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The Terror


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David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, is Principal Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Portsmouth, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. The Terror is his first book for a general readership.


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.

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.

"Countering the historiography of the last generation, including Simon Schama...Andress focuses not just on the killings but on the "grand political pronouncements, uprisings, and insurrections..".His focus on the Terror as the culmination of a complex historical process rather than an unprovoked outbreak of violence, makes for a bracing historical reassessment." --Publishers Weekly" [A] well-researched, well-written, and highly revisionist work." --Sunday Times"Andress, in this compelling study . . . scotches many myths, and gives some sobering parallels to contemporary society." --Scotland on Sunday"Andress creates a vivid picture of the time... Amid today's issues of individual rights, legitimate limits of state power and demonization of enemies, the book has great relevance" --Waterstones Books Quarterly"This is the most authoritative treatment we are likely to have for many years." --William Doyle, The Independent"A tour de force. There is nothing to beat it." --Spectator"[A] brilliantly deadpan account . . . one of the ironies that Andress skillfully reveals is that the law was denied, bit by bit, by the very men who had once been practicing it . . . he also shows how the feeble poisoned the righteous, revolutionary anger." --The Guardian"In such alarming times, it is important to understand what exactly terror is, how it works politically, and what, if anything, can be done to combat it. The historian David Andress has made a serious contribution to this central subject of our times with an accessible account of the way terror overtook the French Revolution at the end of the 18th Century." --The Times"It is a staggeringly complicated story that is just about ordered into a manageable narrative in Andress's even-tempered re-telling." --The Observer"Much important work on the French Terror has been done over the past 20 years by French, English, and American historians, and there is now a need to synthesize this into an accessible narrative history for a wider public. This is David Andress's aim, and one which he generally achieves in this well-written and handsomely produced book." --Sunday Telegraph"David Andress has given the reader a meticulous account of the Terror, in all its confusing twists and turns . . . While never failing to convey the drama and horrors of the Terror, Andress resists the temptation to exaggerate or turn drama into melodrama. He has written a book which stands beside Simon Schama's Citizens." --Times Literary Review"Andress, in this compelling study, offers a far subtler, far more cogent approach to understanding the period, without ever becoming an apologist for the excesses." --Scotland on Sunday"Andress creates a vivid picture of the time... Amid today's issues of individual rights, legitimate limits of state power and demonisation of enemies, the book has great relevance." --Waterstones Books Quarterly

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