cover image Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution

Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution

Mike Duncan. PublicAffairs, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-1-5417-3033-5

Podcaster Duncan (The Storm Before the Storm) casts the Marquis de Lafayette as a levelheaded reformer with a “restless yearning for glory and fame” in this comprehensive and accessible biography. Orphaned at a young age, Lafayette was only 19 when he crossed the Atlantic to volunteer in the American Revolution, where he was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine and commanded his friends Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens in the decisive Battle of Yorktown. After returning to France, Lafayette advocated for moderate reforms to “keep the flame of liberty burning just hot enough to melt the ancient chains of feudal despotism, without accidentally burning the whole kingdom down.” His support for a constitutional monarchy drew criticism from radicals and conservatives alike, and in 1792 Lafayette fled the country to escape execution, only to spend five years imprisoned in Austria and Prussia. Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1814, Lafayette was elected to the Chamber of Deputies and toured the U.S. as “a living legend—a pristine icon of the most glorious days of the Revolution.” During the July Revolution of 1830, he took command of the National Guard and endorsed Louis Philippe d’Orléans’s claim to the throne. Though short on analysis, Duncan marshals a wealth of information into a crisp and readable narrative. This sympathetic portrait illuminates the complexities of Lafayette and his revolutionary era. Agent: Rachel Vogel, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Aug.)