chapter  3
27 Pages

3ANew Order

The Revolution had specifically rejected the past as a source of legitimacy and had destroyed the traditional order of ‘feudal’ society. But the Revolution too had been swept away by defeat. Consequently, it became a commonplace during the first half of the nineteenth century that France was passing through ‘an epoch of transition, of decadence’3 full of dangers and possibilities: ‘Aristocracy was already dead when I was born and democracy had not yet come into existence . . . I was living in a country which for forty years had tried out everything and settled permanently on nothing.’4