By William Doyle
The French Revolution of 1789 lasted for almost ten years, and when it ended, the political and social order of France had been dramatically altered. The absolute rule of the monarch had ceased, and feudalism had been destroyed. With the end of the ancien regime, the new bourgeois gained political power at the expense of the aristocracy and Church. The revolution upset not only established institutions in France, but had serious repercussions throughout Europe. The Oxford History of the French Revolution provides a comprehensive and powerful account of the extraordinary events in France and Europe between 1789 and 1799. Opening with the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, eminent historian William Doyle describes the collapse of the Government, the calling of the Estates-General and the Principles of 1789. He then traces the fascinating history of France through revolution, terror, and counter-revolution, to the triumph of Napoleon in 1802, analyzing throughout the impact of the events on Europe. "The French Revolution took the whole of Europe by surprise," he writes. "To be sure, all educated Europeans were aware in the 1780's that they lived in an age of upheaval and defiance of authority.... But if any great monarchy seemed destined soon to collapse, it was not that of the French Bourbons." By examining the Revolution in its European context, Doyle shows how a movement which began with optimism and general enthusiasm ("the news was romantic and thrilling...people thronged bookshops and reading rooms clamouring for the latest information") soon became a tragedy, not only for the ruling orders, but for millions of ordinary people all over Europe. As the contagion for upheaval spread across Europe, churches were plundered, pious fraternities dissolved, and the paper money issued by the new authorities plummeted in value. It was the common people, he reveals, who paid the price for the destruction of the old political order and the struggle to establish a new one. This monumental work offers a thoughtful, well-researched, and complete guide to all the major ideas and events of the French Revolution. Published on the 200th anniversary of the outbreak of the Revolution, The Oxford History of the French Revolution will not only become the standard reference on the subject but will provide new answers and insights into one of the most important events in European history.