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Posted January 14, 2006
An Exceptional Panorama of the French Revolution
The French Revolution, an event that has transcended time, and remained one of the most dramatic events in European history. And in less than 450 pages, Professor William Doyle provides a saturated, panoramic history of the revolution in France. Rather than focusing on the tumultuous history of Paris in the 1790s, Doyle provides, in exquisite detail, the events in the hinterland of France, from the revolts of the Vendee region to the frontline of the French Revolutionary Wars. And the author even goes a step further, donating two full chapters to the ramifications of the revolution felt across Europe. Though the chapters sometimes become hard to piece together, often providing facts that are not relevant until later in the book, the writing is magnificent, and Doyle does not miss one step of the revolution. Doyle launches the reader into the years leading up to the revolution, discussing, in grand detail, the major, and sometimes minor, factors that culminated to the national revolts that were the early signs of a revolution. Under the reign of the flaunting gallantry of Louis XVI and the deceptive Marie Antoinette, unbearable winter frosts and poor harvests starved the people, leading to protests for bread, and a regulation on wildly inflating prices. As momentum gathered, and more and more became more skeptical of the monarch, a call for the Estates-General mounted, and the French Revolution was on. In the many books that I have read about the French Revolution, Doyle's book surpasses them all, providing lucid details and connecting every point with tedious research and support. And as the Reign of Terror, the famed bloody period of the revolution, progresses, Doyle remains unbiased, presenting both sides with excruciating detail. Agreeing with most modern historians, Doye characterizes the revolution as a tragedy. The ideals of the revolution, the philosophies written on the sacred parchment of The Rights of Man and the Citizen, are devoured by the rise of the popular military general, Napoleon Bonaparte. And Doyle, unlike most historians who focus on the general's emperical career, focuses on the rise of the general, and why one man could rise above the blood of thousands, given in the name of liberty. With a lucid description of the French Revolution, a grand illustration of the French Revolutionary Wars that engulfed Europe, and a conclusion that leaves the reader with even more facts to grapple with, Doyle presents the revolution in grand fashion, remaining unbiased, and leaving the reader with a thorough knowledge of the revolution. If one is searching for a book that will provide the dramatic, and often overhyped, details of the Bastille and other theatrical events, then this book is not for you. Doyle stresses that the revolution was not isolated in Paris, or in France for that matter. Many, whom are consumed by the gorey history of Paris, neglect the fact that this was a revolution of France, not one city. A compact masterpiece of the revolution, which would enlighten the minds of even the most dignified of historians, and a great historical read.
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