The history of the French Revolution would prove that many of the ­revolutionaries were more loyal to their local traditions and authorities than to the ­government in Paris, and in the decades following the Revolution, theorists on the left ­increasingly replaced the Enlightenment’s ­universalist claims with arguments­ ­taking ­difference and conflict as their point of departure. The ­Communist ­Manifesto is the classic document of this new approach, in which the unity of mankind serves as a goal but the present reality is one of ?class struggle.

In The Undivided Past , the Prince­ton historian David ­Cannadine rejects this style of reasoning. Distinctions between groups of people”of religion, nation, class, gender, race, and civilization”may dominate politics and society at particular times, but none is the eternal fixture its theorists assert.

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