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The Ancient Regime   By: (1828-1893)

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In The Ancient Regime, Hippolyte Taine offers readers a comprehensive and thought-provoking analysis of the political and social structure of pre-revolutionary France. Delving into the intricacies of the monarchy and the aristocracy, Taine skillfully explores the deep-rooted causes that led to the eventual collapse of the Ancien Régime.

Through meticulous historical research, Taine presents a detailed portrait of the French society during this period, shedding light on the privileges and excesses enjoyed by the ruling classes, while simultaneously depicting the oppressive conditions faced by the majority of the population. His ability to weave together various sources and present a clear narrative makes this book both informative and captivating.

One of the most impressive aspects of Taine's work is his ability to provide a balanced examination of the Ancien Régime. Rather than succumbing to simplistic portrayals, he delves into the intricacies of the economic, political, and cultural factors that contributed to the regime's decay. Taine's nuanced perspective offers readers a deeper understanding of the systemic flaws that led to the French Revolution, rather than simply blaming a particular group or individual.

Moreover, Taine's writing style is engaging and accessible, making this scholarly work approachable for readers with varying levels of expertise in French history. While The Ancient Regime is undoubtedly a dense and detailed read, Taine's prose remains clear and concise, ensuring that readers stay engaged throughout the book.

However, it is worth noting that some readers may find Taine's perspective overly deterministic. His focus on geography and climate as central factors in shaping the character of a society can sometimes downplay the agency of individuals in historical events. While these theories were popular at the time of his writing, readers should approach Taine's analysis with a critical eye, considering the advances made in historical scholarship since the publication of this book.

Overall, The Ancient Regime is a valuable resource for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of pre-revolutionary France. Taine's thorough research, balanced analysis, and accessible writing style combine to create a compelling book that sheds light on the complex forces at play during this pivotal period in history. Despite its age, this work remains relevant and thought-provoking, making it a worthwhile read for both scholars and general readers alike.

First Page:



by Hippolyte A. Taine



BOOK FIRST. The Structure of the Ancient Society.

CHAPTER I. The Origin of Privileges.

CHAPTER II. The Privileged Classes.

CHAPTER III. Local Services Due by the Privileged Classes.

CHAPTER IV. Public services due by the privileged classes.

BOOK SECOND. Habits and Characters.

CHAPTER I. Social Habits.

CHAPTER II. Drawing room Life.

CHAPTER III. Disadvantages of this Drawing room Life.

BOOK THIRD. The Spirit and the Doctrine.

CHAPTER I. Scientific Acquisition.

CHAPTER II. The Classic Spirit, the Second Element.

CHAPTER III. Combination of the two elements.

CHAPTER IV. Organizing the Future Society.

BOOK FOURTH. The Propagation of the Doctrine.

CHAPTER I. Success in France.

CHAPTER II. The French Public.

CHAPTER III. The Middle Class.

BOOK FIFTH. The People

CHAPTER I. Hardships.

CHAPTER II. Taxation the principal cause of misery.

CHAPTER III. Intellectual state of the people.

CHAPTER IV. The Armed Forces.

CHAPTER V. Summary.


Why should we fetch Taine's work up from its dusty box in the basement of the national library? First of all because his realistic views of our human nature, of our civilization and of socialism as well as his dark premonitions of the 20th century were proven correct... Continue reading book >>

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