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  • Customer reviews

on 26 October 2014
well done Simon - a somewhat prolix, but overall excellent guide of the revolution. This is information overload, you must concentrate whilst reading but I found it very worthwhile.
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on 26 April 2015
An excellent study of the French Revolution by a master historian. Can't find anything to fault.
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on 23 March 2016
Too much setting the scene the Bastille is not stormed until page 331 in my version. Only to learn that the Revolution was caused by the price of a 4 pound loaf of bread. Perhaps that's why the French are renowned for their bread sticks.
2 people found this helpful
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on 13 May 2016
Brings the whole period alive from before until after the revolution. Probably the most most momentous chapter in social and political history, Schama does it proud!
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on 21 November 2014
as described
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on 2 December 2009
The French Revolution was many things. Simon Schama is aware that, even in 875 pages, only some of those things can be told. This book focuses on individuals and their personal and political development. For all the variety of background of the main revolutionary players, there are some common threads.

Popular as well as academic culture had, in the 18th century, been promoting an idealised 'natural' way of life; the antithesis of the stilted rituals and dress of the Court at Versailles. Schama makes much of the enormous influence of Rousseau. Those revolutionaries with any education (most of them; the revolution was largely an aristocratic movement), had been taught to revere the great ideals of the Roman Republic. Many had also seen service in the American War of Independence. The French motivation for involvement may have focused on trouncing the old British enemy. Fighting for Republican ideals only to return to the Divine monarchy that was Louis XVI's France seemed like unfinished business.

Schama deals in depth with the mixed personality of the King. A reforming king, interested in the sciences, happy to abolish oppressive feudal practices, he was, nevertheless, a prisoner of his role. His coronation had acted out his Divine appointment. This mixture of reason and ancient superstition made him weak in practice. Time and again he would make quasi democratic concessions, only to renege later.

A picture emerges of a society so ill at ease with itself, that it feels it needs a complete cleansing and makeover. In practice that can only be done with a complete extinction of the population. For all the destruction of privelege, custom and people, Schama points out just how much of the old France survived for centuries. The Catholic Church has withered, but is still intact. Some great noble estates continue to be owned by the great nobility.

This book is a terrific introduction to a complex and confusing series of terrible events. It has inspired this reader to want to discover more.
6 people found this helpful
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on 11 December 2014
Amazing history! Absolutely love the book
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on 3 January 2015
Informative and learned.
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on 18 January 2017
The French Revolution is a fascinating time in history, and this book chronicles the events extremely well in a very readable way.
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on 24 May 2016
No problems
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