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Europe: Early Modern and Modern 1345

new form of selfhood sentimental (p. 164), and char- examines, but I was left wondering what Voskuhl might
acterizes it as an essential element of the movement have said about the other eight. It would have been in-
from a social structure dominated by courtly mores to teresting to know exactly what emotive qualities they
one that was more democratic. The way this transpired, lacked in comparison to the two she chose. Also, given
according to Voskuhl, was that [c]ivil society, made up that she bases her thesis on the rise of sentiment as a
of rational, sensible, and equal citizens, was meant to key underpinning of both the art and society of the En-
replace the traditional estate and court societies and be lightenment, it would have been beneficial to see more
held together and sustained by, among other things, and wider references not just to modern commentators
cultivated and shared sentiments (p. 7). These female on this philosophical shift, as Voskuhl gives us in chap-
automataone that plays a harpsichord and one that ter 4, but also to philosophers of the time who discuss
plays a dulcimerreflected and were reflected in this it. In terms of the general artistic philosophy of the
transition chiefly because of the bodily movements that time, for example, she could have noted Friedrich Schil-
were programmed into them by their makers. As lers 1795 essay On Nave and Sentimental Poetry; or
Voskuhl shows in the central chapters of her book, even William Wordsworths preface to the second edi-
these bodily movements mapped directly onto methods tion (1800) of Lyrical Ballads, where he famously cham-
for playing instruments prescribed by music manuals of pions poetic art as the spontaneous overflow of pow-
the time, which in turn descended from the dawning erful feelings. But these reservations do not detract
social and cultural expectations for publicly expressing from the fact that this book is a genuine and important

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sentiment. Furthermore, these automata encapsulated addition to extant literature about the history of an-
two particular undercurrents of socio-cultural tension. droids and automata, and a very good read.
First, they epitomized a tension between whether or not KEVIN LAGRANDEUR
technology and accompanying social changes might New York Institute of Technology
make humans more machine-like (a tension that per-
sists through the centuries to today). Secondand this PIERRE BRIANT. Alexandre des Lumieres: Fragments
is where she suggests her work is different from others dhistoire europeenne. (NRF Essais.) Paris: Gallimard,
about automata of the early modern periodVoskuhl 2012. Pp. 739. 29.00.
sees the automata as reflective of an anxiety specific to
their time: if sentiment could be so well replicated by Ever since antiquity, Alexander the Great has long re-
these machines, did that belie the reality and reliability mained a fascinating topic for historians, biographers,
of the formation of this new, modern, sentiment-based political thinkers, and literary authors. In this marvel-
subject? ous book, Pierre Briant uses the history of Alexander
Voskuhls is the latest bloom in a garden of recent to present a panorama of the European Republic of
books that deals with premodern androids, although Letters in the longer eighteenth century. While the
only one of two that specifically focuses on them, as book focuses primarily on the eighteenth century, the
opposed to discussing automata in general. Humanoid early chapters explore the seventeenth century, while
automata of this era have been considered in parts of the last chapters take the story into the nineteenth cen-
other books over the past decade or so, including Gaby tury.
Wood, Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for There are many ways in which one can write the his-
Mechanical Life (2002); Scott Lightsey, Manmade Mar- tory of reception and the history of historiography, and
vels in Medieval Literature and Culture (2007); Jessica traditionally, when it comes down to the reception of
Riskin, Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Phi- antiquity, scholars have preferred a chronological ap-
losophy of Artificial Life (2007); and Minsoo Kang, Sub- proach focused on a succession of authors and their
lime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the views. Briant has chosen an alternative path. He in-
European Imagination (2011). Mine is the only other cludes in his account the basis of the debates as well as
book that specifically centers on androids, although I discursive and institutional contexts from which En-
concentrate on those created before the Enlightenment lightenment discussions of Alexander originated and
(Kevin LaGrandeur, Androids and Intelligent Networks also the consequences of the French Revolution and
in Early Modern Literature and Culture: Artificial Slaves the global reactions it engendered for the history of the
[2013]). All of these books claim, in a nutshell, that au- books subject. This is an enormous advantage because
tomata reflect prevailing cultural preoccupations, espe- it makes it possible to understand how the same author
cially ambivalence toward scientific and technological could present divergent and often mutually exclusive
change. Where Voskuhl differs is in her focus on au- images of Alexander.
tomata not as ambivalent, but as part of the rise of a Well into the eighteenth century, discussions of Al-
specific element of sentimentality, as the essence of a exander were primarily shaped by the view of history as
new sense of modern selfhood. magistra vitae : Alexander was a monarchical exemplum,
Given that the title of the book is so broad, it was and historians debated the extent to which he embodied
somewhat surprising to see that the author chose to positive traits or illustrated vices that potentates should
deal with only two of the ten androids we know of from be warned against. Alexander was also an integral part
that period. She claims in her introduction that they of sacred history, from his alleged respectful visit to Je-
better demonstrate the sentimental motions that she rusalem, to his position within Daniels scheme of the

AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW OCTOBER 2014


1346 Reviews of Books

four world empires. The historicity of Alexanders visit tered discussion of the role of Alexander in eighteenth-
to Jerusalem is brilliantly exploited by Briant to present century narratives of Greek history, the eighteenth-
how textual criticism and debates on the nature and cri- century prehistory of Johann Gustav Droysens reeval-
teria of historical truth ultimately destabilized both the uation of Alexander, and the Hellenistic period as a ma-
magistra vitae approach as well as sacred history. Once jor stage of world history. This book should be read
these became major issues of discussion, the history of widely not only by historians of Ancient Greece, but
Alexander provides an important battleground. Not also by anyone interested in eighteenth-century histo-
only is there no contemporary account of Alexander, riography and political thought.
since all ancient accounts date from centuries later, but KOSTAS VLASSOPOULOS
those accounts also present deeply divergent perspec- University of Nottingham
tives. Briant shows how these debates culminated in the
publication of Guillaume-Emmanuel-Joseph-Guilhem ANGELA BYRNE. Geographies of the Romantic North: Sci-
de Clermont-Lodeve, baron de Sainte-Croixs Examen ence, Antiquarianism, and Travel, 17901830. (Palgrave
critique des anciens historiens dAlexandre-le-grand Studies in Cultural and Intellectual History.) New
(1775), the most profound work on Alexander in the York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Pp. xiv, 265. $85.00.
eighteenth century. But Sainte-Croixs work was not
merely a specialists source-critical study; it was also a In recent years, there has been an increasing movement
contribution to some of the major eighteenth-century toward seeing the idea of the North as a larger, trans-

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debates on empire, commerce, and civilization. national, transhistorical phenomenon, one that takes
In these new debates, empire and its destructive vi- the cultures of all circumpolar peoples as its purview.
olence could be portrayed as an ancient irrelevance in This has been, in part, a necessary correction of the ad-
the modern world, to be substituted by the peaceful mitted Anglo-centrism of much of the previous schol-
processes of commerce and by states geared toward the arship in this area, as well as of a desire to frame ques-
welfare of their citizens. Alexander could be depicted tions of the North in terms of modern interdisciplinary
as the vainglorious conqueror, in the company of Ta- thought rather than the more traditional, compartmen-
merlane and Genghis Khan; but his foundation of Al- talized historiography of earlier work.
exandria and his exploration of the Indian Ocean could While this trend, on the larger scale, is to be lauded,
be described as a revolution in the history of commerce it has produced some strange shifts in the field: cri-
and used to portray him as a modernizing ruler like Pe- tiques of imperialism have gone by the wayside, re-
ter the Great. Briant traces the origins of this image of buffed by the claim that, in the North, cultural and eco-
Alexander as the promoter of trade and knowledge in nomic history simply did not fit that mold. At the same
Pierre-Daniel Huets Histoire du commerce et de la nav- time, quite different culturesthose of Scandinavian
igation des Anciens (1716) and explores how this image Europe, Russia, and other circumpolar nations and
was widely publicized by Montesquieu and extensively peopleshave been lumped together somewhat
discussed in the course of the longer eighteenth cen- crudely at times, without much attention to their many
tury. Alongside the Enlightenment narrative of com- significant differences. Something of that is evident in
merce, the long eighteenth century exhibited the cre- the present volume, as it jumps from accounts of Hud-
ation of new European empires in Asiain particular sons Bay surveyors and George Vancouver to runic
with the British in Indiaand Briant explores the sig- collectors and the Scandi-British idea of the North as
nificance of this development. Alexander was widely a living museum.
seen as the pioneer of European conquest of the Ori- To its credit, Geographies of the Romantic North: Sci-
ent; it is remarkable that even late in the eighteenth ence, Antiquarianism, and Travel, 17901830 wants to
century, ancient accounts of Alexanders exploration of make big connections but is hampered in its quest for
the Indian Ocean coasts were still significant for mod- historical coherency by its studied avoidance of seeing
ern explorers and colonial agents. The accumulation of things in ideological terms. The title itself is a bit mis-
geographical knowledge created new debates: was Al- leading; by using Romantic Angela Byrne does not,
exanders destruction of the Persian dams on the Tigris as she makes clear, mean the traditional notion of a
an Enlightened opening of Mesopotamia to commerce, literary and artistic movement that swept Europe at the
or a conquerors destruction of sophisticated irrigation turn of the nineteenth century. Following Penny Field-
systems? ing, she wants to resist oversimplifying Romanticism
Briants presentation of the role of Alexander in the and highlight its dense and complicated relationship
Enlightenment discourses on Orientalism, empire, and with scientific discourse. And yet, with references to
commerce is a major contribution to modern histori- Romantic literature and art so scarce, readers may find
ography. While the book largely focuses on these issues, themselves in doubt as to whether Romanticism ought
it also raises important questions regarding the histo- to be seen as a distinct historical force at all. Imperi-
riography of ancient Greek history. Simon-Nicolas- alism, too, is bracketed off as a broad brush unsuited to
Henri Linguets Histoire du siecle dAlexandre (1762) careful cultural archaeology. Most surprisingly, Byrne
was a pioneering attempt to employ the Voltairian his- seeks to set aside gender. In a section titled, Note on
toire des moeurs in order to present a world history of Gender, she advances the claim that, since everybody
the era of Alexander. Equally important is Briants scat- engaged in the specific kinds of work dealt with in her

AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW OCTOBER 2014