Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


The Threshold of the Modern Age

David Andress

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




The world in 1789 stood on the edge of a unique transformation. At the end of an unprecedented century of progress, the fates of three nations—France; the nascent United States; and their common enemy, Britain—lay interlocked. France, a nation bankrupted by its support for the American Revolution, wrestled to seize the prize of citizenship from the ruins of the old order. Disaster loomed for the United States, too, as it struggled, in the face of crippling debt and inter-state rivalries, to forge the constitutional amendments that would become known as the Bill of Rights. Britain, a country humiliated by its defeat in America, recoiled from tales of imperial greed and the plunder of India as a king's madness threw the British constitution into turmoil. Radical changes were in the air.

A year of revolution was crowned in two documents drafted at almost the same time: the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the American Bill of Rights. These texts gave the world a new political language and promised to foreshadow new revolutions, even in Britain. But as the French Revolution spiraled into chaos and slavery experienced a rebirth in America, it seemed that the budding code of individual rights would forever be matched by equally powerful systems of repression and control.

David Andress reveals how these events unfolded and how the men who led them, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, and George Washington, stood at the threshold of the modern world. Andress shows how the struggles of this explosive year—from the inauguration of George Washington to the birth of the cotton trade in the American South; from the British Empire's war in India to the street battles of the French Revolution—would dominate the Old and New Worlds for the next two centuries.



Winter had come upon Europe like an apocalypse. The frosts had arrived early, and by November 1788 the land was thickly carpeted in snow. Far into the south of France the numbing cold had done its work,...


Praise for 1789

“Andress . . . has done remarkable work in composing a provocative narrative linking the concerns of the late 18th century with the ongoing debates of our own time. Writing with keen insight into the human actors who embodied and directed the social forces of their age, Andress has an unerring eyes for the right, telling details.” —David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express

“Andress's in-depth yet highly readable account succeeds in illuminating how 1789 was experienced as an international phenomenon . . . [Andress] does an outstanding job.” —Chuck Leddy, Barnes and Noble Review

“Andress…skillfully brings together the revolutionary currents from France, Britain, and America in this exuberant study of the ‘hour of universal ferment'…A thorough, bracing primer for students of global history.” —Kirkus Reviews

“1789 is fresh, revealing, and insightful, particularly in its parallels among the different nations…Although Andress covers a great deal of material, the narrative never feels rushed or shallow. It leaves you wanting more. A first-rate book; highly recommended for all libraries.” —Michael O. Eshleman, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

David Andress

David Andress is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Portsmouth. He is the author of The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (FSG, 2006).

David Andress

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Latest on Facebook