Volney, Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de (kôNstäNtăNˈ fräNswäˈ də shäsböfˈ kôNt də vôlnāˈ) [key], 1757–1820, French scholar. He traveled in Egypt and Syria in the 1780s and wrote an account of his journey, Voyage en Syrie et en Égypte (1787); notable for its exact descriptions, it was useful to Napoleon during his Egyptian campaign. Volney served as deputy (1789) to the States-General, as secretary (1790) of the National Assembly, and later, after spending some time in the United States, as senator under Napoleon, who made him a count in 1808; he was also a member of the chamber of peers under Louis XVIII. His principal work, Les Ruines; ou, Méditation sur les révolutions des empires (1791), which popularized religious skepticism, was influential not only in France but also in England and the United States; it went through many translations and editions and stimulated much controversy. His writings also include works on the United States, on ancient history, and on Arabic.
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