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Danton Hardcover – 28 Sep 1978

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (28 Sept. 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715612816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715612811
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,644,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. M. Scott on 5 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
With regard to the previous reviewer: While the synopsis does in fact contain several startling errors, I'm worried that your review is as misleading as the synopsis, which is clearly not meant for Hampson's work. Anyone who is familiar with Hampson will know that he is a true heavyweight of Anglophone French Revolutionary discourse. With this study, as with his biographies of Robespierre and Saint-Just, Hampson brings a vast understanding of his subject and a minute reading of the primary sources - presented in his usual unpretentious style that has so upset some of his French cotemporaries - mostly because they cannot fault him on evidence. While I applaud you for pointing out the factual inaccuracies of amazon's synopsis, it was not helpful of you to award this book, which you obviously have not read, 2 stars on that basis. While I do not always agree with Hampson's opinions, if you want a biography of Danton that is as thoroughly researched as it is pleasant to read; look no further than Norman Hampson.
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Format: Paperback
Norman Hampson has produced a short and readable study of Danton, part biography and part an enquiry into his political activities in the Revolution. The lack of papers Danton left and the (probably deliberate) ambiguity in many of his actions has enabled other writers to portray him as any of brutal and bloodthirsty, hedonistic and corrupt, a truer revolutionary than those who executed him or even as a Royalist or British agent. Hampson deals with the ambiguity squarely; he admits Danton can be any if not all of these and, although he examines as far as possible Danton's more dubious political and financial dealings, he leaves it for the reader to decide about his motivation.

Hampson sees Danton primarily as a politician who realised the scope the Revolution gave for involving, or at least using, the masses in politics through his organisation of the Cordeliers club, which he dominated through his oratory and tactics. Danton ultimately failed, but created a model for later politicians. Hampson also gives Danton a good deal of the benefit of the doubt in his financial dealings, which taken as a whole do suggest corruption.

The book is clearly written and does not insult the reader by filling in the gaps in Danton's life or the reasons for his behaviour with too much speculation. Not a book for the specialist, but a good introduction to Danton.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Panos Kakaviatos on 11 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
Having read several books on the French Revolution as well as two on Danton, I would like to correct your synopsis: Danton was not a "paid agent" for the Royalists and his death came in 1794 and not 1795, as is written in your synopsis. Indeed, his is a tragic hero's story, a man who certainly profited from the Revolution financially, but only strived to moderate the Terror before being killed -- and correctly predicting the downfall of his executioners (Robespierre and Saint-Just), and the Revolution itself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Lacks Context and Finesse, but a Concise Account of Danton Controversies. 22 July 2010
By mirasreviews - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Danton", written in 1978 by Norman Hampson, is one of only a handful of English-language books dedicated to French revolutionary George-Jacques Danton. Danton's short, energetic career in politics made its mark on the French Revolution, but, looking back from two centuries hence, he is notably the first professional politician. Danton knew the difference between rhetoric and policy. He knew how to win public opinion with radical speeches while pursuing more practical and moderate goals in private. He also knew how to obscure his motives to such an extent that any discussion of the man is dominated by disputes over what he actually believed, if anything, and what he did or did not do.

Born to a middle class family in Arcis-sur-Aube, Danton studied law in Paris and, after purchasing the office of Conseil du Roi, made an unremarkable career of it. He took up the revolutionary cause in 1789. Danton rose to command the political machine of Cordeliers, named for the District in which he resided, with its concentration of radical press. Hampson presents a blow-by-blow account of the offices that Danton held, the crises in which he participated, and attempts to get a handle on what politics Danton might have actually held until his trial and execution in 1794. Like so many people vying for position in the new government and fighting for their vision of France, Danton died at the hands of his own revolution.

Hampson's account is bare-bones and usually dry. It is intended for serious students of the French Revolution in that prior knowledge of the institutions, factions, and personalities of the Revolution is required. Hampson provides very little context for Danton's actions, and the narrative is difficult to follow without a background in the complex politics of the revolutionary government. Hampson does not label Danton either as a slick opportunist or an idealist. The differing views of other historians are often mentioned, and Hampson presents evidence of Danton's motives where it exists, but he strives to be even-handed. Although I don't think "Danton" stands well on its own, its cautious approach makes it a good companion or counterpoint to David Lawday's more laudatory, and more readable, biography The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life.
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