Daniel Pick

Daniel Pick Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848-c. 1918 appeared from Cambridge last month. He is a research fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Thousands of Little White Blobs

Daniel Pick, 23 November 1989

J’ai horreur de la foule, admitted Hippolyte Taine, author of the vastly influential and vastly hostile history of the French Revolution which appeared in stages during the 1870s and 1880s. Whether we translate foule as ‘crowd’ or ‘mob’ here, English moves the noun from the feminine to the neuter, losing in the process one significant element of the loathing to which Taine confessed. In Taine’s History crowds and revolutions are shown alike to degenerate inevitably into collective insanity. Indeed sanity is not some ‘normal’ human condition any more than equality is a birthright. Within Taine’s hereditarian terms of reference, the living crowd which had erupted in the Paris Commune in 1871 was united with a crowd of the dead, all those earlier pathological revolutionaries who had tainted the blood of the race. The crowd at the Commune was supposedly composed of prostitutes, alcoholics, atavists and degenerates. These ‘gamboling baboons’, crazed women and insane opportunist leaders had apparently plagued France from 1789 to 1871, and they represented for Taine both a symptom of and a devastating rejoinder to Rousseau’s optimistic maxims about human nature, or Michelet’s celebration of ‘the people’.

Stewing Waters: Garibaldi

Tim Parks, 21 July 2005

In 1822 Giacomo Leopardi was finally allowed to leave home and visit Rome. He was 24. A child prodigy, he had spent his life in the remote town of Recanati in the Italian Marche, governed at that...

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First of all we have to imagine a world in which people suffer and have no hope that anything or anyone can make a difference. Then we have to imagine what it would be like to live in a world of...

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From bad to worse

Raymond Fancher, 8 March 1990

More than three centuries ago. Sir Thomas Browne noted ‘the humour of many heads to extol the days of their forefathers, and declaim against the wickedness of times present’. He added...

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