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Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era. He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.
Carlyle's history of the French revolution, from 1837, remains one of the major works on the sweeping events of that period. He brought a complex literary style to his account, which has an energetic, almost hallucinatory rhythm despite being rigorously anchored in numerous prime sources. For Carlyle, chaotic events demanded what he called 'heroes' to take control over the competing forces erupting within society. While not denying the importance of economic and practical explanations for events, he saw these forces as 'spiritual' – the hopes and aspirations of people that took the form of ideas, and were often ossified into ideologies ("formulas" or "isms", as he called them). In Carlyle's view, only dynamic individuals could master events and direct these spiritual energies effectively: as soon as ideological 'formulas' replaced heroic human action, society became dehumanised.
Dickens used Carlyle's work as a primary source for the events of the French Revolution in his novel A Tale of Two Cities.