From Publishers Weekly
Andress offers a visceral account of the guillotining of King Louis XVI in 1793: "he was strapped to a tilting plank, which dropped his head into a brace, and the blade... plunged from above." While the British historian's graphic depiction of numerous executions is a high point of his account of the Terror, he explicitly states it was not the most salient point of the revolution. Countering the historiography of the last generation, including Simon Schama, who said, "violence was
the revolution itself," Andress focuses not just on the killings but on the "grand political pronouncements, uprisings and insurrections," from the varying ideologies of the dissident parties to the upheaval of the counterrevolution that rendered France unstable for more than a decade, resulting not just in violence but also in social upheaval. And Andress follows the Terror beyond its conclusion to Napoleon Bonaparte's coronation as emperor in 1804, which brought the revolution "full circle," creating a strong central government that scorned democracy and popular sovereignty, the revolution's central tenets. His focus on such paradoxes and on the Terror as the culmination of a complex historical process rather than an unprovoked outbreak of violence, makes for a bracing historical reassessment. 3 maps. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Covering the crescendo of the French Revolution, historian Andress narrates its most radical phase, from Louis XVI's attempted flight abroad in 1791 to the 1794 guillotining of Maximilien Robespierre. To readers primed by Simon Schama's Citizens
(1991), Andress will be a trustworthy guide to an extraordinary period in which hardly any event or personage is historically uncontroversial. In retrospect, the foiled royal escape was the turning point, convincing revolutionaries and the Parisian crowd of two things: the Revolution was incomplete, and counter-revolution was a genuine conspiracy, not fantasy. Grasping this dual aspect of the febrile revolutionary mentality, Andress meticulously recounts the progressive eclipse of moderate factions in the midst of foreign invasion and internal revolt throughout France. It was to master this crisis that the National Convention instituted the Terror, succeeding ruthlessly but undergoing a series of lethal political crises over revolutionary purity. At his explanatory best when invoking the interpersonal animosity and suspicion that preceded a faction's dispatch to the guillotine, Andress viscerally re-creates the Reign of Terror's deadly spectacle. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved