In this study of French liberalism in the first half of the nineteenth century and its continuing relevance to political theory and practice, emphasis is given to the tensions and fissures within liberalism as well as to its struggles against Jacobinism, conservatism and socialism. It is a blend of political theory, biography and intellectual and political history informed throughout by the author's distinctive political, moral and religious sensibilities. A major theme of great relevance to current debate about liberalism is the contrast between the vigor and brilliance of these thinkers as political critics, their inefficacy as political actors and their ultimate retreat from political life.
'One could not hope for a more intelligent or erudite guide. His awe-inspiring familiarity with both primary and secondary sources, in England, Germany and America as well as France, enables him to place each of the writers he considers in his or her precise intellectual, social and psychological context. His encyclopaedic knowledge is always the disciplined servant of a clear and penetrating intelligence ... the result is a subtle and comprehensive picture of French Liberal thought during the Restoration and the July Monarchy.' Norman Hampson, French History