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For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a r For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a radically different account of the Terror. In a remarkably vivid and page-turning work of history, he transports the reader from the pitched battles on the streets of Paris to the royal family's escape through secret passageways in the Tuileries palace, and across the landscape of the tragic last years of the Revolution. The violence, he shows, was a result of dogmatic and fundamentalist thinking: dreadful decisions were made by groups of people who believed they were still fighting for freedom but whose survival was threatened by famine, external war, and counter-revolutionaries within the fledging new state. Urgent questions emerge from Andress's trenchant reassessment: When is it right to arbitrarily detain those suspected of subversion? When does an earnest patriotism become the rationale for slaughter?Combining startling narrative power and bold insight, The Terror is written with verve and exceptional pace. It is a dramatic new interpretation of the French Revolution that draws troubling parallels with today's political and religious dundamentalism."A vivid and powerful narrative of the years 1789-95... The narrative is dense yet fast-moving, from the storming of the Bastille to the execution of King Louis XVI to the paranoid politics of the National Convention." --DAVID GILMOUR, THE New York Times Book Review"In such alarming times, it is important to understand what exactly terror is, how it works politically, and what, if anything, can be done to combat it. The historian David Andress has made a serious contribution to this central subject of our times with an accessible account of the way terror overtook the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century." --RUTH SCURR, The Times (London)DAVID ANDRESS, a leading historian of the French Revolution, is Reader in Modern European History at the University of Portsmouth and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


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For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a r For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a radically different account of the Terror. In a remarkably vivid and page-turning work of history, he transports the reader from the pitched battles on the streets of Paris to the royal family's escape through secret passageways in the Tuileries palace, and across the landscape of the tragic last years of the Revolution. The violence, he shows, was a result of dogmatic and fundamentalist thinking: dreadful decisions were made by groups of people who believed they were still fighting for freedom but whose survival was threatened by famine, external war, and counter-revolutionaries within the fledging new state. Urgent questions emerge from Andress's trenchant reassessment: When is it right to arbitrarily detain those suspected of subversion? When does an earnest patriotism become the rationale for slaughter?Combining startling narrative power and bold insight, The Terror is written with verve and exceptional pace. It is a dramatic new interpretation of the French Revolution that draws troubling parallels with today's political and religious dundamentalism."A vivid and powerful narrative of the years 1789-95... The narrative is dense yet fast-moving, from the storming of the Bastille to the execution of King Louis XVI to the paranoid politics of the National Convention." --DAVID GILMOUR, THE New York Times Book Review"In such alarming times, it is important to understand what exactly terror is, how it works politically, and what, if anything, can be done to combat it. The historian David Andress has made a serious contribution to this central subject of our times with an accessible account of the way terror overtook the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century." --RUTH SCURR, The Times (London)DAVID ANDRESS, a leading historian of the French Revolution, is Reader in Modern European History at the University of Portsmouth and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

