This article examines Volney right before and after 1789. Placed together in their intellectual historical context, his works in this period – Travels in Syria and Egypt (1787), Considerations (1788), and The Ruins (1791) – offer a valuable guide into the workings of the “Enlightenment narrative” of “European” and “Oriental” history at the critical juncture of the age of revolutions. The image of Volney as a progressive stadial historian and optimist revolutionary hereby cedes its place to that of Volney the worried republican indulged in the heroic attempt to find a way to build a free and stable polity.