Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford World's Classics) Reissue Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0199539024
ISBN-10: 0199539022
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Editorial Reviews


"Oxford does the student and scholarly world a service by making Reflections available in an affordable edition."--Barbara B. Davis, Antioch College

"Print is clear and the price is right."--Dr. V. Lyle Haskins, Northeastern State University

"Burke's views are as pertinent today as they were 200 years ago. His comments and criticisms of the French Revolution can be applied to 20th century revolutions. It is interesting that his reflections are echoed by so many revisionist French Revolution historians in the past several years. This work allows students to evaluate the events of the revolution from a different perspective."--Professor Jeanne A. Ojala, University of Utah

"I have hoped someday to find a "Reader's Digest" version of Burke. You have produced one, a real service to the profession! Great introduction and bibliography."--Professor Brian E. Strayer, Andrews University

"The annotation of this text will be a great help to students. Mitchell's introduction is likewise clear and to the point."--Marilyn Morris, University of North Texas

About the Author

Born and educated in Oxford, Leslie Mitchell is also the author of Charles James Fox (1992, #25).

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (June 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199539022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199539024
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 70 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on August 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)wrote REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE in 1789 which was four years before the rise of the fanatical Jacobins and the execution (murder)of Louis XVI. This book was not only well written but very prophetic on the tragic events that were part of the French Revolution. Burke showed historical insight and warned both the British and the French what was going to happen.

Burke cited conditions in France prior to the French Revolution. He certainly did not give a false representation of the economic and social conditions in France, but he was clear that, while not perfect, the French had advanced culture and tolerable living standards. He also warned the French that abrupt changes without recourse to tradition and legal norms were dangerous and would end in tyranny. Readers should be aware that Burke's assessment of the French political system was that the French had reasonble politcal freedom and prosperity. To destroy this political system would end in political disruption, social and political violence, lack of law-and-order, and the rise of tyrannical military leaders.

One should note Burke's assessment of the members of the French National Assembly which was vacilating and subject to the whims of any "political interest group" was serious. He suggested that military officers would be among those "pleaders" would be military officers who would be difficult to control. He also warned that when someone who understood the art of command got control of the military officers, the days of the French Republic and the National Assembly were over.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 on October 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
To begin with: this book is a pamphlet, not a treatise. It is a call to action about a specific event, not a political programme. Burke enthusiasts may maintain it is; but let's not forget he remained a Foxite still, when he wrote this. Yes this was addressed to English, not French audiences, and was a warning to revolutionary sympathisers, but Burke had yet to cross the floor and would not do so for several years. Nor does this read stylistically, anyhow, like a treatise, even like Locke's highly contextual Two Treatises. Readers expecting a statement of the conservative creed may be disappointed. Hence the 4, not 5 stars.

As a historical document, however, the Reflections are invaluable. Burke published his point-by-point assault on the French Revolution in 1790, when the revolution was still widely popular in Britain. He was an English MP and his public, even if the Reflections are formulated as two letters to a French aristocrat, was British political opinion.

First, his book contrasts admirably the gradual, and ultimately more successful, British path to democracy to the French. Indeed the core of his argument is that the revolution laid waste to tradition, depriving its end system of the essential legitimacy that stems from it. Second, Burke was the first to warn - years before the `terror' - that radical change, once initiated, would be exceedingly difficult to stop. Third, he makes penetrating (and scathing) observations on the role of class renegades; his dissection of their motivations is striking and finds application in all situations of political upheaval. Burke's warning on radical change was vindicated not just in France, but repeatedly in Europe through the 19th and early 20th centuries.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Derek Jones on February 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Reflections" is ostensibly a tract attacking the French Revolution of 1789 but in reality its importance is its case for conservatism. The polemical nature of the book means that it is not a systematic analysis so one has to search for Burke's conservative principles.

One of his most important principles is "prescription", by which the possession of property and authority are given (at least some) legitimacy by the passage of time. Burke did not oppose all change but believed that if things are going well then they are best left alone. He wrote "A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation", but believed that change should be for "proved abuses". Burke saw society as organic, as a "partnership" bridging all generations. In typical Burkean language he wrote that citizens "should approach the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude." As in any natural organism change must be slow and gradual. He observed that "I do not like to see anything destroyed, any void produced in society." He was, of course, opposed to abstract theories that he thought at best irrelevant and at worst dangerous. Society, thought Burke, needed not abstract reasoning but practical and pragmatic statesmen. He was even more opposed to revolution for it leads to excesses and unintended results.

Not surprisingly Burke stresses the importance of codes of conduct, custom and what he called "prejudice". He writes of the "pleasing illusions" that constitute "the decent drapery of life". These "antient opinions and rules of life" include politeness, deference, the chivalrous treatment of women, the "spirit of a gentleman" and the "spirit of religion".
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