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15 Best Books on French Revolution

Books on French Revolution: The French Revolution refers to the period that began with the Estates-General of 1789 and ended in November 1799 with the formation of the French Consulate. We have compiled a list of the best books on the French Revolution to give to a more detailed understanding. We hope that you enjoy our list of the Best Books on French Revolution.

Books on French Revolution

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions which included a central state that could keep the peace and uniform laws that applied to all citizens. Some went on to create governments that were accountable to their constituents. We take these institutions for granted, but they are absent or are unable to perform in many of today’s developing countries—with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world.

Francis Fukuyama, author of the bestselling The End of History and the Last Man and one of our most important political thinkers, provides a sweeping account of how today’s basic political institutions developed. The first of a major two-volume work, The Origins of Political Order begins with politics among our primate ancestors and follows the story through the emergence of tribal societies, the growth of the first modern state in China, the beginning of the rule of law in India and the Middle East, and the development of political accountability in Europe up until the eve of the French Revolution.

The French Revolution (History In An Afternoon) by Robert H Wilde

A complete history of the French Revolution in an easy to read format.The French Revolution triggered the birth of modern Europe, but it was actually a series of revolutions which, pulled and pushed by war and fear, evolved beyond even the dreams of the first revolutionaries. This volume of History In An Afternoon examines France from the debt building days of the American War of Independence, through the revolution of 1789 and up to 1804, when Napoleon brought the closest we can find to an ‘end.’ History In An Afternoon gives you all the essential detail in a few hours.

The French Revolution by Ian Davidson

The French Revolution casts a long shadow, one that reaches into our own time and influences our debates on freedom, equality, and authority. Yet it remains an elusive, perplexing historical event. Its significance morphs according to the sympathies of the viewer, who may see it as a series of gory tableaux, a regrettable slide into uncontrolled anarchy—or a radical reshaping of the political landscape.In this riveting new book, Ian Davidson provides a fresh look at this vital moment in European history. He reveals how it was an immensely complicated and multifaceted revolution, taking place in different places, at different times, and in different spheres; and how subsequently it became weighted with political, social, and moral values. Stirring and dramatic—and filled with the larger-than-life players of the period and evoking the turbulence of this colorful time—this is narrative history at its finest.

A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution by Jeremy Popkin

The principles of the French Revolution remain the only possible basis for a just society — even if, after more than two hundred years, they are more contested than ever before. In A New World Begins, Jeremy D. Popkin offers a riveting account of the revolution that puts the reader in the thick of the debates and the violence that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a new society. We meet Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Danton, in all of their brilliance and vengefulness; we witness the failed escape and execution of Louis XVI; we see women demanding equal rights and black slaves wresting freedom from revolutionaries who hesitated to act on their own principles; and we follow the rise of Napoleon out of the ashes of the Reign of Terror.

Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution by Germaine de Staël and Aurelian Craiutu

Few individuals have left as deep an influence on their time as did Germaine de Staël, one of the greatest intellectuals of her age, whose works have influenced entire cultures, eras, and disciplines. Soon after its publication, posthumously in 1818, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution became a classic of liberal thinking, making a deeply original contribution to an ongoing political and historical debate in early nineteenth-century France and Europe.

As a representative of classical liberal opinion, de Staël’s voice, which Napoleon Bonaparte tried to silence by censorship and banishment, is a unique and important contribution to revolutionary historiography. Considerations is considered de Staël’s magnum opus and sheds renewed light on the familiar figures and events of the Revolution, among them, the financier and statesman Jacques Necker, her father. Editor Aurelian Craiutu states that Considerations explores “the prerequisites of liberty, constitutionalism and rule of law, the necessary limits on power, the relation between social order and political order, the dependence of liberty on morality and religion, and the question of the institutional foundations of a free regime.”

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Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” is considered by many to be a masterpiece of political analysis and a compelling rationale against the French Revolution. Originally written as a letter in response to a young Parisian and later expanded upon and published in book format in January 1790, the work has greatly influenced conservative and classic liberal intellectuals and stands as a powerful argument against violent revolutions, lawlessness, and unrest. Prior to 1790, Burke was a well-known member of the British House of Commons and a vocal supporter of the American Revolution. His condemnation of the French Revolution shocked many of his peers and supporters. Burke viewed the French Revolution as a violent and chaotic war without any guiding ideology or respect for the rule of law and feared it would lead to a situation that was both dangerous and corrupt. Many of Burke’s predictions came true as the Revolution devolved into bloodshed and anarchy with the Reign of Terror beginning in 1793 and then leading to the eventual military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte. Burke’s work stands as an enduring statement in support of tradition, hereditary power, property rights, duty, and the monarchy. This edition is printed on premium acid-free paper.

Revolutionary News: The Press in France, 1789–1799 (Bicentennial Reflections on the French Revolution) by Jeremy Popkin

The newspaper press was an essential aspect of the political culture of the French Revolution. Revolutionary News highlights the most significant features of this press in clear and vivid language. It breaks new ground in examining not only the famous journalists but the obscure publishers and the anonymous readers of the Revolutionary newspapers. Popkin examines the way press reporting affected Revolutionary crises and the way in which radical journalists like Marat and the Pere Duchene used their papers to promote democracy.

On Revolution (Penguin Classics) by Hannah Arendt and Jonathan Schell

Hannah Arendt’s penetrating observations on the modern world, based on a profound knowledge of the past, have been fundamental to our understanding of our political landscape. On Revolution is her classic exploration of a phenomenon that has reshaped the globe. From the eighteenth-century rebellions in America and France to the explosive changes of the twentieth century, Arendt traces the changing face of revolution and its relationship to war while underscoring the crucial role such events will play in the future. Illuminating and prescient, this timeless work will fascinate anyone who seeks to decipher the forces that shape our tumultuous age.

