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Wicked Company: Freethinkers and Friendship in pre-Revolutionary Paris

Philipp Blom

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Prose: non-fiction, History, General & world history, European history, Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900

Dazzling recreation of the world of radical free-thinkers in 18th-century France.

From the 1750s to the 1770s, the Paris salon of Baron d'Holbach was an epicenter of debate, intellectual daring and revolutionary ideas, uniting around one table vivid personalities from Denis Diderot, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, the radical ex-priest Guillaume Raynal, the Italian Count Beccaria and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who later turned against his friends.

It was a moment of astonishing racialism in European thought, so uncompromising and bold that it was viciously opposed by rival philosophers such as Voltaire and the turncoat Rousseau and finally suppressed by Robespierre and his Revolutionary henchmen.

IN WICKED COMPANY, acclaimed historian Philipp Blom retraces the fortunes and characters of this exceptional group of friends and brings to life their startling ideas, largely forgotten by historians. Brilliant minds full of wit, courage and humanity, their thinking created a different and radical French Enlightenment based on atheism, passion, empathy and a compellingly insightful perspective on society. Their ideas force us to confront the debates about our own society and its future with new eyes.

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