The Great Upheaval-Jay Winik

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The Great Upheaval-Jay Winik

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This week I read The Great Upheaval, Jay Winik’s magisterial account of the “birth of the modern world” of 1788-1800 in America, France and Russia. Good readable history of France and Russia especially. fills in the general knowledge gaps of those two empires quiet well. What Winik writes about King Louis XVI and France carries a modern lesson. Most do not see great change before it sweeps away the old order. In 1787 Louis or his court did not realize the kingdom was on the brink of ruin. The king and his court were seduced by majesty and the ritual of their time honored ways. When their eyes opened it was too late. For the aristocracy of France in 1787 pleasure was the watchword. “in opulent surroundings, ladies flaunted their decolletage and shimmering silks, gentlemen of leisure flocked to the hunt,men of fashion read Moliere aloud and aristocrats gathere to ply silly children’s games. The gardens were impossibly green, the food was bountiful and succulent, pleasurable desires were guiltlessly fulfilled. And everywhere one detected the pursuit of happiness–the happiness of play, the happiness of time wasting, the happiness of home, all a celestial paradise on earth.” No one saw the winds of change blowing acros the world. The old order was changing. One aide said to the king, “Your monarchy will be destroyed and the state with it.” But who could have seen it coming? No one did. the rest is history. There are important lessons for today’s world