In Democracy in America, Tocqueville posited a contrast between the way history is written in “aristocratic” and “democratic” ages. In the former, historians tend to assign great weight to the actions of individuals; in the latter, they privilege great impersonal forces that act upon the mass. The essay examines Tocqueville’s views of Napoleon Bonaparte in light of these reflections. It concludes that despite his occasional vulnerability to the lure of Napoleonic grandeur, and despite his own desire, as an aristocrat writing in a democratic age, to effect a synthesis of the two modes of historical writing, in the end he fundamentally viewed Napoleon’s actions as determined by the forces of democratic equality and revolution.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science