George Washington's False Teeth by Robert Darnton

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George Washington was inaugurated as president in 1789 with one tooth in his mouth, a lower left bicuspid. The Father of His Country had sets of false teeth that were made of everything but wood, from elephant ivory and walrus tusk to the teeth of a fellow human.

Darnton shows in this title that the Enlightenment had false teeth also - that it was not the Father of the Modern World, responsible for all its advances and transgressions. In restoring the Enlightenment to a human scale, Darnton locates its real aims, ambitions and significance. So too with the French Revolution, another icon of the 18th century, approached here through the gossip, songs and broadsides that formed the political nervous system of Paris during the ancien regime.

Figures that we think we know - Voltaire, Jefferson, Rousseau, Condorcet, even historians themselves emerge afresh in Darnton's hands, their vitality, if not their teeth intact.

W. W. Norton & Company: 2003.
ISBN: 9780393057607. 192 pp.
Hardcover. Very good.