Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: "The French Revolution" by Peter Davies

Just wrapped up Peter Davies' Beginner's Guide to the French Revolution.

I somewhat enjoyed this book. Although hailed as a launching point for total beginners, I think it will best serve readers with a modicum of existing knowledge who wish to begin a more serious study.

It is most helpful when explaining the different schools of Revolutionary historians--early historiographers like Burke and De Stael, to the dominant Marxists of the 20th century. The final chapter, about the legacy of the Revolution for contemporary French politics, is also interesting. Davies' strength lies in tracing the contours of debate. This quite breezy read (about 150 small pages) is like a signpost for the historical traveler: I've been pointed towards my sites of interest. For that I'm thankful.

I did have some qualms with the writing and structure. There are occasional references to groups and movements that have not been defined yet--talk of Girondins and Thermidoreans before we've gotten to their official introductions. This didn't ruin my experience, but I can imagine this throwing off the totally uninitiated.


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