The French Revolution

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

Synopsis

The Bastille, symbol of injustice and monarchial tyranny, surrendering to the Parisian throng; the hungry women of Paris, demanding bread from their king; the guillotine, revolutionary death machine, dispatching human lives amid the grotesquely gala atmosphere of the Place de la Revolution: Such dramatic images of a society in turmoil are vividly recreated in The French Revolution. Connelly and Hembree not only recapture the drama of the Revolution but provide a reasoned analysis of the causes, course, and legacy of this distinct turning point in history.

Excerpt

The French Revolution was bloody, violent, theatrical, and populated with characters who rivet the imagination. The public remembers it largely because of its dramatic appeal. Historians are not oblivious to the drama of the French Revolution, but it is its legacy of ideas and institutions that sustains their interest.

The spectacular scenes of the Revolution rival those created by the most imaginative fiction writer: the Third Estate at Versailles, meeting on an indoor tennis court, rain rattling on the high roof, defying the king and intoning an oath to give France a constitution. Mirabeau at the Royal Session that followed, shaking his lion's shock of hair and shouting, “We will not move… except at the point of the bayonet!” The mobs of Paris surging toward the hated Bastille. The incredible march of the women of Paris to Versailles in rain and mud to ask King Louis XVI to feed their children, an event that ended with the crowds taking him back to Paris. The executions in the grotesquely gala atmosphere of the Place de la Révolution; the roll of drums, the cheers of the crowd, and the swish of the guillotine blade as it dropped. The executioner displaying to the public the head of Louis XVI, and months later, that of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Robespierre, “the Incorruptible,” architect of the bloody Terror, leading the march in the Festival of the Supreme Being with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. Napoleon Bonaparte, “the Little Corporal,” directing the French Republic's armies to victories thought impossible.

These images continue to fascinate us 200 years later. The public appetite is fed today by television miniseries, movies, and plays, as well as by books and articles. The media have always lavished attention upon the Revolution. While it was in progress, newspapers publicized every move and almost every word of the legislative assemblies, the Jacobin Club, and other political groups. In addition an enormous volume of flyers, placards, and posters circulated, not to mention sundry articles—everything . . .

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