- Series: Old Regime and the Revolution (Book 2)
- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226805336
- ISBN-13: 978-0226805337
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,443,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume II: Notes on the French Revolution and Napoleon 1st Edition
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One is sorely tempted to allow the marvelously lucid prose in Alan S. Kahan's new translation of Alexis de Tocqueville's study of the French Revolution speak for itself: "In 1789 the French made the greatest effort ever undertaken by any people to disassociate themselves from their past, and to put an abyss between what they had been and what they wished to become." But as Tocqueville found out when--with the hindsight of half a century--he examined the historical records, the revolution was really not so radical a turn of events. "True, it took the world by surprise, and yet it was the result of a very long process, the sudden and violent climax of a task to which ten generations had contributed." Thus the first volume of The Old Regime and the Revolution concerns itself with the state of affairs before 1798, getting beyond the "confused and often mistaken notions" of his contemporaries "about the manner in which business was conducted, the real practices of institutions ... the real basis of ideas and mores." Although many historians have taken on the French Revolution in the years since Tocqueville's analysis was first published, few have addressed the subject with as effective a combination of insight and clarity. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
This is a new translation of Tocqueville's last masterpiece, written in 1851. Best known as the author of Democracy in America, Tocqueville focuses here on the meaning and origin of the French Revolution. This volume is organized into three major subjects. First, it looks at the nature of the French Revolution. Second, it examines the origins of the revolution in an absolutist and aristocratic society. Finally, it considers the reasons for the sudden outbreak at the end of the 18th century. Tocqueville discusses the continuity of French political behavior in relation to persistent class hostility, government centralization, and the preservation of individual and political freedom. This book surpasses older editions of English translations because of its readability and because it is based on the French critical edition that includes the author's sources and materials from his drafts and revisions. Kahan (Florida International Univ.) is also translating the work's second volume, which is to be published in 1999 by the University of Chicago. Recommended for academic libraries.?Mary F. Salony, West Virginia Northern Community Coll. Lib., Wheeling
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
De Tocqueville makes several vital points about the French Revolution: first, that it built gradually and, given circumstances in France, was inevitable; second, where the American Revolution had as its lodestar the ideal of freedom, the French Revolution was motivated by a passionate hatred of inequality; third, the demise of all insitutions other than the monarchy in France made it certain that when Revolution came, it would be violent and unchecked; finally, this combination of factors lead to the bizarre nature of the French Revolution, with no developed institutions to turn to once the King was gone and with no great emphasis placed on freedom, the French people were willing to tolerate the nihilism of the Terror and the authoritarianism of the governments that replaced the monarchy. He does not make the case, but it lies before us, that the American Revolution was fundamentally a positive action, a demand for greater freedom, but the French Revolution was a negative action, a demand that the few not own more than the many.
This book was to be followed by a second volume dealing with the the Revolution itself, but he died before he could continue the work. That is a shame; it would have been interesting to have some more insight from him into the French, it seems unlikely that anyone has ever rendered a better description of his people than the one he offers in his Conclusion:
When I observe France from this angle [their temperament] I find the nation itself far more remarkable than any of the events in its long history. It hardly seems possible that there can ever have existed any other people so full of contrasts and so extreme in all their doings, so much guided by their emotions and so little by fixed principles, always behaving better, or worse, than one expected of them....Undisciplined by temperament, the Frenchman is always readier to put up with arbitrary rule, however harsh, of an autocrat than with a free, well-ordered government by his fellow citizens, however worthy of respect they be. At one moment he is up in arms against authority and the next we find him serving the powers that be with a zeal such as the most servile races never display.
In the context of this paragraph, we can begin to understand Vichy France and the bureaucratic tyranny of the modern French nation. I say "begin"...