The Revolutionary Movement in France, 1815-71

The Revolutionary Movement in France, 1815-71

The Revolutionary Movement in France, 1815-71

The Revolutionary Movement in France, 1815-71

Excerpt

I cannot call this book an historical essay, for it is less a commentary on events than an account of them. On the other hand, it is not the product of meticulous research; it brings to light no new facts and relies entirely on the discoveries of other people, on the many books written about the subject by French historians. But, whereas Englishmen who read history to enjoy it can nowadays discover easily enough--if only they have the time and thought to spare for an undertaking that can never be small--what happened in France during the great revolution, and even what followed from Thermidor until Napoleon's second fall, the facts collected and the theories made by historians about the radical and revolutionary movement of the nineteenth century lie scattered through the pages of a hundred books. Some of these books are excellent, and many of them easy to read. But they either discuss only a small part of my subject, or other subjects as well, or else are so strongly prejudiced as to mislead anyone who has not read other accounts of the matter. Not that I wish to condemn prejudice; though it blinds men when they look in some directions, it sharpens their vision when they look in others. Besides, it is usually natives who have the strongest prejudices, and it is also natives who understand their own countries best. The opinions about France of a prejudiced and intelligent Frenchman are often worth more than the opinions of a foreigner, however learned, patient and well-meaning he may be. Impartiality is not understanding; and we should always be conscious of this truth when we dabble in the history of another country. But impartiality is a virtue possible to the foreigner, and it has its good effects.

I have tried in this book to be lucid, exact and comprehensive, to put as much into it as I could without placing too great a burden on a small frame. I have had a complicated story to tell and I have wanted to leave out nothing essential to it. I have . . .

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