In 1789 the world stood at the threshold of the modern age. While the French Revolution and the election of George Washington seemed to herald a new global order, Britain stood shocked at the new world unfolding before her. Two documents were drafted which would change the very meanings of citizens and statehood: the US Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The age of royal despotism had ended. But beneath this veneer of progress, darker forces were at work: the French Revolution spiralled out of control, American slavery expanded and the armed forces of the British Empire were unleashed in India. From 'mad' King George III to J.J. Rousseau and Thomas Paine, from Pitt the Younger to Robespierre, David Andress illuminates a world on the brink through the men who held its future in their hands.