Review: Hero of Two Worlds

I didn’t know much about Lafayette before reading Mike Duncan’s biography, and I’m delighted to have that changed. Duncan’s a podcaster and his writing shows it. It’s lively and engaging and aimed at people whose time he competes for. I feel confident he could do justice to any figure he cares about, and he clearly seems to care about the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Marquis is a giant figure in American and French history. I mostly knew him as a military and diplomatic figure who played key, mostly behind the scenes, roles in the American Revolution. That’s true and well fleshed out by Duncan. He also points out how brushing shoulders with the American founders influenced him. In many ways he pulled in the purest forms of the stated ideals of the new republic.

His history in America was, if unsung, entirely positive. The founders and citizens of the new country embraced him. His time in France was trickier. He certainly brought the American ideals back to the brewing pot of revolution that was France. Applying his ideals to his homeland was much more complex. That was made more tricky by his inability to stay out of the fray.

He walked a path between endorsing and supporting the monarchy while pressing for a version of republicanism and human rights that exceeded those of the Americans. He was embraced and expelled at different times by the many shifting factions of that revolution. His fate ran the gamut from commanding the national guard to difficult imprisonment. Duncan traces this all with insight and clarity.

A compelling book about an incredible person.

Strongly Recommended.

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