Citizens: A Chronicle of The French Revolution

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Simply calling the book 'a chronicle' doesn't escape this issue because there is always a degree of selection hide spoiler ]. Toward the very end he comes up with the idea of the revolution as process that creates the concept of being a citizen in France, I feel that's a great idea, I suspect somebody has in Peasants into Frenchmen written something along those lines view spoiler [ but since this is a paraphrase of de Tocqueville with some other stuff, rewriting somebody else's book isn't such a radical departure hide spoiler ] , and that to make that concept congruent with the entire book one would need to rewrite the whole thing view spoiler [ not necessarily by Monday afternoon though, and it would make better sense of the title hide spoiler ].

So my overall impression of this book is mild frustration, there are lots of interesting books in here that could have been written, but just not the one that Schama did write. In any case because the French revolution is the birth of our contemporary era, it is a very resonant subject, the response to the death of Marat at the hands of Charlotte Corday put me in mind of Lenin Lives and how the ideology of martyrdom is so powerful to us. The efforts of the Revolutionary regime to turn France into an arms factory suggest Mao in China having everybody melt down their pots and pans to turn China into the world's leading steal producer.

Revolutionary France as exemplar. The narrative of the Revolution as arising out of a conflict between the spread of a Capitalist mode of working and a paternalistic mode, which it fails to resolve is incarnated on a human scale in Robespierre the supporter of mass executions who began as an opponent of capital punishment. I received this book as a gift and it means a lot to me as it is a theme which puts an edge on the teeth, the Enlightenment dream merges into the sleep of reason and we see ourselves in the mirror , Heine, and his Ideen.

Das Buch Le Grand is the one to turn to. It is a mess, sometimes a fun mess, but it relies on length as a proxy for authoritativeness, he is also vague on dates, and I suspect deliberately so, so without reference to some other source the inter relationship between events in different places is lost. When he does make definite statements frequently they are not even congruent with the material he himself has presented in his own book which is a bit off a worry it is as though he had subcontracted out the writing to a dozen under graduates and then skim read it and added a few sentences of his own here and there, generally I felt his heart wasn't really in it, judging by the bibliography it seemed more a regurgitation of what he had learnt in a post graduate seminar than arising out of any personal passion or research, as a chatty ancien regime loving introduction to the French Revolution that aims to entertain it works well enough though.

Some combination of these? View all 24 comments. Schama takes odd pages to cover the period from to the death of Robespierre in , something that other no less respectable historians manage to do in a fraction of the space.

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution - Wikipedia

So what is Schama doing differently? For one thing he scrupulously avoids any kind of schematization, any form of large structural overview, instead concentrating on what indeed he declares it to be in the title, a chronicle, a careful catalogue of events, without giving them ideological interpretation. He also Schama takes odd pages to cover the period from to the death of Robespierre in , something that other no less respectable historians manage to do in a fraction of the space.

He also gives us plenty of anecdote and biographical background to the personalities involved, and does not ignore the provinces, a timely reminder that France is more than Paris alone, and that some of the resistance to the Revolution had more to do with resentment at centralization as opposed to federalism rather than any nostalgia for royalty. What he also manages to do, in contrast, he claims, to many of his learned colleagues, is to take a long, hard, impassive and yet critical look at the horrific violence. He takes other historians to task for either glossing over this aspect or dismissing it as a kind of necessary concomitant evil to the seismic shifts of change.

His view is that violence was the heart and soul of the revolution, and indeed, the dilemma of those who were trying to run the country was always the question: Schama also concentrates on pointing out many of the continuities between pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary society. This is the trend in historiography: This tends to give the impression that these events heralded a sudden sea change in every aspect of life, whereas scholarship now is more aware of how artificial and euro-centric these markings-off are. Certainly the French Revolution is often seen as the crucible of modernity, as if European society was feudalistic, its government absolutist monarchical, and its economy regulated and controlled before the revolution and suddenly became free, democratic, liberal and ruled by the market after Naturally the process is that, a process, and there was a patchwork of measures and changes in political life that didn't always translate through to much difference in social structures.

