The Ascent of the Liberals

Required Reading

Immanuel Wallerstein, “Citizens All? Citizens Some! The Making of The Citizen,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 45:4 (October 2003)

Sarah Maza, The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750-1850 (Harvard University Press), Introduction, chapter 5.


David Ricardo, “The Iron Law of Wages” (1817)

“In Defense of Laissez-Faire,” (1840)

Alexis de Tocqueville, “On the French Revolution”

Francois Guizot, “On the Condition of the July Monarchy” (1832 – 1848)

Thomas Babington MacCaulay, “Speech on The Reform Bill of 1832” (1831)

James Madison, “The Federalist Papers, no. 10” (1787)

Seminar Topics

The story of the nineteenth century has often been considered one of innovation and progress as the industrial “revolution” transformed economies and societies. At the same time, the problem associated with modernization became central to the ways in which post-revolutionary elites attempted to re-organize society based along lines of class and social status. Liberals attempted to find ways of balancing liberty and order, and in doing so grappled with the legacy of political violence and instability left by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. This seminar will examine how political elites dealt with concepts of citizenship, democracy and the new social relations created by capitalism through an examination of liberalism in multiple contexts, noting the ways in which republican ideas of natural rights and civic participation were refashioned and, in some cases, challenged altogether in an effort to construct stable post-revolutionary societies.

Questions to consider:

  1. How were the issues of capitalism and poverty addressed by different observers?
  2. What does David Ricardo’s “Iron Law of Wages” reveal about capitalism and labor?
  3. What were liberals’ opinions of democracy and the people?
  4. What did citizenship imply to liberals? 
  5. According to Kalyvas and Katznelson, what differentiates the “republic of the ancients” from the “republic of the moderns”?
  6. How did Rousseau’s idea constitute politics as a “civic religion”?
  7. What was the relationship between class and political power under nominally liberal regimes?

Further Reading:

Marshall Berman. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Hannu Salmi, Nineteenth-Century Europe: A Cultural History. London: Polity, 2008. Chapter 1.

Geoff Eley, “German History and the Contradictions of Modernity: The Bourgeoisie, the State, and the Mastery of Reform,” in Geoff Eley, ed., Society, Culture, and the State in Germany, 1870-1930. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1996, 83-103.

Ivan T. Berend and Gyorgy Ranki, Economic Development in East-Central Europe in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974.

David Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Jan de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Robin W. Winks, Europe and the Making of Modernity: 1815-1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Alan Kahan, Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century Europe: The Political Culture of Limited Suffrage. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, Chapters 4 and 5.

Andrew Jainchill, Reimagining Politics After the Terror: The Republican Origins of French Liberalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.

George Armstrong Kelly, The Human Comedy: Constant, Tocqueville and French Liberalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Jesús Cruz, “An Ambivalent Revolution: The Public and The Private in The Construction of Liberal Spain,” Journal of Social History, 30:1 (Autumn 1996)

Dror Wahrman, “The Social Construction of the ‘Middle Class’,” in Imagining The Middle Class: The Political Representation of Class in Britain, 1780-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Pierre Rosanvallon, Le Moment Guizot. Paris: Gallimard, 1985.

Mark Hulliung, Citizens and Citoyens: Republicans and Liberals in America and France. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.