30 review for The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, amid revolution it is at the same time both virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue.” - Maximilien Robespierre (1794) “I no longer desire to remain in a world covered with crime.” - from the suicide note of Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, written after his wife’s beheading One re “If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, amid revolution it is at the same time both virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue.” - Maximilien Robespierre (1794) “I no longer desire to remain in a world covered with crime.” - from the suicide note of Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, written after his wife’s beheading One revolution deserves another, which is how I ended up reading David Andress’ The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France. It started this summer when I read a couple books on the American Revolution, both of which took pains to show the experience from the point of view of people who weren’t rebelling. Told from that angle, America’s break with Great Britain is an uglier, more complex tale. From there, I hopped over to Stalin, and his role in the massively destructive Russian Revolution. Once I finished that, it seemed only natural to circle back to France in the late 1700s. That’s how I landed here, with this clearly written, well-paced, and relatively compact (377 pages of text) story of high ideals ending in the voluminous gush of arterial blood. As I am often compelled to do on these pages, I must start by confessing my ignorance. I have read very little about the French Revolution. My main source of knowledge comes from Simon Schama’s impressionistic Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, a book that served mainly to confuse me, and convince me to stay clear of the topic. (The fault was with me, not Schama; I was clearly in over my head). I know about the guillotine, and the sad ends of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and I read A Tale of Two Cities eight years ago, but that’s about it. I’m no expert. I don’t even qualify as a novice. There’s a reason for that, though. The French Revolution is a complicated historical subject. There is question and controversy about when it technically started, when it technically ended, and more importantly, what it all meant. There is a famous quip attributed to Chinese premiere Zhou Enlai. When asked about the impact of the French Revolution in 1972, Zhou reputedly said: “It is too soon to say.” Of course, like many great bon mots, this story has been debunked (something was lost in translation, and Zhou was answering a different question than the one he heard); still, the notion holds true. The French Revolution was a convulsive event that is both celebrated and condemned, then and now, and there will never be a final word. Andress’ focus is not on the Revolution in toto. Instead, he takes on a slightly more manageable task by focusing on a period known as “the Terror.” Though it defies precise definition, especially by me, the Terror was an interval of revolutionary violence. The king had been deposed, a republic was in the offing, and certain hard-line idealists believed the only way to ensure the nascent republic's survival was to destroy (often through judicial murder) anyone who might be opposed. The narrative begins in June 1791, with the flight of Louis XVI and his family to Varennes. It ends with the death of Robespierre, an architect of the ideological purges that marked the Terror, and who was eventually consumed by the backlash to his bloody campaign. In between Andress covers the rise of the Revolutionary Tribunal, the September Massacres, and the wars that broke out all over France, between France and Europe, and between the French themselves. (The wars are covered in a wide-angled macro fashion. This is not anything close to a military history). He meticulously describes the deadly cycle of revolution and counterrevolution, as former allies become bitter enemies, and as factions fractured, regrouped, and fractured again. As mentioned, this does not cover the whole of the Revolution. The opening stages are sketched in broad strokes, hitting the highlights. In a way, this made the book – and the French Revolution itself – more accessible. I got enough information to understand the chronology of events, and their results, without bogging down hopelessly in the details. Of course, this means that if you want the full accounting of the underlying problems in the monarchy, the calling of the Estates-General, and the storming of the Bastille, you will have to look elsewhere. The narrative’s ultimate achievement is in giving a certain level of clarity to the byzantine twists and turns of the Terror. That’s not to say this is without style. Andress ably handles the high (meaning low) points, with an eye for detail that is both keen and skeptical, as in his description of Louis XVI’s last moments: On the scaffold…coatless and with his hair cropped, Louis attempted a speech. He declared himself once more innocent, but pardoned “those who have brought about my death,” and seemed about to say more about the shedding of his blood…when Santerre ordered the drums to start up, and his words were drowned out. The executioners moved Louis swiftly into the machinery of death: he was strapped to a tilting plank, which dropped his head into a brace, and the blade of the guillotine plunged from above. Death in this manner was undoubtedly quick, and more painless than other forms of execution, though debate continued in medical circles about whether the head retained consciousness for a few seconds as it dropped into the basket. One or two accounts of Louis’ death suggest the blade did not sever his whole neck in one go, and had to be borne down on by the executioner to get a clean cut. With his spine severed already, it is nevertheless unlikely that Louis could have uttered the “terrible cry” that one account claims. Throughout, Andress attempts to provide an accurate depiction of fraught moments. This was a time of frantic passions, and the contemporary propaganda – bursting with violence and sexuality – is the equal of anything found on the dark corners of the internet today. The truth had a way of quailing before the legend. Andress pays special attention to the myths, outrageous accusations, and hyperbolic accounts that still loom so large in the historical record. When a scene is exaggerated – as, for instance, with the death of Princess de Lamballe – he provides a corrective. He is not an apologist, though, and makes that very plain. Andress is a French Revolution expert. In the author bio, The Terror is described as his first book for “general readership.” As a general reader, I can certainly vouch that! The thing I loved most about The Terror is how seriously it took its mission to guide me through the thickets of the past. There is a glossary, just in case you start to confuse the Jacobins with the Girondins. There is an annotated timeline, which provides a nice bit of overarching structure. And there is a dramatis personae complete with mini-bios, just in case you forget the importance of Georges Danton (though Danton, with his rapier wit, is hard to forget). It is clear that Andress has thought a lot about his subject, and that comes through in his perceptions. I liked when he took a step back and tried to figure out what was going on, while keeping an open mind. On both sides of the gulf between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries, the persistent assumption was that one’s enemies, be they “men of faction,” aristocrates, or “fanatics,” were consciously and manipulatively seeking to do evil. Some harked back to the common assumptions about the politics of royal courts: that public service was an avenue for private gain through patronage and favor; that opposition to royal policy was treacherous; that the wickedness of ministers was the appropriate element to emphasize when mounting opposition; and that, ultimately, nothing happened in politics without some factional, manipulative agenda at work. When Andress published this in 2005, he tailored his conclusions to that historical moment, specifically the rise of the security state. Much of it and more still rings true today. This, I suppose, is part of the allure of studying the French Revolution. It may still be too soon to know its meaning, but never too late to learn its lessons.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    The French Revolution has been repeated throughout history – the Russian Revolution, Mao’s China, Pol Pot in Cambodia. They all have antecedents in the French Revolution. This book begins in 1791, with Louis XVI attempted escape from Paris so we miss some of the key events that started before the “Terror”. Several themes stand out. The French Revolution was in many ways a Civil War. There was opposition to the Revolution in many areas of France, most particularly in the Vendee area (this constitut The French Revolution has been repeated throughout history – the Russian Revolution, Mao’s China, Pol Pot in Cambodia. They all have antecedents in the French Revolution. This book begins in 1791, with Louis XVI attempted escape from Paris so we miss some of the key events that started before the “Terror”. Several themes stand out. The French Revolution was in many ways a Civil War. There was opposition to the Revolution in many areas of France, most particularly in the Vendee area (this constitutes the Loire and Nantes divisions of France). The level of violence between the revolutionaries and the counter-revolutionaries was extreme – entire villages were razed. It was much like guerrilla warfare. Paris was associated with the most extreme of the revolutionaries – it was indeed the center from which all doctrines emanated – each wave more ferocious than the preceding one. Not only did the Revolution overthrow and literally kill the monarchy (and numerous other aristocrats, nobility…) but it also declared war on the church. Priests had to swear loyalty to the Republic – those who didn’t were risking their lives. Church property (mostly Roman Catholic) was seized and confiscated. Religion was mocked by many. One can imagine the shock waves this sent to the monarchist regimes and religious institutions across Europe! The aristocratic emigres from France added to this tension in Germany and England where they helped to organize military expeditions to re-instate the monarchy. This just helped to fuel the increasing paranoia amongst the French revolutionaries. Enemies were seen and suspected everywhere. Page 163 (my book) The Convention [this replaced the monarchy] went on to decree that certain categories of person, notably ex-nobles and clergy, were officially “suspect”, and liable to detention and deprivation of civil rights. It imposed the death penalty for a variety of press offences. Page 217 Robespierre “Whoever seeks to debase, divide or paralyse the Convention is an enemy of our country.” There was a rite of purification of virtue that became more pronounced under the ascendancy of Robespierre. Page 271 Robespierre “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue.” Page 224 Saint-Just “There is no prosperity to hope for as long as the last enemy of liberty breathes. You have to punish not only the traitor, but even those that are indifferent; you have to punish whoever is passive in the republic, and who does nothing for it… all that is outside the sovereign is the enemy.” There was a purging of those who did not meet the credentials. Entire families would be victimized. Page 256 Danton “which devoured them, which will devour everyone, which will devour itself.” This pattern has been repeated throughout history, and captured brilliantly in the two books of George Orwell – “Animal Farm” and “1984”. The attempted invasions of France by German and Austrian forces aided by French emigres and the subsidizing by England of monarchist intriguers within France just fueled the Revolution’s paranoia. The French Revolution self-destructed in 1994 when Robespierre and his cohorts were led to the guillotine. This book tended to swamp one with details and names so the reading became somewhat tedious at times. Other times it was exhilarating with passages on the continual transitions and reverberations caused by the events within Paris and France that continue to influence us to this day. I don’t know how true this is, but when Georges Danton was brought to the guillotine in 1794, he said “Don’t forget to show my head to the people; it’s worth seeing.” (page 276)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve. g

