Jacques-Pierre Brissot was among the major architects of the French Revolution, yet history has vilified and then dismissed him. His early intellectual development was strongly influenced by Enlightenment ideas and aspirations. However, his own remarkable construct of a just, democratic society, universal suffrage, and a renewed humanity living in moral and political freedom foreshadowed many present-day ideologies. The prevailing view of Brissot has pigeonholed him as Brissot, the police spy, a label difficult to remove. Although this contention has been disputed at some length, Loft presents an alternative view of the forces that shaped Brissot's social and political activism. Tracing the gradual evolution of his ideology from its earliest stages reveals that he did t suddenly become a radical in the mid-1780s. An open, objective, and thorough evaluation of Brissot's work uncovers the roots of his lifelong commitment to reformist, egalitarian, and democratic ideals. To understand Brissot, the man and his work, one must assess the cultural, intellectual, and political influences that surrounded him. Loft offers the necessary fusion of text and context, providing a serious reconsideration of Brissot and his contributions to the history of human rights. Scholars and other researchers of the French Revolution and European political thought will find this study of particular value.
LEONORE LOFT is Professor of French at the State University of New York, Fredonia. Although trained in literature, her research focuses on interdisciplinary studies, particularly in the area of intellectual history. She has published numerous articles on Brissot.