This book was first inspired by a desire to understand precisely how a revolution emerges from class society. Like so many others, my interest in the French Revolution had been originally directed towards understanding the social radicalism of the popular movement, for which the social interpretation of the Revolution as a bourgeois revolution seemed to provide a lucid and logically necessary backdrop. It was striking, however, that while the history of the popular movement had been set out in great social and political detail, there was nowhere to be found a comparably detailed account of the bourgeoisie, their interests as a rising capitalist class, and the political dynamics of their revolutionary career. Indeed, when the snippets of evidence offered in demonstration of the emergence of a capitalism were actually pinned down, one was left with the unmistakable impression that despite the strength of the theory of bourgeois revolution, its history was marked by looseness and vague allusions. Most troubling was the fact that the strongest evidence with regard to the social and political interests of the bourgeoisie seemed to be that offered by Alfred Cobban in his polemically charged attack upon the Marxist position. Approaching, then, the Revolution from a Marxist theoretical perspective that was virtually predicated upon the existence of bourgeois revolution, it came at first as something of a shock to discover just how much of a case against it had been made by revisionist historians in Cobban's wake.
For, over the last two decades, a truly radical transformation