- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 17, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199244146
- ISBN-13: 978-0199244140
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.7 x 5.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The French Revolution, 1789-1799 1st Edition
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`Overall, I think [this book] is one of the best short histories of the Revolution to appear in many years. He is particularly successful in integrating specific case examples and quotations from the period into his general narrative and historiographic analysis and in thus conveying the drama and passion of the Revolution, so often passed over in texts of this kind. It also provides an excellent corrective to many recent "revisionist" texts, reasserting the importance of social dynamics before and during the Revolution and eshewing simplistic explanations of the Terror based solely on ideology or internal politics. Finally, I am impressed by his effective integration of a great deal of new scholarship published during the last decade, notably in his treatment of rural history and the experience of women during the Revolution. In sum, I would strongly recommend the book, and I look forward to trying it out in my own courses.' Timothy Tackett, University of California
`Peter McPhee's history of the French Revolution is a real tour de force. More successfully than any other general history of the period, it combines an admirably clear narrative of this complex decade with an intelligent survey and analysis of other historians' perspectives. Beside them, McPhee sets out his own understandings of the Revolution sensibly and undogmatically so that readers can judge their merits. Beyond these strengths, the book is enriched by illuminating discussions of the effects of the Revolution on everyday lives of women and men and by a refreshing attention to rural France - the home of the great majority of French people at the time. Written in a lively and engaging way, this book cannot but draw readers more deeply into one of the most fascinating periods in world history.' Roderick Phillips, Carleton University
`With an easy style and a clear purpose, Professor Peter McPhee pilots students past key questions of the origin and course, meaning and significance of the French Revolution. Touching most debates in the historiography, McPhee's history still offers a sound narrative of revolutionary events, egos and enactments, always in chapters of manageable length, always with an eye to evidence that's first-hand, fascinating and fresh. Scores of students and teachers will owe him a debt of thanks.' Adrian Jones, La Trobe University
About the Author
Peter McPhee was educated at the University of Melbourne. He taught at La Trobe University (Melbourne) and the Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) before returning to the University of Melbourne, where he has held a Personal Chair in History since 1993. He has published widely on the history of modern France, notably, 'A Social History of France 1780-1880' (London, 1992) and Revolution and Environment in Southern France, 1780-1830' (Oxford, 1999).
Top customer reviews
The author methodically explains the conditions in France before the revolutions, the suffering and deprivation of the majority of the populace, the excesses of the monarchy and its allies in the nobility and the church. He presents arguments and views on whether the French Revolution was in deed a revolution, why it happened the way it did, among other things. Some of the major players in the Revolution are discussed, highlighting their roles and contributions.
Peter McPhee goes further to discuss wider and far reaching significance of the Revolution including such topics as its environmental impact, its implications on demography and family life as well as on religion in France and elsewhere.
The book is recommended for those not familiar with the French Revolution or whose knowledge of the Revolution has gone "rusty".
Nevertheless this is a helpful book. His chapter on the breakdown of the old regime, if it does not vindicate the idea of a class conscious bourgoisie confronting the aristocracy, does note the increasing rise of capitalism and consumer culture. The bourgeoisie did triple in size over the eighteenth century, and increasing literacy, readership and Enlightenment ideas did have a middle class component. There were increasing attacks on the aristocratic "luxury", while middle class sociability increased in institutions like freemasonry. McPhee also provides information about recent areas of interest like gender and even more so on the environment (more than 70% of the people who took advantage of the Revolution's law on divorce were female). He also provides interesting details, such as how the Right Wing Press in the early 1790s started attacking the revolutionaries as Jews and how their bloodthirsty language encouraged the panic that led to the September Massacres. Ironically, at the height of the Paris Terror of Spring-Summer 1794, the Convention reinstated more than 70 Gironde sympathizers whom Robespierre had saved from trial and execution.
In conclusion, McPhee argues that the Revolution was an important event in French history. It had clear effects on demography, as contraception spread and the birth rate fell, on language, as more and more people spoke French (only half did in 1789) and in the decline of churchgoing. Although still important, the nobility clearly suffered a loss of influence, while the bourgeoisie gained and even the peasantry improved. McPhee might have quoted Paul Spagnoli's 1997 article in the Journal of Family History which noted a decline in mortality rates unmatched in Europe. But this is still a useful introduction to people otherwise unfamiliar with the French Revolution.
Although the development of revolutionary culture is addressed, it appears mostly as an afterthought. Well suited (and intended) for adaptation as a college textbook, the book is recommended for undergraduates (and general readers) who are looking for a quick summary of the Revolutionary era.