    This is a fantastic subject and I love reading about it. David Andress starts ‘The Terror’ with two big claims. One is that the conclusion to Simon Schamas brilliant book ‘Citizens’, that the revolution was just about violence,’ is not good enough’, and two, that the French Revolution like the American Revolution before it was a step forward on the road to civil rights and liberty and that the struggles that were fought were the beginning of modern politics as we recognize them and that the cent This is a fantastic subject and I love reading about it. David Andress starts ‘The Terror’ with two big claims. One is that the conclusion to Simon Schamas brilliant book ‘Citizens’, that the revolution was just about violence,’ is not good enough’, and two, that the French Revolution like the American Revolution before it was a step forward on the road to civil rights and liberty and that the struggles that were fought were the beginning of modern politics as we recognize them and that the central ideas of Liberalism, Conservatism and Socialism were born out of this particular revolutionary process. Unfortunately the book that follows this doesn't address these ideas. At no point does the author attempt to show how these occur short of telling the reader that they did occur. Absent all violence from the French revolution and there was no underlying triumph of liberty. There is no magna carta liberatum, no Declaration of Independence, no “I have a dream”, no “You can’t handle the truth!!” moment in the French Revolution. There’s the ‘Declaration of the Right s of Man and of the citizen’ of course but this was never actually used. It was shelved the moment it was actually needed as it acted as a bit of a mood kill during the hysterical rampaging, but was forever held up as an ideal of what France could look like once the cleansing was done. It was not recognition of natural rights but ‘rights’ as a gift of the state. The state would grant these rights to everyone once all enemies of the state were destroyed. The ‘Terror’ is, I think, written in defense of the idea of a Revolution, not the one that happened, that was an absolute mess, but in defense of the prospect of a republic of ideals and dreams and sentiment and virtue and nothing not even the nonappearance of that promised republic, will sway him from its defense. To prove that the revolution wasn't just about violence we find it itemized. Revolutionary; justified and sadly understandable and frankly they had it coming. Counter-revolutionary; baffling and crazy. Anywhere-where that the revolutionary violence gets barbaric we find that, well, other people do bad things as well… this is a principal free zone. It’s taken as read here that the Republicans revolutionary’s hearts are driven by liberty and equality because they say they are, despite all their actions seemingly being driven by ego, pride and hatred. We find people massacring their way across the country described as 'patriots' and and those defending their own families farms and way of life labelled 'guerrillas'. (216)’ In September, a representative sent to Nantes was warned (by the committee of Public Safety) that “we can be human only when we are assured of victory”.’ ‘The control of violence, if it meant on the one hand preventing aimless popular vengeance, meant on the other channelling the energies and fears behind the threat of such vengeance into supposedly more purposive, but sometimes little less bloody initiatives.’ Whatever that means in real terms! Lord help the peasant on the receiving end of that beating. There’s a tangible spin to most episodes. An acceptance that a certain amount of blood needs to be spilled if you want to further the cause of equality; that equality is a state to be physically made and not a state of mind to be understood and freely entered in to. (236)’…there were only 104 executions in Bordeaux, although there were many more cases of fines handed down to the rich, imprisonment of suspects and other penalties. The population of Bordeaux was bullied, and some individuals paid a high price for their crimes, but overall, in this phase of the terror at least, the city was not brutalised.’ The 104 executees and their families to one side one wonders how many random executions it would take for the author to describe it all as brutal. All around evil prevails and order falls away and constantly throughout the book the author cajoles you to keep the idea in mind that no matter what takes place before your eyes important things are at work here. This is kind of hinted at in the title of the book ‘Terror; Civil War in the French Revolution’.. as if it was an unfortunate diary mix-up rather than one being directly the cause of the other. ’Oh no!, someone has invited us out for a meal on my bowling night!!’ This feels like a deliberate deception and reads like it, and once you feel that grip on your arm you can never quite shake it off. (195)’It would be two months before the deputies re-entered the city, this time with troops, and the aimless and pointless defiance of Bordeaux’s well-heeled youth would earn them nothing but harsh treatment.’ Darn those aimless and pointless youths… The author seems to think that society is on a one way evolutionary path, that crisis is an ingredient of progress. I think that a countries decent into chaos is a bad sign, he thinks that it is an essential step in its rising fortunes. He thinks that that rioting - no matter how it’s fermented- is the purest form of democratic expression…..except of course when it’s not. Here we find the young Frenchmen who decide that they liked their lives just how they were.. (202)’Many young men found the only way to evade the call of the Republic was to join guerrilla bands (‘Chouans’)that had flourished in the densely hedge bound bocage landscape since those protests.’ ‘..Evade the call of the republic’ being a sweet way to say avoid being killed by the Republicans. ‘In their heartlands, most chouans never-the -less remained integrated members of their communities until the time came to stage raid or a retaliation.’ Look away now gentle reader. ‘In the meantime, the chouans traded in fear and the humiliation of isolated patriots. In late 1793, one outraged individual reported that he had been made to climb the local church tower and cry vive Louis XVII!!’ ‘Much about this pattern of chouan activity indicates clearly that they were attempting to defend a pre-existing set of local community norms against the alien republican values of those they fervently denounced as …intruders.’ ‘pre-existing local community norms’!?Why would you say such a thing? On page one the author says of Soviet communism, ’(itself of course originally a project to better the lot of the oppressed)’. This is potty. It is literally impossible to entertain that idea in 2015 but he seems to hope that you will. If though, by champion of the oppressed, he means that all reactionary peoples and races will be destroyed in the revolutionary inferno then fine but otherwise it was not quite the same thing at all. (Workers of the world unite up alongside that freshly dug trench please; you have nothing to lose but your heads….) This is a fundamental flaw, a slight of hand, that you can slaughter your way to purity and that you can nationalize the conscience of a people. The Rights of Man does not contain the profound truth of the Declaration of Independence. Aside from the fact that it was rights for an elite cadre alone, all rights are subject to the requirements of the state. A gift to be recognized when all the factors and indicators are aligned which is no gift at all. When the lawyers and journalists of the Jacobin emote about their honour and patriotism and equality and fraternity it’s done because it’s all about their ‘freedom’. And they talk about everyone else’s freedom in the same way that a ransom note talks about freedom.ie; It’s heavily qualified. For all the sentimentalising of their own honour and purity there no speech quoted, no argument in favour of the republic they could build together just invective against everyone who questioned the purity of the one on offer. A slow noose, a tightening grip, a bullying violence, a malevolent hatred against all objectors and a reach for mass murder. These are not the first signs of the rosy fingered dawn of Liberty…It’s the incubation of a state sponsored death cult. (44) ‘From this came two themes that would drive the Revolution relentlessly forward from now on, a belief in the need for more change to consolidate what had gone before , and a growing and an increasingly violent willingness to engage in open conflict with the ever swelling ranks of the perceived ‘counter revolution’. (237)’On the 4th Dec sixty men were chained together and blasted with grapeshot on the plaine de Brotteaux outside the city, and 211 more on the following day. Grotesquely ineffective, these mitrailleades resulted in heaps of mutilated, screaming half dead victims, who had to be finished off with sabres and musket fire by soldiers physically sickened at the task. The political abstractions of the peoples justice did not translate well to reality; as the Commission wrote, ’this method has not had the execution that one would have desired’, and ‘other more sure means’ should be adopted. More normal firing squads supplemented the guillotine in future, in carrying out over 1800 executions in the coming months.’ ‘The political abstractions of the people s justice did not translate well to reality.’ I’m not saying that the book does not detail the squalid thuggery but it’s written as if it all has a purpose above that and is a means to a noble end and he writes as if, teething problems aside, the political abstractions prevailed. In the authors hierarchy of values it’s better for the people to live under a revolutionary, centralising, self-fascinated, thought police state than it is to live under a bankrupt, indifferent, outmoded imperial court. Is it? Who knows? I don’t, but Jeanette and Jean are never consulted. We are locked into the Communes and Sections and Jacobins deliberations as if they are the prime source of truth and liberty. It would have made more sense of the violence if we index linked it to the price of bread, but making sense of the violence is not our aim, so we don’t. The peasants here are an intellectuals dream from socialist central casting. With heads of doe and fists of steel who rise up!, rise up! at the revolutionary words of Marat or Robespierre and then once the revolutionary leaders attain actual power any price fixing riot or discord is discounted as Pitt inspired ingratitude and it would be better for all parties if the peasants would shut up and get on with their peasanting. The author invites us not to draw our own conclusions. (262) ‘..none of this, however, is conclusive evidence for anything. What it should remind us is that the republic of the 1790s was not a modern police state, despite the ambitions of the law of 14 frimaire. The surveillance of individuals was almost impossible to maintain consistently. The network of police agents that the government ran were most effective when simply listening in to public conversation in cafes and bread-queues….’ (296)’ We must again remember that France in 1794 was not a modern police state, still less a totalitarian dictatorship.’ Well they were as modern as they could be. It wasn’t just the church’s lands, authority and influence that the new state coveted, it had a distrust of any authority other than its own and an ambition to colonise the private sphere in every individual. New absolution would come via patriotism and patriotism was solely the realm and by definition of the state. It was not love of country but love of government. Not love of neighbour but suspicion of anyone who diverges. Love of some abstract pure tomorrow that makes death today the swiftest and most efficient way to installing peace by force, which requires of the individual a sacrifice for progress and argues that evolution requires extinction. An ends to means dilemma overcome by all the 20th centuries year zero revolutionaries Lenin, Hitler, Moa and Pol Pot with the same predictably horrific outcomes. ‘That’s enough mother! Be quiet!’ shouted Gamelin,’ what’s it matter if we suffer hardships for a short while? The Revolution is going to make the whole human race happy for ever and ever!’ (The Gods will have blood. Anatole France) Well it didn’t do that, in fact it achieved none of its aims. It did not bring about Equality, Fraternity or Liberty. It did not bring about a Republic either but was followed soon by a military dictatorship and all out European war. It did not end the monarchy, Louis XVI was followed by the XVII then by Emporer Napoleon who was followed by a Louis XVIII another Napoleon and a Louis-Napoleon. This wasn’t some great societal schism it was a brilliantly violent interlude to business as usual. Simon Schama’s book Citizens is far, far better.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Well-written, engaging account of the French Revolution's first stages (1789-1795) by an author who understands the relevance of their lessons for today's world. From the book: "A final series of notes were taken from Saint-Just upon his arrest. ... the last note of all is telling: 'The misfortunes of the fatherland have spread across the whole country a sombre and religious hue. Silent reflection is necessary in these distressing times; it must form the disposition of every friend of the Republi Well-written, engaging account of the French Revolution's first stages (1789-1795) by an author who understands the relevance of their lessons for today's world. From the book: "A final series of notes were taken from Saint-Just upon his arrest. ... the last note of all is telling: 'The misfortunes of the fatherland have spread across the whole country a sombre and religious hue. Silent reflection is necessary in these distressing times; it must form the disposition of every friend of the Republic.' ... [W]e return to the present day ... Here, where the rights of citizens to be protected by the law, to be compensated for the slightest wrong (if they can find a good lawyer) and to pursue their personal freedoms – whether guaranteed by hallowed constitutional amendments or new-fangled Human Rights Acts - are taken for granted. Where governments are constantly chased in the name of Freedom of Information, and where the slightest personal failing of a legislator is dissected obsessively. And now, when non-citizen suspects are detained indefinitely without trial, when new powers of surveillance and public control are hurried into being unchecked, when police ministries endlessly proclaim that only the wicked have anything to fear from subjection to their regimes of scrutiny - as if we are to believe, like Saint-Just, in the unquestionable virtue of these legislators. To draw a comparison from Terror to War on Terror may be no more than a facile slippage of words, until we recall the devout dedication of Robespierre and his cohorts to the well-being of their fellow citizens, their earnest conviction of their own capacity to see clearly to the truth, and their stark certainty that devotion to the cause of liberty and justice licensed them to eliminate opposition by means beyond the rule of law. It is the close parallels between our own age's concern with individual rights and the French Revolution's invocation of that concept that make the comparison yet more pointed. ... However awful the consequences, the revolutionaries clearly believed that they had something worth fighting for. Under the rule of Robespierre and Saint-Just ... Terror and liberty became inseparable within the political process. ... [I]t was enough to be 'free from' the tyranny of the aristocracy; being 'free to' act other than strictly patriotically was a nonsense to them. We live in societies where the positive freedom to act as we wish is perhaps our central concern. ... Positive freedom to choose between an ever-widening spectrum of goods and services is maintained as an unqualified good, as consumer-citizens claim as their rights what the revolutionaries would have dismissed as selfish luxury bordering on debauchery. And at the same time, of course, choice in politics is confined to a narrowing spectrum of appropriately 'patriotic' viewpoints, for all but those prepared to expose themselves to vilification by stepping outside the mainstream. Protecting the unparalleled prosperity of the West is the unashamed goal of those who foster the continuing unchecked spread of the security state, with its increasingly autonomous ability to decide who is and who is not entitled to rights that we think we can take for granted. Saint-Just's final thoughts return unbidden." 'The misfortunes of the fatherland have spread across the whole country a sombre and religious hue. Silent reflection is necessary in these distressing times; it must form the disposition of every friend of the Republic.' - Antoine-Leon Saint-Just

