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The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in…
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The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France

by David Andress

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This is a very well written historical narrative that, despite its title, really covers the whole of the French revolutionary period from the fall of the Bastille in July 1789 up to and beyond the fall of Robespierre in July 1794. The author conveys the spirit of the times very well - the huge thirst for change and something different from the past, which could be discerned even when the ideals of the Revolution became so besmirched with the blood of many people during the reign of terror (the majority of these not, however, being the aristocrats of popular imagination); and the attempt to create a sense of solidarity against internal and external enemies, both real and perceived, a necessary move in some ways, but eventually grotesquely distorted under Robespierre so that any opposition to his rule was seen as treachery and anti-patriotic. The disintegration into factional strife and the fall of various groups, the Girondins, the Hebertists, the Indulgents (Dantonists) and finally the Robespierrists, over a period of only a few months is excitingly and horrifically recounted. All in all, this is an excellent account of five of the most important years in modern world history, in that they paved the way for more modern representative government in the nineteenth and subsequent centuries, spelled the death knell of absolutist monarchy in western Europe (Napoleon notwithstanding) and gave birth to modern concepts such as liberty, equality and human rights. 5/5 ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Feb 19, 2013 |
The Terror is an in-depth look at the French state leading up to and the years following the revolution of 1792. During this remarkable period of history, public executions (the Guillotine) became common place as those in power assumed the authority to tell people how to think and act (not unlike some modern-day politicians). If you weren't an active cheerleader for the Revolutionary government, then you must be a counter-revolutionary, and that cannot be tolerated. Say goodbye to your head.

Of course, the problem with this sort of thing is rampant abuse, and eventually the Terror (as it was called) consumed its own architects, such as Maximilian "The Incorruptible" Robespierre. While lasting only about three years, The Terror saw the demise of not only the aristocratic class that had hereditarily ruled the country since the time of Charlemagne, but all contemporary political groups who might adopt an unpopular stance on issues dear to those controlling the blade of "justice."

What is remarkable is how, during this period, France managed to conduct wars against England, Prussia and Austria; as well as their own civil war against royalist factions who could still muster a fighting force. Eventually, though, it wasn't bloodshed that brought down The Terror, but rampant inflation and chronic food shortages.

Andress does an admirable job identifying the main players and reporting on their actions rather dispassionately. It is hard to find any heroes during this time, and Andress does not sympathetically create any. The last chapter briefly covers ensuing events that led to the rise of Napoleon -- a Romantic tale in contrast to the Gothic horror of The Terror. In his conclusion, he summarizes the rise and fall of The Terror through the words of some of its protagonists; but I really wanted to see more about how transition occurred that resulted in l'Empereur. ( )
2 vote JeffV | Oct 6, 2011 |
This 2005 book by a British historian who is an expert on the French Revolution is a well-researched account of the time in France from 1789 yo 1795, concentrating on the Terror from September 1793 to late 1794. There is a glossary, a timeline, a listing of the cast of characters, an index, and adequate footnotes--but, sadly, no bibliography as such. The author shows how in their eagerness to safeguard what they believed was right the authors of the Terror rode roughshod over elementary rights which should be extended to every person, even if the person is inimical to what the persons in power believe to be right. ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 30, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374273413, Hardcover)

For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.
 
David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a radically different account of the Terror. In a remarkably vivid and page-turning work of history, he transports the reader from the pitched battles on the streets of Paris to the royal family's escape through secret passageways in the Tuileries palace, and across the landscape of the tragic last years of the Revolution. The violence, he shows, was a result of dogmatic and fundamentalist thinking: dreadful decisions were made by groups of people who believed they were still fighting for freedom but whose survival was threatened by famine, external war, and counter-revolutionaries within the fledging new state. Urgent questions emerge from Andress's trenchant reassessment: When is it right to arbitrarily detain those suspected of subversion? When does an earnest patriotism become the rationale for slaughter?

Combining startling narrative power and bold insight, The Terror is written with verve and exceptional pace-it is a superb popular debut from an enormously talented historian.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:32 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution. David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a radically different account of the Terror. The violence, he shows, was a result of dogmatic and fundamentalist thinking: dreadful decisions were made by groups of people who believed they were still fighting for freedom but whose survival was threatened by famine, external war, and counter-revolutionaries within the fledgling new state. Urgent questions emerge from Andress's reassessment: When is it right to arbitrarily detain those suspected of subversion? When does an earnest patriotism become the rationale for slaughter? This new interpretation draws troubling parallels with today's political an religious fundamentalism.--From publisher description.… (more)

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