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Publisher's Summary

William Doyle, the author of the classic text on the French Revolution, guides the reader through a historical event of such import and consequence that we are still living with its developments today. Beginning with a discussion of the familiar images of the French Revolution, Doyle continues on to a brief survey of the old regime and how it collapsed. Proceeding, Doyle elucidates how the revolution happened: why the revolutionaries quarreled with the king, the church and the rest of Europe, why this produced Terror, and finally how it accomplished rule by a general. This compelling Very Short Introduction looks at how the ancient regime that the revolution destroyed had become so entrenched and also examines cases in which revolutionary achievement failed to match ambition. Finally, Doyle explores the legacy of the revolution in the form of rationality in public affairs and responsible government, finishing his examination with a discussion as to why this event has been so controversial.
©2001 Oxford University Press (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Adam Shields on 07-08-16

Good short introduction

My European history is lousy. I doubt I will every have a really good handle on European history, but short books like The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction help.

This good addition to the Very Short Introduction series. The book is just over 100 pages of real material. There are six chapters: Echoes; Why It Happened; How It Happened; What It Ended; What It Started; and Where It Stands.

In a short introduction like this, there is not room for a detailed look at the events of the revolution. A broad overview, along with cultural and historical implication is the main focus.

I had a couple of thoughts when reading. First, economics are almost always important to revolutions. But not necessarily directly. The French revolution occurred after some tax cuts and the average person was a bit better off. However overspending on the military and empire still distorted the fundamental economics.

Both the aristocracy and the church share some blame for the revolution. In both cases there were signs that their power and finances were unsustainable in the long term. Instead of voluntarily giving up power, finances and authority for the good of the country as a whole, they were ultimately reduced to a fraction of their previous state. I always think the church should understand giving up power and finances to gain cultural voice and authority. But that seems to be a hard lesson to learn, even when it is part of our faith.

I also did not realize the extent that the church was repressed in France. It went badly for everyone and in many ways it is odd to me that the Soviet Union and later China (and others) did not learn the lesson about the repression of the church and faith from the earlier French revolution.

Overall I thought this was one of better Very Short Introduction series. Its weakness is that it spends too little time on the actual events, but the analysis (where it spent most of its time) was well done.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David on 01-07-13

Thoughtful Yet Concise

Well written and well narrated. Concise, thoughtful treatment of a very complex topic that occurred more than 200 years ago but remains broadly relevant to our understanding of today's world.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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