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Damn glad I’m finished with this one. The author should have taken Barbara Tuchman’s advice: “The writer's object should be to hold the reader's attention. I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning until the end. This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research.” ― Barbara W. Tuchman My main complaint was just that, he loaded up the account with so many dates, names, events, Damn glad I’m finished with this one. The author should have taken Barbara Tuchman’s advice: “The writer's object should be to hold the reader's attention. I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning until the end. This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research.” ― Barbara W. Tuchman My main complaint was just that, he loaded up the account with so many dates, names, events, locations, groups, etc it was just confusing. Maybe it is just too confusing a time to bring some overarching organization but this was not a rewarding read. On a rare occasion he made a salient point, valid back then and still valid today. Political opponents think the opposition is evil and not acting out of principle: (view spoiler)[ With its pedigree of patriotism since 1789, and its institutional links across the country, the Jacobin Club was in a position to prioritise questions of the personal morality of public figures over issues of political pragmatism, and thus to force such questions on to the agenda of more official political bodies. In so doing, it echoed recurrent themes of French political culture throughout the late eighteenth century. As we have seen in earlier chapters, individuals from the king down, via ministers such as Turgot, to politicians of all stripes, journalists and popular activists all associated public activity and political events with the clash between virtue and vice. On both sides of the gulf between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries, the persistent assumption was that one’s enemies, be they ‘men of faction’, aristocrats, or ‘fanatics’, were consciously and manipulatively seeking to do evil. Such beliefs had many sources. Some harked back to the common assumptions about the politics of royal courts: that public service was an avenue for private gain through patronage and favour; that opposition to royal policy was treacherous; that the wickedness of ministers was the appropriate element to emphasise when mounting opposition (in the hope of replacing them); and that, ultimately, nothing happened in politics without some factional, manipulative agenda at work. Broader cultural beliefs also fostered such divisive attitudes, however. The commitment of Enlightenment thinkers to the power of human reason, and to the uniformity of human perception, had the ironic unintended consequence of blinding them to the very notion of unintended consequences, at least in matters of grave import. The role of fate or providence in human affairs was steadily downgraded through the later eighteenth century in the eyes of many ‘progressive’ thinkers, while their emphasis on human potential focused their attention on conscious action as the motor of great events. (hide spoiler)] The Vendee is one of the main areas where the French had the “civil war” that is in the title of this book. However, he spent very little time on this region. Here is one terrible account at the end of the conflict there: (view spoiler)[ Hundreds of rebels who threw down their arms were shot or bayoneted out of hand, hundreds more were rounded up and shot in batches. Yet more were hounded to their deaths by cavalry as they attempted to flee through the freezing marshes of the estuary, and thousands of prisoners accumulated in the nearby city of Nantes, all under equal sentence of death. As the rebel army dissolved, the widow of the Vendean general Bonchamps fled with her two young children at her side, finding shelter with a series of loyal peasant families. Her desperate attempts to bring them to safety through the cordons thrown out by the ‘blues’ were tragically thwarted by smallpox, which struck down all three of them as they sheltered at a farm. Forced to hide in a cow-shed as a patrol approached, they spent a freezing night, during which her son’s condition worsened ‘and the following day my darling child died in my arms’. For two days she bore his body, until she could arrange for a secret burial in the consecrated ground of a nearby churchyard" Later captured, she would win pardon from a republican court as a humble camp-follower, her real identity concealed beneath the disfiguring scars of the smallpox, and further obscured by the ordeal which had added over a decade to her appearance. Her months on the run, terrible as they were, had nonetheless preserved her from a savage fate. (hide spoiler)] The victors in the Vendee take their revenge and brag about their heroism: (view spoiler)[ The Republic’s approach to this war was made immediately clear by the victorious general Westermann, a close political ally of the ‘moderate’ Danton. After the battle of Savenay he wrote to the Committee of Public Safety in self-congratulation that ‘I have crushed children beneath my horses’ hooves, and massacred the women, who thus will give birth to no more brigands. . . We take no prisoners, they would need to be given the bread of liberty, and pity is not revolutionary.’ The prisoners of Nantes, at the instruction of the representative-on-mission Jean-Baptiste Carrier (an undistinguished lawyer, like so many other Montagnards, before he found fame in this episode), were executed out of hand. Several thousand were killed, including a number disposed of in the Loire in infamous events known to history as the noyades, or drownings. Barges were towed out into the river, laden with bound prisoners, and then scuttled. Other prisoners were said to have been bound in pairs naked, one man and one woman, and flung into the waters in ‘republican marriages’. (hide spoiler)] Government charity is not and will always fail in comparison to real charity: (view spoiler)[ The ventose decrees just went away, all practical efforts at implementation ceasing within a couple of months. They were replaced, effectively, by a far more centralised, top-down and entirely conventional project of Charity, unveiled by the perennial spokesman of the Committee, Bertrand Barere, on 11 May. The ‘Great Register of National Welfare’ was an attempt to replace the role of Catholicism in conventional charity for the support of widows, orphans, the aged, sick and crippled. A state fund replaced the wealth of the Church and its almsgivers, the local authorities replaced the parish priest, and patriotism replaced piety as a qualifying criterion, but beyond that the system of handouts was much as it had been before 1789, and threatened no social upheaval. Nevertheless, in its favour it should be said that the scheme worked, until the money ran out two years later. (hide spoiler)] Religion, we don’t need no stinking religion…oh wait yes we do: (view spoiler)[ Thus, quite simply, religion was reinvented to serve the needs of the Republic. As every good classicist knew, the very origin of the word ‘religion’ lay in the ‘binding together’ of the community. The incessant conflict between Catholics and dechristianisers that still lacerated the countryside was to be set aside, and a long series of festivals on each décadi - the once-in-ten-days ‘Sunday’ of the Revolutionary Calendar would insinuate a proper civic morality into the hearts of the French. Ceremonies would honour such revolutionary concepts as the Martyrs of Liberty, and also a range of other, vaguer idols: the Human Race, Love of Country, Truth, Justice, Modesty, Friendship, Frugality, Disinterestedness, Conjugal Faith, Fatherly Love and Maternal Tenderness; and two dozen more, including Childhood, Old Age, Misfortune, and Happiness. The vague faceless deity once proclaimed by Rousseau, whose presence made itself felt in the glories of the landscape and the effusions of the sentimental human heart, would be dragooned into service to float over all of this, thankful no doubt for the ‘recognition’ of the glorious Republic. (hide spoiler)] The women have a silent but effective response to the cult of revolutionary “religion”: (view spoiler)[ Not everywhere greeted the new cult with the passive conformity that the Terror had drilled into the towns. In the village of Saint Vincent in the Haute-Loire a local official had gathered the entire population into the former church, now Temple of Reason, to receive an oration on their duties to the Supreme Being. As he spoke, the female half of the congregation rose as one, turned, and presented him with their bared buttocks. For once, the wordsmiths of the Jacobins had no answer to such a manoeuvre, and had to endure a rash of such protests over the following days as news spread to neighbouring communities. Wordless protest was by far the safest kind. (hide spoiler)] Overall, a 2 Star read for its lack of an interesting narrative, at least for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Christian

