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David Andress is a leading scholar of the French Revolution and an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
According to Andress (history, Univ. of Portsmouth, UK; The French Revolution and the People), the French Revolution ushered in an era that has had an essentially positive impact-a view that few recent historians have shared. Simon Schama in Citizens and Fran?ois Furet in Interpreting the French Revolution see the revolution as an aberration and point to the bloody excesses of the Reign of Terror (1793-94) as the inevitable culmination of a misguided attempt to change French society. For his part, Andress skillfully evokes the context that led to state-sponsored terror, and although he condemns the brutality of such intransigent revolutionaries as Danton, Saint-Just, Robespierre, and their fanatical minions, he asserts that it was the iron will of these zealots that sustained the ideals of a new epoch, where the rights of humankind took center stage. Andress may draw fire for comparing the ideological intolerance of the Committee of Public Safety with measures adopted by the post-9/11 American government, but even his most vehement critics will have to agree that his thesis is thoroughly grounded in all the pertinent primary and secondary sources on the era and readably presented. This is the best book on the French Revolution to be published in years and is recommended for academic and public libraries.-Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
'David Andress' important new book is a major contribution in our efforts to rethink the French Revolution ... It is also exceptionally well-written' Timothy Tacket, author of BECOMING A REVOLUTIONARY AND WHEN THE KING TOOK FLIGHT 'Commendably fair and even-handed ... A lucid study' Munro Price, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'The most authoritative treatment we are likely to have for many years' William Doyle, INDEPENDENT 'A meticulous account ... stands beside Simon Schama's Citizens' LITERARY REVIEW 'A superbly written and scholarly analysis ... a beautifully crafted work' SUNDAY HERALD 'Compelling' SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 'Endlessly fascinating ... David Andress has made a serious contribution to this central subject of our times with an accessible account' THE TIMES 'A gripping account' GUARDIAN
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 2005 Reed Business Information.