Reducing the Legend to Reality,
This review is from: Danton (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.