As other comments here have emphasised, this concentration on daily events and the mix of continuities and discontinuities makes this a demanding read, as the reader is not given any help in ordering these events into categories that might help in grasping their significance. But that is precisely its greatest asset: View all 15 comments. Elephant of the Bastille Arrogant and bloated style and in such detail that after a while one just wants to scream. Skimming through the really snoozy parts but after twenty hours of listening I have still over half to go.

Loaded what was left of this into the mp3 so I could garden and walk and that worked better for me. Saying that though, I am glad to see the back of it! View all 7 comments. Jan 18, Janitor-X is currently reading it. He just wanted to make maps and hang out with sailors. Jul 25, Robert rated it did not like it. Dear Mr Schama, If you can't find the time to edit your own books then might I suggest hiring someone to edit them for you? View all 6 comments. May 02, Sebastien added it Shelves: This is not necessarily bad. I may try and come back to this at some future date but I probably need to find a more straight forward history to give me better fundamental schooling on the French Revolution.

It's quite complex and Schama doesn't really ground things with solid timelines and exposition imo. Probably a better read for those who already have some knowledge on the subject. View all 5 comments. Feb 03, Erik Graff rated it really liked it Recommends it for: This is an excellent, enjoyable narrative about the period surrounding and including the French revolution, but it is not a great history. Schama does make his points, two of them being 1 that things weren't so bad and were getting better in and 2 the revolution was a bloody and unnecessary affair.

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

He does not, however, prove much of everything by what amounts to a rather unsystematic collection of facts and anecdotes. Nor does he pay sufficient attention to what the events of the revol This is an excellent, enjoyable narrative about the period surrounding and including the French revolution, but it is not a great history.

Nor does he pay sufficient attention to what the events of the revolution, exemplified by, say, "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen" meant to the world. Compared to Lefebvre's treatment, his is weak. Still, it is quite fun to read and the points he makes are worthy of pursuit. A similar critique of the American Revolution could be made as well--and of the English, the Russian etc. As regards the USA one could point to Canada or Australia, comparing their peaceful transitions to independence to our bloody one--but then what of "Common Sense" or "The Declaration of Independence"?

Schama goes on of course to discuss the Napoleonic Wars following the revolution, decrying them as well. Indeed, after the early wars of liberation so well outlined by R. Palmer in his Age of Democratic Revolution, Napoleon did institute sheer wars of imperialist aggression. Those certainly were what most moderns, excepting the recent Bush administration, would consider war crimes. Yet our own revolution was followed by genocides covering the continent.

Further, the British abolished slavery decades before we did. All of this raises questions about the role of the historian. On the one hand, one would want one's history straight--just the facts and no judgments beyond weighing facts and factors as more or less important. On the other hand, if history is to be relevant, then something like moral judgment would seem to come into play. The contrast is not actually this pronounced. Some of what must be dealt with is the record of decision-making, a practice inevitably involving ethical considerations. Here I suppose good prefaces and introductions are in order.

It should be the responsibility of the author to make clear his or her method and intentions in writing a history. View all 10 comments. Apr 30, Michelle rated it did not like it Recommends it for: The real achievement in this book is that the author managed to make one of the most lively and interesting periods in history not only boring, but painfully, excruciatingly boring. The French Revolution was bloody and funny and dark and incredible and really important to present day events. Yet trying to read this account of it is most like being slowly torn to bits by a mob while on heavy tranquilizers.

The writing is bad, the organization is schizophrenic, and it is several hundred pages too The real achievement in this book is that the author managed to make one of the most lively and interesting periods in history not only boring, but painfully, excruciatingly boring. The writing is bad, the organization is schizophrenic, and it is several hundred pages too long.

I wasted three months of my life it normally takes me a week or two to read a nonfiction book slogging through this nemesis of a tome and I wish I had that time back. I thought if I stuck it out long enough, I could learn something about the French Revolution, which I sincerely wanted to do. I have learned my lesson, and next time, I'll go for Wikipedia first. The best use for this book is as a doorstop, or a way to get your kid to change their major from history to business.

