26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2001
There is of course a daunting amount of literature on the French Revoloution which often means that first-time students are often faced with a lottery concerning the book they choose. This book has no pretentions whatsoever to being all encompassing or a psycho-sociological analysis of the revoloution itself. Dealing with the pre 1789 period it is an admirably clear re-examination of the fall of the ancient regime. Comprehensively written and free of academic snobbery it charts the relaxation of rigid absoloutism and the development both of coherent political opposition and a relevant public opinion, both concepts that were unheard of in the archetypal monarchy of Loius XIV. Seditious pamphlets that had traditionally been confined to exile in the Netherlands found their way back into France and criticism of the establishment grew in a crescendo: the street and the parlements echoing one another and feeding in confidence off of one another. Doyle thus lands us in the years immediately prior to 1789 and guides us through the domino series of economic ministers, victims of the sustained, and now infamous financial crisis that so relentlessly exposed the dire infrastructure of French government. Finally we are presented with a synopsis of events that led to the walls of the Bastille and a conclusion: all in all less than 200 pages. This is a very businesslike book with no room for sentiment, philosophy or lyricism but in its digestible form, leaves the reader clear on the major points, a task many other histories have failed in. Reccomended for anyone looking for a clear explanation for the end of the ancien regime.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2009
I came to this from a position of considerable ignorance. Doyle's introductory section reviews the development of views about the French Revolution over the last hundred years. I was struck by the passion invested in these differences. But when I came to the main text I realised what a colossal change the Revolution was, perhaps even more then the English Revolution in the previous century. For France swept away centuries of feudal and subsequent layers of administration, obligations and hierarchies, almost overnight, owing to a combination of literacy and education, financial meltdown (the government was seriously broke) and a succession of poor harvests.
The influence of the English (to some extent) and more particularly the American Revolutions was paramount.
This book is rather hazy and mazy at times, but the more it gets into its stride you get a gratifyingly sophisticated, complex and penetratingly comprehensive class analysis whose dynamism is convincingly traced.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2012
Doyle has produced a useful synthesis of current interpretations about the origins of the French Revolution. He concentrates solely on the origins of that Revolution, stopping his survey in the summer of 1789, just when the Revolution was starting. His book is brief, clear and sensible and gives a good range of English language as well as French suggestions for further reading. It starts with a review of the historiography of the subject, with the old orthodoxy of Georges Lefebvre in the 1930s, the reinterpretation by Alfred Cobban and others from the 1950s and the contemporary search for a new consensus between those who regard the origins of the Revolution as social, economic or political and pre-ordained or happening by chance.
In the second part of the book, Doyle deals with the events of the mid to late 18th century in two phases. First was the breakdown of the Bourbon government under the stress of a chaotic and ineffective system of finance and the government's loss of confidence in itself. The chronic defects in the financial system, if not reformed, would eventually have destroyed that government, but they do not explain the timing of its failure in 1788-89. Doyle does not regard this failure inevitable or caused by social tensions or public opinion, but the result of the cost of intervention in the American war and failure to install a friendly government in the Netherlands. The financial problems and loss of political credit led to a state bankruptcy in August 1788, but its effects were made worse by very poor harvest in that year. Only after the ancien regime collapsed did the struggle for power start and Doyle makes it clear how much events depended on unpredictable and unforeseen developments, not on any plan or programme.
This is not an introduction to the subject, as it assumes a fair amount of knowledge of 18th century French political and social history, but it does allow someone with at least a limited background in this field to review the conflicting interpretations without becoming confused. It is well worth reading
0 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2009
Book in generally good condition (even had all the pages, which is always a good thing!) and I have no complaints. Thank you - amazing for what I paid for it. Arrived in about 4 days, in time for my uni essays. Thanks.