Lynn Hunt is Distinguished Research Professor in History at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her books include Inventing Human Rights, Writing History in the Global Era, and, most recently, History: Why It Matters. (March 2020)


More Fraternité Than Liberté

Jean-Léon Gérôme: Bonaparte Before the Sphinx, 1886

A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

by Jeremy D. Popkin

The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History

by Alexander Mikaberidze
The French Revolution of 1789 astonished the world, and then came Napoleon Bonaparte, one of those rare historical figures who defined an epoch. The cascade of events between 1789 and Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 gave birth to much of what we know as modern politics: revolution as a leap …

The Man Who Questioned Everything

Jean-Baptiste Greuze: Portrait of Denis Diderot, eighteenth century

Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely

by Andrew S. Curran

Catherine and Diderot: The Empress, the Philosopher, and the Fate of the Enlightenment

by Robert Zaretsky
The most radical thinker of the eighteenth century, Denis Diderot (1713–1784), is not exactly a forgotten man, though he has been long overshadowed by his contemporaries Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Voltaire and Rousseau were among the first to be buried in the French Pantheon of the nation’s heroes; Diderot has yet to be, despite a concerted campaign leading up to the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth in 2013. Diderot was simultaneously too much a man of his time and too much ahead of his time.

Can a Chameleon Grieve?

Heads of owls, crows, and men resembling crows; drawing by Charles Le Brun, circa 1668–1678

1668: The Year of the Animal in France

by Peter Sahlins
Humans are animals, but humans have long insisted on their superiority over other animals. In the first systematic effort to explain the relation of humans to other animals, Aristotle established distinctions that have endured for centuries: some animals have memory, but only humans have history; animals have voices, but only …