Magnificent Rebels

September 29, 2022

In Magnificent Rebels, bestselling author Andrea Wulf follows the story of a remarkable group of young rebels – poets, novelists, philosophers – who, through their epic quarrels, passionate love stories, heartbreaking grief, and radical ideas launched Romanticism onto the world stage, inspiring some of the greatest thinkers of the time.

When did we begin to be as self-centered as we are today? At what point did we expect to have the right to determine our own lives? When did we first ask the question, How can I be free? It all began in a quiet university town in Germany in the 1790s, when a group of playwrights, poets, and writers put the self at center stage in their thinking, their writing, and their lives. This brilliant circle included the famous poets Goethe, Schiller, and Novalis; the visionary philosophers Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; the contentious Schlegel brothers; and, in a wonderful cameo, Alexander von Humboldt. And at the heart of this group was the formidable Caroline Schlegel, who sparked their dazzling conversations about the self, nature, identity, and freedom.

The French revolutionaries may have changed the political landscape of Europe, but the young Romantics incited a revolution of the mind that transformed our world forever. We are still empowered by their daring leap into the self, and by their radical notions of the creative potential of the individual, the highest aspirations of art and science, the unity of nature, and the true meaning of freedom. We also still walk the same tightrope between meaningful self-fulfillment and destructive narcissism, between the rights of the individual and our responsibilities toward our community and future generations.


Andrea Wulf is the award-winning author of several books, including Founding Gardeners, Brother Gardeners, and the bestselling The Invention of Nature which is published in 27 languages and won a Costa for Biography, the Royal Society Award for Science and the LA Times Book Prize (and thirteen other international literary awards). Andrea has written for many newspapers including the Guardian, New York Times, Financial Times, and The Atlantic. She is a member of PEN American Center and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London. For more information see

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Categories: History