Travelers, Troglodytes, and Tyranny: Reading Montesquieu in the Age of Trump
In 1721, Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, published a novel called The Persian Letters. Cast as a series of letters, it tells the story of two Persian travelers in their voyage from Persia to Paris. Today, the novel has kept its vitality, and continues to entertain 21st century readers.
This talk suggests that one of the book’s most important messages is the focus on political virtue. In an age of often-brutish political behavior, the Persian Letters offers us both a cautionary tale about tyranny—and perhaps a way of recapturing the essence of political virtue in our own time.
About the speaker
André Lambelet comes to Quest University Canada having taught history at the University of Adelaide in South Australia and, before that, at the University of Oregon’s Robert D. Clarke Honors College. He earned his BA in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, having first dabbled in literature, economics, and history. He went on to earn his PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. His area of research is modern France, focusing particularly on questions of citizenship, nationhood, and military service.
He has lived in Japan, France, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, and Belgium. He speaks fluent French, has forgotten most of the Swiss-German he learned in elementary school, but is making up for that by learning Flemish. He is somewhat bemused by the fact that he, his wife, and his two children were all born on different continents.
André’s teaching interests are diverse. He has taught courses on colonialism, war, intellectual and cultural history, and historiography and historical methods. He believes that history at its best jolts us out of complacency, undermines our faith in easy answers, and teaches us a kind of humility in the face of the endless diversity of the human experience.