Historian Laura Auricchio Offers "The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered" (Encore presentation.)

Feb 17, 2015

(Note: This show originally aired in October of last year.) On this installment of ST, an interesting chat with Laura Auricchio, a specialist in eighteenth-century French history and art who's received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and Columbia University -- and who's also Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The New School in NYC. Auricchio speaks about her new book, "The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered," which was called "a sharp and moving biography" in a starred review in Kirkus. And further, per a review in Booklist: "One hundred and eighty years after his death, Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, remains a fascinating but elusive figure. He was hailed and idealized by Americans as a stalwart champion of liberty for his role in both the American and French revolutions, and his legacy and achievements are far less celebrated in his native France. Auricchio admirably separates the man from the myth while examining some of the elements used to build the myth, at the same time often sympathetic and attracted to her subject's laudable qualities. Lafayette, the scion of one of the oldest French aristocratic families, arrived in America as a 19-year-old youth imbued with Enlightenment ideals concerning political liberty and a thirst for glory. He quickly established an enduring father-son relationship with George Washington and served him and the American cause with distinction. Returning to France, he was caught up in revolutionary politics but often seemed befuddled by France's fast turn to radicalism and violence, and he eventually ran afoul of the Jacobins and, later, Napoleon. This is a fine reexamination of both the character and career of a compelling, but in some ways a sad, historical figure."