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on 21 January 2017
The book guides the reader through this historic event by emphasizing the importance of the French Revolutionary principles; liberty, equality and fraternity. Doyle elaborates that the French Revolution had its origins in a series of late 18th century events and as a set of ideas, images, and memories in the minds of posterity. This is a powerful argument for the importance of history, as well as an example of its complexity.
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on 7 August 2015
When asked the question, what did you do during the French Revolution? Talleyrand, Napoleon's chief minister, replied: "I survived..."

Upon reading this weighty tome, the reader could be forgiven for expressing similar sentiments. Authoritative, often dense, but well written and researched in parts, Doyle's work is an excellent introduction for the layman.

To be sure, there are times when a glossary of key terms would be infinitely beneficial, and often, you could be forgiven for skipping over sections, but...this remains one of my favourite histories on the subject.

A historical event of such magnitude was always going to present the student with complexities, reams of data, and various permutations of what was what and who was who.

The stand out chapters are those dealing with the French Revolutionary wars. It is here, that Doyle cuts loose and flexes his muscles, presenting us to look down the path that would eventually prove to be the Revolution's undoing - a nation perpetually at war, inevitably concludes with a soldier leading it. And as soldiers prefer order, discipline, and clear directives, it is small wonder that Napoleon should became the Revolution's 'undertaker.'

Part frustrating, part insightful, but never dull. Doyle's French Revolution is not a bad place to start if you're interested in a complex historical event with far reaching outcomes.
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on 7 September 2015
I wish I could be more positive about this excellently written book. However the production of the printed version is so 'mean' it is difficult to enjoy reading it. There are over forty lines per standard sized page with font size and line spacing squeezed almost to the extreme, the margins are narrow, illustrations few and the paper cheap. It feels like somebody's project in ruthlessly minimising every fraction of a penny in production costs.
It might be OK if the book cost £4.99 but for me it is definitely not OK at £21.
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on 22 May 2015
William Doyle’s History of the French Revolution it the best in the genre because it is the most honest and is well written, comprehensive, and informed by up-to-date research. On a subject that, two hundred years later and counting, remains surprisingly controversial – or perhaps not surprisingly, as it has to do with the nature of France itself – no one matches Doyle’s precise, noncommittal voice. The book, moreover, stretches from the last decade of the ancien régime and into the consulate, providing valuable context to the central revolutionary phase of 1789-99. While it is detailed enough to do justice to the rich and varied sequence of events and cast of significant characters, it indulges in no jargon and is easy to follow. It is far superior, finally, to crowd-pleasers such as Schama and to the semi-hagiographies produced by many French historians. For students and for the general reader alike, this is the book to read.

As additional background, whether for students or for the general reader interested in the twists and turns of the historiography on the topic, I recommend François Furet’s Interpreting the French Revolution (1981) and TCW Blanning’s The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution (1996).
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on 24 October 2011
I hate to admit that before reading The Oxford History of the French Revolution I was in complete darkness regarding one of the most significant social and political events of modern European history. Thus, every page was a revelation to me and I was completely captivated by the account of the events as presented in the book. It was really hard to put it down even as my eyelids became increasingly heavy in the morning hours. I cannot judge the book in terms of accuracy of historical facts or completeness. I often had to revert to Wikipedia in order to find out more about some person or fact that I wanted to know more about. However I doubt that one can provide a more detailed and well-rounded account of the French revolution in just 460 pages. The book touches on several aspects of the revolution including economics, warfare, international affairs, religion, politics etc. There is also a comprehensive bibliography for those who want to delve deeper into the matters. I believe that I chose one of the best books to introduce myself to this historical event which I enjoyed thoroughly and have absolutely no regrets or complaints.
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on 3 January 2013
This is one of my set texts for my history degree, and despite never having studied the French Revolution before, I have found it surprisingly easy to follow. Doyle is one of the most prominent historians of the subject, and his book includes almost all the main themes within context - it provides a very good and interesting starting point. Some people I know have found reading it slightly hard going at times however.
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on 26 January 2008
As a complete novice with curiosity to feed I started Doyle's 'Oxford History of the French Revolution' together with Asprey's (2 vol) 'Rise & Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte' and Schama's 'Citizens', all together. Doyle's work is a perfect guide to illuminate this labyrinth - he engages very well and very early. For me this is a page-turner, consuming all available time and only with discipline can I put it down to cover the same ground from Asprey's perspective. This latter also a tremendously good read, a little lighter but the first half of the first volume makes a very good companion work. All that is left of Schama is a dent in the wall finally wrung out of my patience at page 83. I seem to be in a minority here, so I will simply record personal exasperation with Schama's style without seeking argument.
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on 7 April 2007
Comprehensive discussion on the revolution with a very practical application. I had hoped for more of a political/philosophical discussion on the topic and was slightly disappointed in this. That said, that book is encyclopaedic in its discussion and covers virtually everything that you might want to know about the practical events of the revolution. As a reference therefore - for anyone reading/writing on the topic - it is thoroughly indispensable... but for the rest of us and as a bedtime read the book is slightly tiresome, overly detailed and slow moving.
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on 22 January 2016
I found this book to be quite dull. While thorough, well-researched and argued and therefore excellent for the history student, it lacks appeal for the general reader. The characters simply do not come to life. Still anxious to discover more about the French Revolution, I bought Peter Hibbert's book. What a contrast! From page one you feel you are living through these turbulent times!
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on 19 January 2010
If you are interested in the French revolution, this is the book to read. I have been reading around this subject since childhood, Baroness Orczy, Tale of Two Cities and more recently Hilary Mantel, but never studied it. This book filled that gap perfectly.
It is lucid, engaging, in plain English and referenced for the academics.
Can't recommend too highly.
CH
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