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This review is from: Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution (Paperback)
This is a classic example of revisionist history. The common perception of Robespierre is of a power hungry monster prepared to have anyone who stood in his way sent to the guillotine. This isn't entirely accurate - he actually opposed many of the early calls for a campaign of terror - but then again the common perception has not been a credible one for a long time. As pointed out by William Doyle, quite possibly the most highly regarded English speaking historian of the French Revolution, Robespierre was not always a monster. What's not in doubt either amongst respected historians is that he definitely did become a monster.
Scurr tries to show the "real" Robespierre mostly through his speeches, ignoring the fact that these were carefully written days or weeks before being delivered. Scurr mistakes these carefully worded speeches as Robespierres absolute beliefs, when in fact they were just posturing that was convenient at any given moment. When he was forced to actually speak on the spur of the moment, he was incapable of doing so. Scurr also tries, tortuously, to prove that Robespierres hypocritical and selfish acts during the reign of terror had some sort of logical, moral consistency.
So as I said, classic revisionism - questioning the accepted, painstakingly researched orthodoxy, but ultimately unconvincing to all but the most uncritical reader.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Oct 2010 20:25:31 BDT
A Nobody says:
One wonders whether he used his 'monsterism' as a political counter-threat more to the constant vociferous political opposition in 'the court of whatever' he sat in daily. The guillotine is then devised by some bright spark, and, all and sundry; not just Robespierre; are carried away with the modern (of its time) form of 'get it out of the way quick and let's move on without too much fuss'. Much like the Nazis later engaged their lofty Arian ideal and we (The West) today with meticulous drone cuts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Posted on 18 Jun 2012 14:23:59 BDT
Wiliam Doyle is one of the most distinguished scholars on the French Revolution? When did that happen? Have the rest died? Coda - Monsters don't exist - well, once you've reached 8.
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