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Extended Audio Sample When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, by Francois Furstenberg Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Francois Furstenberg Narrator: Suzanne Toren Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In 1789, as the French Revolution shook Europe to the core, the new United States was struggling for survival in the face of financial insolvency and bitter political and regional divisions. When the United States Spoke French explores the republic’s formative years from the viewpoint of a distinguished circle of five Frenchmen taking refuge in America. When the French Revolution broke out, these men had been among its leaders. They were liberal aristocrats and ardent Anglophiles, convinced of the superiority of the British system of monarchy and constitution. They also idealized the new American republic, which seemed to them an embodiment of the Enlightenment ideals they celebrated. But soon the Revolutionary movement got ahead of them, and they found themselves chased across the Atlantic.

François Furstenberg follows these five men—Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Napoleon’s future foreign minister; theorist-reformer Rochefoucauld, the duc de Liancourt; Louis-Marie Vicomte de Noailles; Moreau de Saint-Méry; and Constantin-François Chasseboeuf, Comte Volney—as they left their homes and families in France, crossed the Atlantic, and landed in Philadelphia—then America’s capital, its principal port, and by far its most cosmopolitan city and the home of the wealthiest merchants and financiers. The book vividly reconstructs their American adventures, following along as they integrated themselves into the city and its elite social networks, began speculating on backcountry lands, and eventually became enmeshed in Franco-American diplomacy. Through their stories, we see some of the most famous events of early American history in a new light, from the diplomatic struggles of the 1790s to the Haitian Revolution to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

By the end of this period, the United States was on its way to becoming a major global power. Through this small circle of men, we find new ways to understand the connections between United States and world history, and gain fresh insight into American history’s most critical era. Beautifully written and brilliantly argued, When the United States Spoke French offers a fresh perspective on the tumultuous years of the young nation, when the first great republican experiments were put to the test.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[A] fascinating account of French involvement in the economic and cultural life of the young American Republic… Mr. Furstenberg has the vision to encompass a broad pageant in this splendid book, which combines erudition and great flair."

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Furstenberg opens a window into a lost world of glittering Philadelphian dinner parties, rough backwoodsmen speaking French and homesick émigrés. It’s a fascinating portrait of the diplomatic intrigue between France and England for power and position, with the United States displaying a disconcertingly astute aptitude for playing them off against each other. When the United States Spoke French is essential reading for understanding the complex relationship between France and the United States that, to this day, endures.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Furstenburg begins with a lush social and cultural history of French influences in Philadelphia…The book’s second half explores political intrigue, highlighting the transnational competition for control of the vast western territory of the North American continent. The Americans ultimately won that contest, and thanks to Furstenberg’s riveting history, we now have a better idea why.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Furstenberg expands the historical outlook of the eighteenth century’s great upheavals and shows the global effects of the Enlightenment…[This is] a bright, absorbing account of a short period in history that still resounds today.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Narrator Suzanne Toren puts her intimate knowledge of French literature, language, and culture to good use in this fascinating examination of one of the least discussed decades in American history—the 1790s…Speaking with a decidedly American accent and good humor, Toren describes plans to create French settlements in Maine and plots to drag the United States into a war with England. But somehow the sound of a US president named Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord just didn’t stick.”

    AudioFile

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About the Author

François Furstenberg is an associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. A native of Boston and Washington, DC, he taught history for ten years in Montreal before returning to the United States, where he teaches and writes on a range of fields in early American history and the Atlantic world. He is the author of In the Name of the Father: Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation and When the United States Spoke French.