A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution: The Abbe Sieyes and What is the Third Estate? by William H Sewell Jr.

What Is the Third Estate? was the most influential pamphlet of 1789. It did much to set the French Revolution on a radically democratic course. It also launched its author, the Abbé Sieyes, on a remarkable political career that spanned the entire revolutionary decade. Sieyes both opened the revolution by authoring the National Assembly’s declaration of sovereignty in June of 1789 and closed it in 1799 by engineering Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’état.
This book studies the powerful rhetoric of the great pamphlet and the brilliant but enigmatic thought of its author. William H. Sewell’s insightful analysis reveals the fundamental role played by the new discourse of political economy in Sieyes’s thought and uncovers the strategies by which this gifted rhetorician gained the assent of his intended readers—educated and prosperous bourgeois who felt excluded by the nobility in the hierarchical social order of the old regime. He also probes the contradictions and incoherencies of the pamphlet’s highly polished text to reveal fissures that reach to the core of Sieyes’s thought—and to the core of the revolutionary project itself.

The Old Regime and the French Revolution (Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science) by Alexis de Tocqueville

One of the most important books ever written about the French Revolution, this treatise is the work of a celebrated political thinker and historian. Alexis de Tocqueville reveals the rebellion’s origins and consequences by examining France’s political and cultural environment during the late eighteenth century. His view of the revolution as part of a gradual and ongoing social process, rather than a sudden occurrence, offers timeless insights into the pursuit of individual and political freedom.
Originally published in 1856, the survey begins with a consideration of the contradictory opinions surrounding the revolution’s outbreak. It takes an in-depth look at the old regime, including its administration, tribunals, official manners and customs, internecine quarrels, and class divisions. Tocqueville explores a range of influences on the rebellion’s development, including the political rise of the nation’s literary figures, the growth of antireligious attitudes, and the widespread desire for reform and liberty. 

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Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution: With a New Preface, 20th Anniversary Edition by Lynn Hunt

When this book was published in 1984, it reframed the debate on the French Revolution, shifting the discussion from the Revolution’s role in wider, extrinsic processes (such as modernization, capitalist development, and the rise of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes) to its central political significance: the discovery of the potential of political action to consciously transform society by molding character, culture, and social relations. In a new preface to this twentieth-anniversary edition, Hunt reconsiders her work in the light of the past twenty years’ scholarship.

The French Revolution Confronts Pius VI: Volume 1y by Jeffrey J. Langan

 Now, for the first time in English, these works comprising the letters, briefs, and other writings of Pius VI on the French Revolution are available. Volume I treats the first shock of the Revolution and the efforts of the Pope in 1790 and 1791 to oppose the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (which famous revolutionary and shrewd diplomat Talleyrand referred to as “the greatest fault of the National Assembly”). Volume II will be published later, and deals with the aftermath of the Civil Constitution through Pius’s death in exile). Editor and translator Jeffrey Langan presents the materials leading up to and directly connected with these decrees, in which the National Assembly attempted to set up a Catholic Church that would be completely submissive to the demands of the Assembly. Volume I also covers Pius’s efforts to deal with the immediate aftermath of the Constitution after the National Assembly implemented it, including his encyclical, Quod Aliquantum.

A Literary Tour de France: The World of Books on the Eve of the French Revolution by Robert Darnton

The publishing industry in France in the years before the Revolution was a lively and sometimes rough-and-tumble affair, as publishers and printers scrambled to deal with (and if possible evade) shifting censorship laws and tax regulations, in order to cater to a reading public’s appetite for books of all kinds, from the famous Encyclopédie, repository of reason and knowledge, to scandal-mongering libel and pornography. Historian and librarian Robert Darnton uses his exclusive access to a trove of documents-letters and documents from authors, publishers, printers, paper millers, type founders, ink manufacturers, smugglers, wagon drivers, warehousemen, and accountants-involving a publishing house in the Swiss town of Neuchatel to bring this world to life. Like other places on the periphery of France, Switzerland was a hotbed of piracy, carefully monitoring the demand for certain kinds of books and finding ways of fulfilling it. Focusing in particular on the diary of Jean-François Favarger, a traveling sales rep for a Swiss firm whose 1778 voyage, on horseback and on foot, around France to visit bookstores and renew accounts forms the spine of this story, Darnton reveals not only how the industry worked and which titles were in greatest demand, but the human scale of its operations.

Reflections on the Revolution in France (Hackett Classics) by Edmund Burke and J. G. A. Pocock

John Pocock’s edition of Burke’s Reflections is two classics in one: Burke’s Reflections and Pocock’s reflections on Burke and the eighteenth century.

The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom by Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink , Rolf Reichardt

This book is both an analysis of the Bastille as cultural paradigm and a case study on the history of French political culture. It examines in particular the storming and subsequent fall of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789 and how it came to represent the cornerstone of the French Revolution, becoming a symbol of the repression of the Old Regime. Lüsebrink and Reichardt use this semiotic reading of the Bastille to reveal how historical symbols are generated; what these symbols’ functions are in the collective memory of societies; and how they are used by social, political, and ideological groups.
To facilitate the symbolic nature of the investigation, this analysis of the evolving signification of the Bastille moves from the French Revolution to the nineteenth century to contemporary history. The narrative also shifts from France to other cultural arenas, like the modern European colonial sphere, where the overthrow of the Bastille acquired radical new signification in the decolonization period of the 1940s and 1950s.

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