Travelers, Troglodytes, and Tyranny: Reading Montesquieu in the Age of Trump

A Talk with Quest Tutor André Lambelet

In 1721, the young Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, published a novel called The Persian Letters, telling the story of two Persian travelers on their voyage from Persia to Paris.

Nearly three centuries later, the novel has kept its vitality, and continues to entertain twenty-first century readers. But there is more to the novel—and 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.

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