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Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    Ruth Scurr successfully manages to be neither overly critical nor too flattering in explaining Maximilien Robespierre to her readers. Scurr highlights the significant influence of the classical Greek and Roman tradition and the 18th century Enlightenment on Robespierre¿s intellect. Scurr also quotes Robespierre and his contemporaries to give her audience further insights into the complex, contradictory personality of the Incorruptible. To his detractors, present and past, Robespierre was the first of a long list of modern dictators. Think for instance about the multiple purges over which dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Saddam Hussein presided during their respective reigns of terror. Terror increasingly became self-perpetuating and indiscriminate when Robespierre was at the apex of his power in 1793 ¿ 1794. Robespierre, unable to compromise, convinced himself that he embodied France and the Revolution. Unsurprisingly, anyone who did not share his views was a traitor to France and therefore a counterrevolutionary who deserved death. Terror could only be stopped by Robespierre¿s own elimination. To his supporters, present and past, Robespierre was the first modern democrat. Robespierre embraced the social contract theory of government that Jean-Jacques Rousseau propagated and the concept of republican virtue that Charles-Louis de Secondat (Montesquieu) advocated. Robespierre built a genuine reputation as the defender of the poor and weak in the different positions that he assumed, especially after the Revolution. Robespierre went far in his quest for power because he sincerely believed everything he was saying and convinced many people around him of his sincerity in working for the well-being of the Revolution. Perhaps, more importantly, the fate of Robespierre is a stern warning to the revolutionaries of all stripes, present and future. Revolutions often devour their own children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2010

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