The People

The classic study of nineteenth-century France

"If we wish to know the innermost thought and passion of the French peasant, it is very easy. Walk, any Sunday, into the country and follow him." So begins this extraordinary book by the man often called France's greatest historian. After its publication in 1846, Le peuple sold 1,000 copies in a single day in Paris alone, and was soon considered the classic study of French society in the early nineteenth century. John P. McKay's translation makes the book newly available to English-language readers.

The People is a moving picture of France on the eve of 1848. Michelet saw tensions, divisions, and hatreds tearing France apart, and he sought to provide a new faith that would unite the conflicting groups in the love of country.

This book, Michelet wrote, "is the product of my experience rather than of my studies. I have derived it from my observation and my conversations with friends and neighbors." Because of Michelet's countless discussions with people from all ranks of society and his precise observations, his portrait of France is unsurpassed, and representative of general European problems in a time of rapid social and economic change.

"The best doorway to an understanding of French society under the pressures of industrialization in the nineteenth century. The McKay introduction is first-rate."--David S. Landes, Harvard University.


Jules Michelet (17981874) was a French historian. His works include The History of France and The History of the French Revolution. John P. McKay is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His books include Pioneers for Profit: Foreign Entrepreneurship and Russian Industrialization, 18851913 and Tramways and Trolleys: The Rise of Urban Mass Transport in Europe.

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