National Character and Public Spirit in Britain and France, 1750-1914


In a work of unusual ambition and rigorous comparison, Roberto Romani considers the concept of "national character" in the intellectual histories of Britain and France. Perceptions of collective mentalities influenced a variety of political and economic debates, ranging from anti-absolutist polemic in eighteenth-century France to appraisals of socialism in Edwardian Britain. Romani argues that the eighteenth-century notion of "national character", with its stress on climate and government, evolved into a concern with the virtues of "public spirit" irrespective of national traits, in parallel with the establishment of representative institutions on the Continent.