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on 5 July 2012
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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on 5 November 2009
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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on 11 January 2004
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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