View all 4 comments. Jan 16, Joe rated it it was amazing. Outstanding piece of narrative history that overturns many long held views on the origins and progress of the revolution. In particular it shows how widespread change was already underway whilst the monarchy was still in charge and strips away a lot of the Marxist ideology that had informed so much of the historiography. The result is a far less glamourous and heroic epoch. Schama is no reactionary and this book is an important corrective to a lot of previously unquestioned assumptions.

The book Outstanding piece of narrative history that overturns many long held views on the origins and progress of the revolution. The book is outstandingly written with a wealth of anecdotal detail about politics, culture, society and the lives of those involved. The outcome is a period of history that is both darker and more fascinating.

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A history written about any event and any period has at least two aspects, the presenting of a chronology of events on the one hand, and, on the other, an interpretation that includes hypotheses about causes and implications of what occurred. His interpretation of the Revolution is, of course, his own, and his understanding has been questioned and criticized by some and affirmed and appreciated by others. Schama has several convictions that run through his account of the Revolution.

One among many is that the opinions that seem to have driven events were as much a resistance to existing modernizing movements in France as they were a drive to modernize. He also sees the issue of violence, often state-sponsored in the interest of ideological purity and the preservation of the Revolution, as being pervasive and an integral aspect of the period, the culmination of events in the Terror not being an aberration.

These problems were exacerbated by two or three years of disastrous harvests that made the people desperate and open to radical change. Into the gap jumped people who were willing to advance their own agendas and other people eager to ride Enlightenment philosophies that rejected monarchy, although anti-monarchial sentiments were less prominent at the beginning of the Revolution than they gradually became. The Romantic philosophy of Rousseau was permeating the air of the time and also fostered an idealism often incompatible with realistic initiatives that may have been more efficacious.

Schama presents events as being to a great extent driven by Paris and its population, and there were powerful counter-revolutionary movements elsewhere in the country, eg in the Vendee, that pulled and pushed the Revolution in different directions, a tension that was aggravated by the wars in which France concurrently found itself as other nations attacked it. Oversimplification in understanding almost any historical movement is a constant danger, and perhaps the person trying to understand past events can do best to expose himself to a variety of perspectives that then provide a pointillistic impression which he can reflect upon.

I found this book fascinating, providing one important perspective that needs to be considered in attempting to understand this Revolution which subsequently had such profound effects on the modern world. Jan 30, Mikey B. A detailed book on the French Revolution.

The best aspects of this book are when the author becomes personal — as when he is describing the lives of individuals — Talleyrand, Lafayette, the King and Queen, Mirabeau The first portion of the book lacks chronology — there is a constant shifting to and fro between and and events become confusing. Starting with Part II there is a sequence and key aspects of the Revolution are well described, such as the seizure of the Bastille. Myths are A detailed book on the French Revolution. Myths are also destroyed. France prior to was a dynamic and changing society. During — everything became open for questioning and later you could be guillotined for these questions.

I believe that Mr. Schama minimizes the attacks on the Roman Catholic Church during this era. The Revolution during rejected the Vatican and priests were forced to swear loyalty to the French state. Atheists flourished in Paris. Today France could be considered one of the more secular societies in the developed countries. There is a lot of name-dropping — and I suspect many of these names are used only one or twice throughout the book. Perhaps the over page length got to me after awhile. The illustrations at least are excellent and capture the spirit and dynamism of the era.

Aug 27, Audrey Babkirk Wellons rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Reading this book made me want to read more history -- or, at least, more history written by Mr. You can get a taste of his style in his recent New Yorker article link below , but he basically introduces the reader to a subject with colorful characters and the social climate that they lived in. I certainly didn't know that Ben Franklin was a fashionable superstar in France for a time, or that one of the causes of the Revolution was financial mismanagement.

I got a little weary after Lou Reading this book made me want to read more history -- or, at least, more history written by Mr. I got a little weary after Louis and Marie Antoinette were executed, and there were times when I would've appreciated a brief glossary, or a chart illustrating the structure of the government. But Schama isn't writing a textbook -- he's writing a pretty engaging take on a well-worn subject. Mar 06, Kelly marked it as to-read Shelves: I've always adored Simon Schama's storytelling. Is it melodramatic at times? Does he have his biases?

