The Abbé Raynal, 1713-1796: An Intellectual Odyssey

J.H.M. Salmon profiles an important - but largely forgotten - historian of the ancien régime, whose main theme was expansion in Asia and in the New World.

During the last generation of the ancien régime, the most popular and influential radical work was not by Voltaire or Rousseau: it was the Abbé Raynal’s Philosophical History of the Two Indies. From its first publication in 1770 until the crisis of 1789, it appeared in some thirty authorized editions, and at least as many pirated ones. It underwent two substantial revisions, and grew in revolutionary fervour as it catalogued the progress of the American struggle for independence.

Contemporaries ranked Raynal with the leading propagandists of the Enlightenment. The makers of the French Revolution learnt at least as much from his book as they did from the American experience that helped to inspire it. As Raynal’s disciple, Napoleon carted its many volumes with him on his Egyptian expedition.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.