The Oxford History of the French Revolution

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

Synopsis

Massacres were nothing new to the late eighteenth-century world, but the prospect of a government systematically executing its opponents by the cartload for months on end presented Europe with a new and unimaginable horror. The Reign of Terror and the French Revolution as a whole transformed the meaning of political change and history itself. Written by a leading historian, this authoritative and comprehensive history draws on a wealth of new research in order to reassess the greatest of all revolutions. Beginning with the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, William Doyle traces the history of France through revolution, terror, and counter-terror, to the triumph of Napoleon in 1802, along the way analyzing the impact of these events in France upon the rest of Europe. He explores how a movement which began with optimism and general enthusiasm soon became a tragedy, not only for the ruling orders, but for millions of ordinary people all over Europe. They were the ones who paid the price for the destruction of the old political order and the struggle to establish a new one, based on liberty and revolution, in the face of widespread indifference and hostility. Highly readable and meticulously researched, The Oxford History of the French Revolution will provide new insights into one of the most important events in European history.

Excerpt

The king of France needed no coronation. He reigned by the grace of God from the moment his predecessor breathed his last, and a coronation was purely customary. So the argument was heard, even in the highest circles, that the elaborate consecration of Louis XVI, arranged for 11 June 1775 in the traditional setting of Rheims cathedral, was a waste of public money. A month beforehand, the countryside around Paris, and many districts of the city, had been shaken by rioting against high flour and bread prices. The disturbances led to talk of postponing the ceremony, and the approaches to Rheims were ringed with precautionary troops. And far fewer people than expected made the journey to the capital of Champagne to witness the historic spectacle. Innkeepers complained of unlet rooms, and caterers of wasted supplies. But when, that brilliant morning, the cathedral doors were flung open to reveal the young monarch crowned and enthroned in glory, invested with the sceptre of Charlemagne and anointed with the holy oil of Clovis, men broke down and wept despite themselves.

The son of St Louis, the Most Christian King of France and Navarre, had sworn that day to uphold the peace of the Church, prevent disorder, impose justice, exterminate heretics, maintain forever the prerogatives of the Order of the Holy Spirit, and pardon no duellist. Three days later, in the summer heat, he ritually touched 2,400 stinking sufferers from scrofula, the disfiguring disease believed by countless generations to be curable through the miraculous touch of an anointed king. And all this still left him time to write letters to his 74-year-old chief minister, who had remained at Versailles; and to resist the attempts of an empty-headed queen to have her favourites given office. Court intrigues could not be expected to stop merely because the king was being crowned. And so the ceremonies that Louis XVI observed that week, the motions he went through, were a strange blend of momentous and trivial, significant and purely formal, meaningful and empty. The powers he exercised, the promises he made, the regalia he wore, all resulted from a long, tortuous, and often haphazard evolution.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.