    This book is one of the best overviews of the Terror that I have ever read. And the easiest to read. I first discovered this gem when researching for my thesis on the development of women's citizenship during the French Revolution. I needed a refresher on the Terror, but a work that would examine the Terror from the inside out - allow historical documents and actions speak for themselves rather than being molded to an author's agenda. Andress's "The Terror" did just that. He allows those who exp This book is one of the best overviews of the Terror that I have ever read. And the easiest to read. I first discovered this gem when researching for my thesis on the development of women's citizenship during the French Revolution. I needed a refresher on the Terror, but a work that would examine the Terror from the inside out - allow historical documents and actions speak for themselves rather than being molded to an author's agenda. Andress's "The Terror" did just that. He allows those who experienced the Terror explain the Terror. Even though Andress did not focus on women in particular, I found that I understood the origins of the Terror and its effects on each segment of the society, especially how sans-cullottes women who supported the Jacobin take over went from a unique place of political power to suppression and physical and political exile. Indeed, Andress's work allowed me to better articulate my own theory of female citizenship as both active and passive during this time, how that citizenship evolved and was acted in the public sphere. "The Terror" was also a fascinating read. I could hardly put it down and I would (and do) return to it again and again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    I haven't read that many books about the French Revolution, but this one must rank among the very best ones. This is History at its best. Obviously Andress not only knows all that one can know about the events that followed 1789 in France, but he's also able to communicate them in a vivid way, and he understands what they mean and represent - as much for the people who lived through those days, as for us, because everything that happened then seems to be a terrifying mirror of what can happen to I haven't read that many books about the French Revolution, but this one must rank among the very best ones. This is History at its best. Obviously Andress not only knows all that one can know about the events that followed 1789 in France, but he's also able to communicate them in a vivid way, and he understands what they mean and represent - as much for the people who lived through those days, as for us, because everything that happened then seems to be a terrifying mirror of what can happen today (and Andress clearly underlines that in his conclusion). As much as I knew about the French Revolution from what I learned at school in a Parisian suburb, Andress' book has opened my eyes about what took place. A few months ago I read the great novel A Place of Greater Safety, which also unfolds during the Terror: it showed me what happened from the inside. Andress, as a historian, shows me what happened from the outside - he analyzes every event that shaped the Terror not only in Paris but all over France in a direct, engaging, and extremely detailed way that has kept me captive more than one night. Some of the things he describes are horrifying: the scope of what the Terror really was appears here in its full scale, and it's not a pretty picture. But Andress never really judges, and he makes us feel how incredibly exciting, too, those times could be, and how intensely passionate about their beliefs all Revolutionaries were, no matter how excessive those beliefs often happened to be. The parallels with our times should be a lesson for many people, this book could also have been called A Warning From the Past.

