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The Old Regime and the French Revolution Paperback – October 1, 1955
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Why is "The Old Regime and the Revolution" a classic?. Why do teachers keep recommending it to their students?. In my opinion, the answer to both those questions is that this book is an example of the kind of work a political scientist is capable of producing, if inclined to do so. Here, Tocqueville doesn't pay attention to the conventionally accepted truth, but looks beyond it, in order to form his own opinion. And when the result of that process is shocking, he doesn't back down bounded by conventions: he simply states his conclusions.
In "The Old Regime and the Revolution" Alexis de Tocqueville does what at his time was considered more or less unthinkable: to put into question the revolutionary character of...the French Revolution. He said that the only way to understand what happened in 1789 was to study the previous social processes, and to find what they have in common with what came about later. This change of perspective was radical, but effective. It didn't presuppose anything, and so it helped the author to arrive to a seemingly strange conclusion: that the French Revolution had not only continued with the social processes that were taking place in France, but accentuated them. For example, the governmental centralization was much worse after 1789. In a way, then, the French Revolution only carried forward with what the Old Regime had already started.Read more ›
But be forewarned! This book is NOT a history of the revolution. The author makes that very clear right at the beginning, but I think it bears emphasizing. If you aren't already pretty familiar with the history of the revolution you may have trouble at times following what this book is talking about.
Overall, this book is well worth the cover price for anyone with an interest in the French revolution.
On the contrary, it sought to increase the power and jurisdiction of the central authority. (Nor was it intended, as some have thought, to change the whole nature of our traditional civilization, to arrest its progress, or even to make any vital change in the principles basic to the structure of society in the Western world.Read more ›
Most nonacademics consider this "that other book" by Alexis de Tocqueville. His better known work is Democracy in America, which is certainly an important study but derives part of its popularity among an English speaking audience because its topic is an English speaking country. The Old Regime and the French Revolution is something different. Readers who are merely interested in guillotines should look elsewhere: other authors had already covered the events of the revolution; de Tocqueville does not duplicate material where has nothing significant to add. Instead he looks at a premise that other historians had accepted uncritically: that the revolution had happened because the people were oppressed. Oppression was not unique to the eighteenth century. Why had the people overthrown their government at that time rather than another era? Prior to de Tocqueville that question had neither been asked nor answered in a serious way so he delved into documents that no one before him had studied: archival tax records. Although such material risks becoming dense, de Tocqueville's style is engaging and he keeps the purpose of the inquiry uppermost: how were conditions different in 1789? Were people poorer? Were their rights diminished?
It turned out the common people had never had it so good. Property ownership rates had been expanding throughout the eighteenth century. Serfdom had ended except in two provinces, both of which were recent acquisitions. The Inquisition had lost its vigor and ended.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Written over a century ago, but the translation is fresh and interesting. A must for students of the French Revolution.Published 4 days ago by Gail Elis
Toqueville maintains that the French absolute kings unsuccesfully tried to do what the revolutionaires did with better success.
great book, mostly analysis about the causes and effects of the French revolutionPublished 5 months ago by Judy
It's amazing how the strikingly similar the similarities between the lead-up to the French Revolution and 2015 America are. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Der_tolle_Mann
An interesting book. I think one endnote is a word-for-word copy of some of the text. The biography needs work.Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
The book never gets to the revolution, or even the events leading up to it. In fact, there is no discussion at all of politics or events. Read morePublished 18 months ago by peterg
This rarely mentioned book is as remarkable as the Democracy in America:
it shattered my assumptions as it argues that the poor, in particular the peasants, were enjoying the... Read more