Origins of the French Revolution

By William Doyle | Go to book overview

PREFATORY NOTE

Half a generation of students have helped me to clarify my ideas about this subject -- in so far as I have. Colleagues and friends too numerous to mention have also played their part. I am particularly grateful to Norman Hampson, who has read through the whole text with characteristic care and critical detachment, offering countless suggestions for its improvement. Ted Royle was also kind enough to read a crucial chapter and give me his comments at a very busy time. Christine, as always, was relentless in her criticism and unstinting in her help.

September 1979 W.D.


PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

When a second edition of this book appeared eight years after the first, I did not feel the need to alter much of what I had previously said. Although scholarly perception of the subject had evolved, changes still seemed to have been incremental rather than fundamental. But in fact, a major shift had already begun to occur. 'Revisionism', it turned out, had largely run its course. What would soon be known as Post-Revisionism had begun to appropriate the agenda; and the outburst of new writing which marked the bicentenary of the Revolution in 1989 inaugurated the triumph of this approach. In the ten years since, it has achieved a hegemony not unlike that of the orthodoxies from whose ruins it sprouted; and books like this have become part of the scholarly history they once sought to chronicle, appraise, and incorporate.

Yet, on a subject whose centrality to the course of modern history has been emphasized if anything more than ever by post-revisionists, the value of taking regular stock remains undiminished. This, and the urgings of friends and colleagues whose views I respect, has at length

-vii-

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Origins of the French Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Prefatory Note vii
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Writings on Revolutionary Origins Since 1939 3
  • 1 - The Classic Interpretation 5
  • 2 - Revisionism 10
  • 3 - Post-Revisionism 35
  • Part II - The Breakdown of the Old Regime 43
  • 4 - The Financial Crisis 45
  • 5 - The System of Government 54
  • 6 - Opposition 65
  • 7 - Public Opinion 76
  • 8 - Reform and its Failure, 1787-1788 91
  • Part III - The Struggle for Power 109
  • 9 - The Nobility 111
  • 10 - The Bourgeoisie 121
  • 11 - The Election Campaign, September 1788 to May 1789 131
  • 12 - The Economic Crisis 148
  • 13 - The Estates-General, May and June 1789 157
  • 14 - The People of Paris 166
  • 15 - The Peasantry 178
  • 16 - Conclusion: The New Regime and its Principles 189
  • Notes 197
  • Further Reading 226
  • Index of Authors Cited 229
  • General Index 233
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