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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
The French Revolution
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on 11 January 2004
This entertaining work concisely untangles the confusing succession of events, actors and institutions between 1789 and 1799. At the vivid depiction of the “journées” and the public serial guillotining, I could imagine myself being part of the haranguing crowd. A disturbing feeling.
However, I was disappointed that the book does not explore the ideas that catalysed this quest for new forms of government and social order.
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on 8 June 2011
The French Revolution has been called the greatest event in European history since the fall of the Roman Empire, an epic world shaking event that helped shape the modern world... but it's also a period of history that I knew very little about. Reading this book helped change that. That's no small feat as the French Revolution is a confusing and murky era, one with many strangely named factions squabbling amongst each other, and certain regimes, such as that of the Jacobin Committee of Public Safety, coming to power for a year only to be ousted by another faction, in what seems like an endless series of violence and blood letting.

The late Christopher Hibbert manages an impressive feat of distilling these events and personalities and creating a great, readable narrative history from it. Hibbert's prose is lively and lucid, and it really does help illuminate the figures from the period, such as the misunderstood Marie Antoinette (who never said "Let them eat cake"), the concerned would be assassin Charlotte Corday, the larger than life Georges Danton, the rabble rousing Jean-Paul Marat and of course, the 'bloody dictator' Robespierre. Hibbert's skill is bring these long dead and dusty figures back to life, and to humanise them - so that their struggles don't really read like a tedious list of events from times past, but as real moments lived through by flesh and blood people, not by simple names and dates in a book.

His descriptions are evocative and fascinating, and cover such small trivial details of King Louis XVI's eating habits and hobbies at the court of Versailles, to the 'big events' such as the round the clock guillotining and sham trials during the Reign of Terror. The book also covers a wide section from French society, so we have accounts from the aristocrats, but we also get descriptions of life on the lower levels of society too - which tend to be far more interesting.

The book has been criticised by others for being to Anglo-centric in its views, or for being to sympathetic towards monarchists and aristocrats, or for dwelling on the barbarity of the Terror and less on the long term achievements of the Revolution. It also doesn't go into to much analysis of the events themselves, but being a narrative history I didn't find this a problem. I believe that too much analysis would have broken up the prose and made it a much more dull book to read.

Despite these flaws this a great book , well worth reading for anyone with an interest in this period of history. I suppose its a testament to the now sadly deceased author that his book has inspired me to want to read up more on this fascinating era of history.
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on 7 May 2015
I bought this to inform myself about the French Revolution. It is excellent for this purpose. It is a thorough account and the author is obviously an expert on his subject. It is enlivened by biographies of the key characters. Occasionally it is a bit too dry - as when the death of the 10-year old Louis XVII is mentioned almost in passing. But this story is so gruesome that it becomes hard to care about any one person. That's not the author's fault - the Revolution was horrifically brutal.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2009
This relatively short book is a very useful summary and introduction for anyone who has some awareness of the French Revolution, but needs a context and narrative. Like all Hibbert's books, it is written for the intelligent layman, and without a critical'standpoint', which makes it a very useful place to start (maybe before tackling work such as Schama). I lent this to my (frenchborn) French teacher, and wants a copy to lend to other anglophone French people, as it is so clear and succinct. I should say as well that it is enthralling, I found it very hard to put it down and turn off the light!

Especially interesting is the appendix which sets out the fate (usually frightful) of virtually all the minor characters, if not mentioned already in the text.
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on 29 December 2016
This book I originally got for my mother though I kinda stole it back, it was her birthday present and my mum was not interested in French history, but having visited in the past many places in France including Paris, I was interested. I love this book because, I feel I now have a good knowledge of the reasons behind the Revolution. Based during 1789-1799 this book covers the very bloody, sickening and complex period in French history. I would recommend this book if you are ready for a challenging and a complex read as it took me an entire year to read and digest. So if you are ready for a challenge, this is not an easy read but 5 stars otherwise.
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on 10 May 2010
This is an excellent overview of the French Revolution. Hibbert brings it to life and makes you feel as though you are there. I didn't know, before I read this book, how horrific the revolution actually was. This is the kind of book you won't forget in a hurry.
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on 8 September 2016
Dear Penguin, please stop selling this awful book written by someone who is obviously not a historian and whose grasp of the sources is woeful at best. To give one example, he cites five works by Georges Lefebvre but not his most famous work (The Great Fear of 1789) and I find it hard to believe he read a single word of his. There are so many better histories out there and so many great books out of print, that to continue selling this one is a crime against publishing. Furthermore, I speak from experience as someone who started off buying two versions of this book (I found an illustrated version too which is the only reason I've still got it) as what appeared to be the best place to start and that a trusted brand couldn't possibly peddle a load of old tosh under the guise of history. Big mistake. Now 15 years later and considerably wiser I can honestly say, in the name of my sovereign state, that this book did more to confuse my understanding of the Revolution than any other source. I dont feel bad saying this because he's got tons of other books he can earn royalties on and I can only reiterate that no generalist should EVER be allowed near the French Revolution under ANY circumstances. Cave reader, you have been warned… If you want a fictional/narrative/whatever you want to call it account of events then Simon Schama's Citizens is much better written and much more entertaining!
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on 22 October 2010
This is a very readable account but I feel Amazon have done the author a great disservice with this Kindle edition. The number of typing errors are appalling and detract from the reading experience. In the age of spellchecker and digital books is it to much to expect a transcription that is error free. Many of the errors appear to involve"th" which is typed a a "di" I am sure the hardcopy would not be released by the publishers like this, so why is the kindle edition
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on 19 September 2016
I bought this book wanting to gain more knowledge of the Revolution and it didn't disappoint! Such an easy read also! This book defiantly captivates the reader, especially on the September massacres and the execution of the King. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to gain knowledge on the French revolution and how it came about!
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on 22 September 2015
Found this surprisingly dull. Although I have no doubt that it is well researched and accurate, it's told as a story with little analysis or explanation of different interpretations of event. As a result, I felt I had a very surface level understanding.
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