Do I love it anyway? Oct 16, Melissa Berninger rated it it was amazing Shelves: I read this years ago but have been thinking about it a lot lately. It's a good corrective to the received wisdom that the French Revolution was a smashing success and one that should be used as a model for the present. He argues that the "terror" wasn't an anomaly--violence fueled the Revolution from the outset.

From the New York Times review: Schama is at his most powerful when denouncing the central truth of the Revolution: However virtuous were the principles of the revolutionaries, he reminds us that their power depended on intimidation: Violence was no aberration, no unexpected skid off the highway of revolution: But I doubt it. Apr 11, Bap rated it it was ok Shelves: This book is so undisciplined and dissatisfying. A chore to read. Apr 09, CD rated it liked it Shelves: Did the great French Revolution begin on a nasty rumor? Who really was imprisoned and when in the Bastille?

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Finally and the denouement to the whole nastiness of about ten years, why was there a lion locked up in the Bastille? The story of the French Revolution is told in a series of interconnected personal histories, anecdotes, and from a historical viewpoint in this work by Simon Schama.

Schama eschews the political science timeline and gets to the heart of the matter in a detailed account of th Did the great French Revolution begin on a nasty rumor? Schama eschews the political science timeline and gets to the heart of the matter in a detailed account of the background and actual precipitating events of the beginning, middle and end of the Terror.

Schama does not rely on the tired old sources as of the date of publication for information regarding, among other events, the downfall of the reputation of Marie Antoinette. Yes she became known as the German whore but she and her husband Louis the XVI were a scant three years before their trials very popular. So how do you go from being the toast of your country to having your head removed by scientific well for the time anyway instrument?

The conventional wisdom has long held that it was all about money, debt, taxes, and their undesirable end result. I'm almost embarrassed to write this review for fear that I'm going to sound the Americo-centric bumpkin, but here goes: First, Schama's a great author and historian, and this is probably an excellent book. Friends of mine who've read it rave about it, and I've just ordered the print version.

Second, I'm a retired U.


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However, I've just deleted this audio book from my iPhone as the reader has the most outrageous, Monty Pythonesque, upper class British accent I've ever heard. It's almost a caricature, and is so thick that I miss every third word he says, compounded by the usual alternative pronunciations of key words the warning should have been the reader's frequent early reference to "tricklers" which, I finally figured out, is how the British pronounce "tricolors". Worse, he makes an aggressive attempt to pronounce all French words and, given that this is a history of the French Revolution, there are a lot of 'em with what he believes is an authentic accent and, in truth, this might be the way some French actually pronounce their words and names.

Short of it is that I simply couldn't understand this reader and felt I was missing virtually all of the narrative, particularly when vehicular traffic noise was added into the mix I read during my lengthy commutes to work. It was with great remorse that I hit the "delete" button, but the experience was simply getting too frustrating to continue. Do yourself a favor and buy the book.

One person found this helpful 2 people found this helpful. Simon Schama is a master. Historians come and go, and while in academics, history has really only recently been elevated to the status of truly important for the well-rounded scholar, Schama delivers perhaps the strongest case why in "Citizens. He brings you along through the personal accounts of the makers and shakers of the French Revolution.

In that, he doesn't paint with a broad stroke, but rather gives the stuff of the gutter-- Not just the absolute apropos of the term Terror in the French Revolution, but sheds light into the steely, cold, indifference to the lives lost in the name of the dreams of tomorrow. Simon Schama offers a glimpse into a history from the top in Versailles to the bottom of Marseilles. He writes though not for the purpose of capitalizing on a good story with gritty details, but to lend perspective when a people can live in mass hysteria, blinded by fear and loathing, ambitious to a fault, and reckless in recovery.

All around, good buy. See all reviews. Most recent customer reviews. Published 23 days ago. Published 2 months ago. Published 3 months ago. Published 5 months ago.

Published 6 months ago. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Pimlico , p. Echoes of the Marseillaise: French Politics and Society. Retrieved from " https:



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