America Through European Eyes

British and French Reflections on the New World from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Edited by Aurelian Craiutu, Jeffrey C. Isaac

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 July 2012

Length of book:

296 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271033914

George W. Bush’s foreign policy touted America as the model of democracy worth exporting to the four corners of the globe. Osama bin Laden has painted a picture of our society as soulless and materialistic, representing values that are the antithesis of his version of Islam. Such starkly contrasting images of America fuel much heated debate today and drive conflicts around the world. But foreigners have long had a love/hate relationship with the United States, as this book reveals.

Contributors from comparative literature, history, philosophy, and political science combine their talents here to trace the changing visions of America that foreign travelers to our shores from England and France brought back to their contemporaries over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Novels and letters, political analysis, and philosophy are mined for perceptions of what America meant for these European visitors and how idealistic or realistic their observations were. Major writers such as Tocqueville play an important role in this dialogue, but so do lesser-known thinkers such as Gustave de Beaumont, Michel Chevalier, and Victor Jacquemont, whose importance this volume will help resurrect.

“Many have read Tocqueville’s observations of Jacksonian America, but how did other visitors from Europe respond to early American institutions and customs? This excellent volume discusses fine and highly varied insights from European visitors such as Gustave de Beaumont, George Berkeley, James Bryce, Michel Chevalier, G. K. Chesterton, Victor Jacquemont, and Frances Trollope. This volume is a superb introduction to the topic of European reactions to America’s new democracy.”

—Roger Boesche, Occidental College, author of The Strange Liberalism of Alexis de Tocqueville and Tocqueville's Road Map: Methodology, Liberalism, Revolution, and Despotism