Republics, Nations and Tribes

Republics, Nations and Tribes

  • Paperback

Covers a key time of transition in European history, 1795-1848, linking revolutionary Paris to the trial of the Enlightenment. The book explores the development of ideas about the citizen, the nation and freedom, in particular the drift from republican/classical to Germanic/Romantic thought.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, European perceptions of the ancient city underwent a dramatic alteration, due mainly to revulsion at the terror. Republics, Nations and Tribes relates that shift, both in ethnology and histiography. Thus the book is a novel and detailed study of the shifting concepts of liberty—and, in particular, the drift from classical/republican to Germanic/Romantic thought—at a key time of transition in European history, 1795–1848.

Republics, Nations and Tribes shows how deeply the dominant historiographical traditions in Western Europe have been marked by the Romantic trial of the Enlightenment and how, as a consequence, due weight has rarely if ever been given to the castigation suffered by the philosphes for their role in the subversion of the old regime. According equal attention to language, history and politics, Martin Thom explores the contested nature of liberty in cities and liberty through nations. In so doing, he provides a fascinating collective biography of the some of the era’s most influential thinkers, and a brilliant and original intellectual history of this decisive history.


  • ... a splendid instance of the fusion of erudition and intellectual excitement ... Martin Thom has explored with exceptional subtlety the supplanting of old myths of identity and liberty by new theories of community in the age of the French Revolution. The depth of his analysis is matched by its geocultural breadth.

    Roy Porter
  • Martin Thom boldly sketches a new view of the connection between the trauma of the French Revolution and the stirrings of Romanticism. A major work of scholarship and intellectual synthesis.

    Gareth Stedman-Jones