ALBERT SOREL was a great figure as an historian, and the influence he exercised is considerable. His chief work, l'Europe et la Révolution française, began to appear in 1885 with an introductory volume reviewing the tendency, spirit and methods of French and European foreign policy under the ancien régime, and this reveals the author's reading and his impressive powers of constructive imagination. By 1892 three further volumes had appeared. These gave a detailed diplomatic history of the Constituante, the Législative and the Convention, covering the years from 1789 to 1795. A close organic link was maintained with the general development of the Revolution, and in particular with its ideas and its spirit. After ten years' silence four volumes appeared at brief intervals in 1903 and 1904. Under the same title, l'Europe et la Révolution française, these dealt for the most part with the foreign policy of Napoleon.
Sorel had joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs just before 1870. A young and promising lawyer, his experiences there had an abiding influence on him and his work, although after a few years, and in spite of tempting offers from Gambetta, he chose a professorial career.1 He developed consciously and with conviction, into the exponent, not of this or that party, but of tradition and of the raison d' État. A highly cultured man, subtly sensitive to ideas and to form, a brilliant stylist, who, like his venerated senior and friend, Taine, combined a passion for system and synthesis with great powers of plastic expression and creation, he saw forces at work in history other than those of the mind, impersonal forces which cared not for the mind, which indeed used it for their ends. The spectacle did not rouse his soul to opposition. For him true statesmanship consisted in the recognition of these forces and alliance with them.
This attitude had made it possible for him (how unlike Taine!)____________________