world. Higonnet contrasts patriotism, which he sees as representing peace and inclusion, with nationalism, which he interprets as an ideology of war and exclusion. In a narrative that covers American history from 1630 to 2006, he describes how the country's political and international profile has swung between the poles of these two concepts. He looks at how Americans, since the days of the Puritans, have seen conflicts with enemies not as disagreements that can be analyzed and settled but as fundamental conflicts between good and evil that justify violence and other extreme actions. This tendency continues to manifest itself in the present day, Higonnet maintains, through the policies of current administrations. A California Bookwatch reviewer called the book a "powerful survey" of the roots and results of American nationalism, while a Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed it a "blistering examination of American nationalism's dark side."



American Historical Review, December, 1982, review of Class, Ideology, and the Rights of Nobles during the French Revolution, p. 1398.

Books in Canada, December, 2005, George Fetherling, review of Paris: Capital of the World, p. 38.

California Bookwatch, July, 2007, review of Attendant Cruelties: Nation and Nationalism in American History.

Canadian Journal of History, August, 2005, David Andress, review of Paris, p. 328.

Choice, March, 1992, T.E. Sullivan, review of Favorites of Fortune: Technology, Growth, and Economic Development since the Industrial Revolution, p. 1128; May, 2003, D.A. Harvey, review of Paris, p. 1616.

English Historical Review, November, 2003, Philip Mansel, review of Paris, p. 1410.

Foreign Affairs, March, 1999, Stanley Hoffman, review of Goodness beyond Virtue: Jacobins during the French Revolution, p. 148; March, 2003, review of Paris, p. 153.

French Politics, Culture, and Society, fall, 2004, Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, review of Paris, p. 150.

Historian, fall, 2004, Rosemary Wakeman, review of Paris, p. 622.

History: Review of New Books, winter, 2003, James R. Lehning, review of Paris, p. 73.

International History Review, September, 2004, Donald Reid, review of Paris, p. 627.

Journal of Economic History, September, 1992, Sidney Pollard, review of Favorites of Fortune, p. 748.

Journal of Economic Literature, March, 1992, review of Favorites of Fortune, p. 302.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, spring, 1993, Harold D. Woodman, review of Favorites of Fortune.

Journal of Modern History, March, 2005, Colin Jones, review of Paris, p. 201.

Journal of Political Economy, December, 1992, William N. Parker, review of Favorites of Fortune, p. 1280.

Journal of Social History, spring, 2004, David P. Jordan, review of Paris, p. 806.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007, review of Attendant Cruelties.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Marie Marmo Mullaney, review of Paris, p. 75.

New Republic, July 31, 1989, Simon Schama, review of Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of Paris, p. 54.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2007, review of Attendant Cruelties.

Times Literary Supplement, May 21, 1999, Colin Jones, review of Goodness beyond Virtue, p. 11.


Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University Web site, (January 1, 2008), biography of Patrice Higonnet.

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Higonnet, Patrice 1938- (Patrice L.-R. Higonnet, Patrice Louis-Rene Higonnet)

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