  8. 5 out of 5

    José Luís Fernandes

    This is a very good introduction to the French Revolution and the Terror, namely on its political side, yet I hoped a bit more on the War of the First Coalition and the civil wars the Convention faced. That was important because of the subtitle and justify why the rating wasn't greater. I also loved his reflections on the reasons for the Terror, which was the result of the demonization of all those opposing to Revolutionary, but above all, Jacobine ideals, coupled with the military and economic This is a very good introduction to the French Revolution and the Terror, namely on its political side, yet I hoped a bit more on the War of the First Coalition and the civil wars the Convention faced. That was important because of the subtitle and justify why the rating wasn't greater. I also loved his reflections on the reasons for the Terror, which was the result of the demonization of all those opposing to Revolutionary, but above all, Jacobine ideals, coupled with the military and economic setbacks France suffered in 1792 and 1793 that made this radicalization as well as the reactionary answer to the Revolutionary state much easier, yet I felt both his introduction and conclusion focused too much in trying to get lessons for the modern world. That's highly troublesome in any historical work since it implies a greater dose of partisanship than usual in History (and there's inevitably a few of it since there aren't neutral historians). Finally, I must say the translation was a bit odd at some points in grammatical terms and that there were also a few bits of misplaced ink at some pages, which isn't very professional from the editor.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pinko Palest

    This is very good indeed. A broadly sympathetic treatment of all figures of the French Revolution branded as terrorists, with a lot of deflating of anti-montagnard myths. Perhaps it does not go as deeply into the social aspects of revolutionary politics as it might have, but it is still highly readable. Recommended reading for everyone on the Left who is interested in the French Revolution

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    "Truth is better than fiction." Whoever first coined that term had to be thinking about the French Revolution. This is history at its finest.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Phillips

    Excellent book about the French Revolution up until the end of the Terror ..... the bit where Robespierre got his bonce chopped off. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    johnny dangerously

    I highly recomend this book, but it is painfully dry and awkwardly paced. The writer goes on tangents-- and while I generally approve of that, the pacing is awkward enough to give a reader whiplash. Information is not broken up in a manner conducive to straight-forward reading, and one cannot absorb the information presented without a constant alertness that makes the reading experience uncomfortable, if not downright stressful. That said, the book has some fantastic political theorizing (in my I highly recomend this book, but it is painfully dry and awkwardly paced. The writer goes on tangents-- and while I generally approve of that, the pacing is awkward enough to give a reader whiplash. Information is not broken up in a manner conducive to straight-forward reading, and one cannot absorb the information presented without a constant alertness that makes the reading experience uncomfortable, if not downright stressful. That said, the book has some fantastic political theorizing (in my opinion, and I am a biased party-- the ideals of the book pander to me to an almost painful extent) and some fantastic observations. They just have to be mined out of the rest of the book with effort that a better writer would have spared us. This is David Andress' first book for 'the general public', and while it shows, it also shows what an excellent mind Andress has for the politics of the French revolution. I look forward to his other books.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aidan

