Since the dawn of time, all of humanity, from the most learned philosophers to the humblest working stiff, has wrestled with the question: What makes a great party?

One thing seems certain: The most famous celebrations were not the most enjoyable, and vice versa. From ancient Greece to the modern day, the bashes that have made it into the history books were often political affairs, swimming in luxury and stacked with official guests — kings, presidents, plutocrats, and assorted stuffed shirts. But how much fun was it really attending, say, one of Louis XIV’s soirees in Versailles? The evidence is that, for all their splendor, they were a pain in the neck for invitees, who had to nearly bankrupt themselves to buy the latest fashions, and tied themselves into… More…