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Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light
by Susan Dunn
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0571199895, Paperback)American historians have long appreciated France's contribution to the American Revolution, led by champions such as the Marquis de Lafayette and given full force by the combined Franco-American defeat of the British army at Yorktown. French historians have returned the favor by analyzing the contribution of American revolutionary thought to the French Revolution, which followed the American struggle for independence by only a decade.
Susan Dunn adds a well-written, lively narrative history to the record, with a cast of characters that ranges from the austere warrior George Washington to the firebrand Robespierre. More importantly, she limns just how different the American and French revolutionary projects were. In her view, the American Revolution emphasized personal freedom, thanks in large measure to the arguments of philosophers mistrustful of government in any form (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison among them). For the French, she suggests, personal freedom was of less importance than consensus, public order, and economic democracy; of paramount concern was the incorporation of ordinary people, the Third Estate, into the state. Comparing the American Bill of Rights with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, Dunn shows how these "sister revolutions" diverged. The result is an engaging work of political history, one that illuminates the events of later years on both sides of the Atlantic. --Gregory McNamee
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:57 -0400)
"Although both revolutions professed similar Enlightenment ideals of freedom, equality, and justice, there were dramatic differences. The Americans were content to preserve many aspects of their English heritage; the French sought a complete break with a thousand years of history. The Americans accepted nonviolent political conflict; the French valued unity above all. The Americans emphasized individual rights, while the French stressed public order and cohesion." "Why did the two revolutions follow such different trajectories? What influence have the two different visions of democracy had on modern history? And what lessons do they offer us about democracy today? Susan Dunn traces the legacies of the two great revolutions through modern history and up to the revolutionary movements of our own time."--BOOK JACKET.
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