    Wholly tedious read. Unfocused text with no clear coherence. Not a good book to get on the subject. This author does not write clearly. He delves on too many insignificant details and persons of lesser importance you've never heard of. His text is a labyrinth to wade through. It's full of distracting terms and titles that contribute little to the understanding of what the author is trying to get at. Most of the attention is on the politics of the day than anything else, and even that attention is Wholly tedious read. Unfocused text with no clear coherence. Not a good book to get on the subject. This author does not write clearly. He delves on too many insignificant details and persons of lesser importance you've never heard of. His text is a labyrinth to wade through. It's full of distracting terms and titles that contribute little to the understanding of what the author is trying to get at. Most of the attention is on the politics of the day than anything else, and even that attention is dry and confusing. It's one of those texts where you can read through a whole page and not understand a single thing being said in it. In the end, a lot of times you have to go back and re-read whole paragraphs, because this is how badly it's been written.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    The writing is not great, but it gets four stars because of the author's approach to the subject. Rather than finger wag in a 'I would have done better fashion' (a fault as prevalent in historians as it is in humanity) Andress attempts to understand the Terror from the inside out. He takes a sober look at the threats facing France as a result of the Revolution. He explains without explaining away the evil. Indeed, the French Revolution was 'too big too fail,' and that may have been part of the r The writing is not great, but it gets four stars because of the author's approach to the subject. Rather than finger wag in a 'I would have done better fashion' (a fault as prevalent in historians as it is in humanity) Andress attempts to understand the Terror from the inside out. He takes a sober look at the threats facing France as a result of the Revolution. He explains without explaining away the evil. Indeed, the French Revolution was 'too big too fail,' and that may have been part of the reason for the terrible measures they took to preserve it.(less)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Butterworth

    The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France by David Andress is an extensive analysis of politics, corruption, constant upheaval, and death. Andress spells out the build-up, peak, and decline of the Terror in order for the reader to answer the very important questions he presents in his introduction. After presenting his initial argument of: the legitimacy of dehumanizing your enemies, detaining anyone suspect, and if terror is justifiable as a way of fixing internal and ex The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France by David Andress is an extensive analysis of politics, corruption, constant upheaval, and death. Andress spells out the build-up, peak, and decline of the Terror in order for the reader to answer the very important questions he presents in his introduction. After presenting his initial argument of: the legitimacy of dehumanizing your enemies, detaining anyone suspect, and if terror is justifiable as a way of fixing internal and external problems; he states that the French Revolution and the American Revolution began on the same grounding during the Age of Reason. He also points out that the French and American Revolution death toll based on population and emigrates were hardly any different. At first, as a reader, that is a stunning comparison, but it is a comparison that should be more often made. While the revolutions were started on the same grounds, the two diverge completely. Yet, both ending success. If taking into the account that the Americans were fighting off a colonial power for freedom and the French were fighting off an entire social order hundreds of years old with all of Europe up in arms to stop them; it is fair to say that they succeeded. Those varying degrees of success are what is addressed throughout the rest of the chapters. Starting with the Flight of Varennes. The flight itself was poorly planned and further demonstrated to the people Louis’s intentions towards agreeing to the new government and validated their lack of faith in him as their leader. After attempting to rally his people to his aid during his capture, he realized his pleas fell upon deaf ears (Andress 36). Louis was escorted by armed ordinary Frenchmen back to a Paris that will soon spiral into regicide and shortly thereafter, terror. Upon arriving back to Paris, the Royal family fully understood the hatred of the people. Though the people of Paris could not express their agitation, their lack of manners when the carriage passed showed it. This flight not only validated the peoples’ hatred but also revealed the difference in ideology for the Revolutionaries. The new belief in the more radical form of politics within the National Assembly was now threatening the revolution that was initially created. Most of the country was willing to let the National Assembly judge the matter (Andress 50), but what kind of example should be made when dealing with Royal Family? Some, during this time, still wanted a monarch without the previous absolute power.  Lafayette was actually trying to help save the monarchy by suggesting to Austria that they cease hostilities in order for him to restore peace.  Ironically, Marie Antoinette alerted the authorities to his plan because she had no desire to be rescued by a man she so heartedly despised (Andress 78).  As you can imagine, the authorities didn’t take well to the news and hostilities increased resulting in the September Massacres and the death of Princess de Lamballe. The French National Convention was elected when France was still a monarchy but its first decree abolished it.  The Convention was divided between the radical Montagnards, the less radical Girondins, and those in the middle. This created extreme differences in opinion, especially, when deciding on Louis’s fate. In the end it was decided by (not really) one more than half of the votes that Louis was to be sent to the guillotine. The Convention started republicanism in France but it also allowed regicide and eventually evoked the Terror. The Convention continued to be the leading authority during the reign of Terror along with the Committee of Public Safety lead by Robespierre; both unrestricted by checks and balances. Decrees were passed that ex-nobles and clergy were suspect and could be deprived of civil rights. They ordered the death of the duc d’Orlèans and many others including Marie Antoinette as they started to purge the government of people who weren’t revolutionary enough (the previous radicals).  People such as Danton, Desmounlins, and Philippeaux who had been a part of the revolution since its beginning are now seen as counter-revolutionary and executed. After a series of bad decrees by Robespierre, like dechristianizing the people, led to his downfall. He was deemed an outlaw. Couthon, a supporter of Robespierre who was also arrested, proposed summoning armies to their aid but that idea was lost when the Convention’s forces came to arrest them. Robespierre attempted to take his own life but only succeeded in shattering his jaw and leaving himself in agony. As his bandage was torn from his face to fit into the guillotine, he screamed in agony only to be silenced by the machine he used to silence countless others. As Andress’s book comes to an end the reader watches the fall of the Republic and the Convention into the hands of Napoleon who eventually crowned himself Holy Roman Emperor. The Terror was a book that leaves the reader thinking. What all has the French Revolution influenced? Were the people involved all villains or were there many more shades of grey than the reader started the book out believing there were? While it succeeds in Andress’s goal to make you think about the questions he presented in the introduction, it does leave the reader reeling from the information taken in. It was definitely a monster to tackle; one that is hard to fathom reading without any prior knowledge of the French Revolution or the Terror even with the provided time line, glossary, and list of characters. Andress’s tactics in explaining the Terror and all its components were very thorough but lacked the voice and tone of a writer that makes reading a book like this more fun. Thus, rendering it difficult for readers with no prior knowledge to follow along since it is presented in such a way that it has no real perspective. Instead it is the perspective. There was no right or wrong, Andress simply lays out the history in a fashion that lets you decide what the reader thinks on their own without him telling the reader his opinion. That is completely respectable and why anyone who wants to read a book about the politics and complete history of the Terror should read this book. If someone want to read something with a definite point of view on the Terror they should be steered elsewhere. With that being said it was a fantastic, detailed window into the politics of the Terror and should be given its due recognition.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    Can I say I "read" the book if I had to quit? There's no category for "gave up." Which is too bad, because there is so much good information in this book, but maybe that's the problem -- there is so much! The author is a historian, a professor, and he knows a lot. But that doesn't mean he can write for the lay person. I love reading history -- even sometimes very dense history -- but here's the deal with this one: if I have to wade through any more sentences like this on Page 118, my brain is go Can I say I "read" the book if I had to quit? There's no category for "gave up." Which is too bad, because there is so much good information in this book, but maybe that's the problem -- there is so much! The author is a historian, a professor, and he knows a lot. But that doesn't mean he can write for the lay person. I love reading history -- even sometimes very dense history -- but here's the deal with this one: if I have to wade through any more sentences like this on Page 118, my brain is going to explode. Here goes: "Since all this was done in the name of proclaiming themselves the only true patriots, and in an atmosphere of war emergency, the numbers repelled by the process, or unwilling to expose themselves to possible charges of treason, grew ever larger." Oh, my. After the excessive introductory dependent clause, I am already lost. Where is the subject? Oh, there it is -- "the numbers." Where is the verb? Oh, way at the end: "grew." Keep breathing... Unfortunately, most of the book has long paragraphs and long convoluted sentences, with no shorter sentences interwoven to give the reader a mental break. Long sentences. Then short sentence. Varying the lengths of sentences is one of the rules of good writing. Too bad, as this is my second attempt to read about the French Revolution. But I still want to learn about it, so will keep looking for something more fun and not so painful. (If you can call "the French Revolution" fun!)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bogue

