A vital and illuminating look at this profoundly important (and often perplexing) historical moment, by former Financial Times chief foreign affairs columnist Ian Davidson.
The French Revolution casts a long shadow, one that reaches into our own time and influences our debates on freedom, equality, and authority. Yet it remains an elusive, perplexing historical event. Its significance morphs according to the sympathies of the viewer, who may see it as a series of gory tableaux, a regrettable slide into uncontrolled anarchy—or a radical reshaping of the political landscape.
In this riveting new book, Ian Davidson provides a fresh look at this vital moment in European history. He reveals how it was an immensely complicated and multifaceted revolution, taking place in different places, at different times, and in different spheres; and how subsequently it became weighted with political, social, and moral values. Stirring and dramatic—and filled with the larger-than-life players of the period and evoking the turbulence of this colorful time—this is narrative history at its finest.
Davidson (Voltaire: A Life), a former correspondent and columnist for the Financial Times, aims to correct modern misperceptions of the French Revolution that toppled the ancien r gime in 1789 and ushered in the First Republic. The French Revolution was actually a series of revolutions that began peacefully, Davidson argues, after a group of educated young men set out to build a new state based on the rule of law rather than royal privilege. Within a few years, however, due to both social and economic factors, "the Revolution... entered a period of frenzy and fear, of public and private accusations, of secret denunciations and betrayals." Though France's new constitution contained lofty democratic ideals, the bourgeoisie and sansculottes turned on one another as a result of recurrent food shortages, ongoing wars and counterrevolutionary uprisings, and especially the rampant inflation caused when the fledgling government issued paper promissory notes called assignats. At the height of the Terror that gripped the country in 1793 1794, especially in Paris, 35,000 40,000 people died as a direct result of the revolution, most of them executed for intangible offenses. Maximilien Robespierre's downfall ended the Terror and restored order, but Davidson persuasively argues that the aftershocks of this most turbulent era continue to reverberate into the 21st century. Maps & illus.
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There are two different editions of this book on itunes. One has been available since August and one is being released on December 6. The file sizes are different (the one in August is bigger). I can't tell the difference.