    A good book for anyone trying to make sense of the Terror. The author guides the reader through the twists and turns of policy, usually by focusing on Robespierre. There is an underlying sympathy with the goals, if not the methods, of Robespierre (and perhaps even more Danton) which makes it hard for the author to fairly portray the motivation of their opponents. The King is presented, fairly, as plotting against the new Constitution. Yet clearly some of its proponents were already dreaming of k A good book for anyone trying to make sense of the Terror. The author guides the reader through the twists and turns of policy, usually by focusing on Robespierre. There is an underlying sympathy with the goals, if not the methods, of Robespierre (and perhaps even more Danton) which makes it hard for the author to fairly portray the motivation of their opponents. The King is presented, fairly, as plotting against the new Constitution. Yet clearly some of its proponents were already dreaming of killing him. The question always remains: do the long term effects of the Revolution excuse its brutality?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    Probably not the fairest review as I’m coming to this book as a casual reader with interest in the period, rather than an academic or deep enthusiast. The prose is a little dense at times and sometimes the strands of chronology are hard to follow (as I say though - full disclaimer I’m possibly not the best example of a target audience!). Nevertheless extremely interesting telling fascinating stories and episodes in what was such a thrilling (but gory!) period.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Josiah Sutton

    A comprehensive look at the Terror in 18th century France, Andress addresses the issue of using violence and suppression during political upheaval. The final conclusion is a fascinating comparison of current modern politics to principles of Terror. Definitely recommend this book for those interested in the French Revolution and those interested in Political Theory.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Flowers4Algernon

    I have a paperback copy with a different subtitle - Civil War in the French Revolution - but I am assuming this is the same book. A tad dry and hard going especially at the beginning, but it contains a wealth of information and whilst not as rip roaring as many popular histories it’s well worth reading.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Really good introduction to the French Revolution but sometimes it does get a little difficult to read. The author has included a nice glossary of terms and biographies of important persons, so if you are confused it is easy to look things up.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hotrats

    Too academic for me but very fascinating. They didn't teach this in high school history class.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Skelingtron

    French revolution was bigger mess than I could possibly ever imagine.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Robinson

    The recent uprising in Libya and the resulting anarchy and massacres of opponents show how fragile society is. With ISIS murdering tens of thousands of innocents and opponents, one wonders how this can happen. Society is fragile. Last year in the US, Baltimore showed how fragile day to day safety can become when mob rule takes over. This recount of the brutal period of France shows what happens when large groups of mobs become leaders. The period of The Terror was when there were quotas to be sen The recent uprising in Libya and the resulting anarchy and massacres of opponents show how fragile society is. With ISIS murdering tens of thousands of innocents and opponents, one wonders how this can happen. Society is fragile. Last year in the US, Baltimore showed how fragile day to day safety can become when mob rule takes over. This recount of the brutal period of France shows what happens when large groups of mobs become leaders. The period of The Terror was when there were quotas to be sent to the guillotine. Each chapter became more bizarre as neighbors turned on neighbors. There was no justice as the punishments were carried out soon after the sentences were announced. Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Marx, Trotsky, Hitler all looked at this period as a great time. Mob rule does not work. It did not work for Paris and it does not work for Tripoli, Syria or Baltimore.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Brilliant. It was comprehensive, utterly readable, and totally free of the usual political posturing you find in books about this period. I really like the way the text focused on the hows and whys on both the personal and national levels, there is (as much as it is possible) clarity as to why the principal actors made the choices they did based on the information and assumptions they had, but also as to the greater political realities that they did not see. It's rare to read something that give Brilliant. It was comprehensive, utterly readable, and totally free of the usual political posturing you find in books about this period. I really like the way the text focused on the hows and whys on both the personal and national levels, there is (as much as it is possible) clarity as to why the principal actors made the choices they did based on the information and assumptions they had, but also as to the greater political realities that they did not see. It's rare to read something that gives you this solid of a sense of a period without making absolute judgements. (Also to Andress's credit there is both a strong sense of narrative and a twinkle of authorial humor, in his asides about irony for example, throughout.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Constance Wallace

    David Andress does an excellent job of expanding upon the particular points of the French Revolution. Delving into the depths of the circumstances involving the citizens, the government and the country itself during this period of french history, Andress allows the reader to experience much more than just historical rhetoric of the French Revolution by bringing to life episodes such as the September Massacres and the Jacobin manipulation of the Terror. I enjoyed reading this book, and would reco David Andress does an excellent job of expanding upon the particular points of the French Revolution. Delving into the depths of the circumstances involving the citizens, the government and the country itself during this period of french history, Andress allows the reader to experience much more than just historical rhetoric of the French Revolution by bringing to life episodes such as the September Massacres and the Jacobin manipulation of the Terror. I enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend to other people interested in the French Revolution.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    This probably should have been my second book about the French Revolution, not the first, because this book assumes some familiarity with the players and the events. I liked it anyway and learned a great deal about some places I have visited in France and now I want to go back!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wan Peter

    The best book to uncover what the "TERROR" is all about. I hear of it when I was a teenager and wanted to find a book which is easy to understand and I digest ever chapter twice. My Private collection.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Korene

    Fascinating and very informative. Easy to read as well. It will make you hunger for more Revolutionary issues/characters.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

    Checked this out to see if it had any info on Camille Desmoulins. Some bits and pieces, but not a coherent mini-bio.

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