Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

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Instead of the dying Old Regime, Schama presents an ebullient country, vital and inventive, infatuated with novelty and technology -- a strikingly fresh view of Louis XVI's France. A New York Times bestseller in hardcover. 200 illustrations.

The author devotes his considerable narrative and scholarly gifts to the French revolution and to the transformation that permanently altered the face of Europe.

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Overview

Instead of the dying Old Regime, Schama presents an ebullient country, vital and inventive, infatuated with novelty and technology -- a strikingly fresh view of Louis XVI's France. A New York Times bestseller in hardcover. 200 illustrations.

The author devotes his considerable narrative and scholarly gifts to the French revolution and to the transformation that permanently altered the face of Europe.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Books of the Century
...[A] most intelligent work.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In what PW called a ``sprawling, provocative, sometimes infuriating chronicle that stands much conventional wisdom on its head,'' Schama argues that the Revolution did not produce a ``patriotic culture of citizenship'' but was preceded by one.
Library Journal
The appearance of this book is certain to be one of the main publishing events of the bicentennial year of the French Revolution. It blends gritty details about everyday life with an old-fashioned, dramatic narrative form. Among other things, Schama argues that the Old Regime fell not because it was stagnant but because it was moving too fast. Unlike Marxists and ``new historians,'' Schama stresses the importance of individual events and people. He detects the emergence of a patriotic culture of citizenship in the decades preceding 1789 and explains how citizenship came to be a public expression of an idealized family during the Revolution. One criticism: there are no footnotes citing sources. -- Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure University, New York
Library Journal
The appearance of this book is certain to be one of the main publishing events of the bicentennial year of the French Revolution. It blends gritty details about everyday life with an old-fashioned, dramatic narrative form. Among other things, Schama argues that the Old Regime fell not because it was stagnant but because it was moving too fast. Unlike Marxists and ``new historians,'' Schama stresses the importance of individual events and people. He detects the emergence of a patriotic culture of citizenship in the decades preceding 1789 and explains how citizenship came to be a public expression of an idealized family during the Revolution. One criticism: there are no footnotes citing sources. -- Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure University, New York
School Library Journal
This well-written, thoroughly documented book should be on every high-school library shelf. It explains the self-destructive, bloody orgy that occurred in France but not in England or Prussia, countries in similar states of poverty and with similarly deprived, disenfranchised populaces. Schama theorizes that the cause of France's revolution lies in the self-deception of the ruling intelligentsia, who believed that they could make a Utopian France by allowing controlled violence, murder, and the destruction of property in the name of liberty, and all to exist simultaneously with good government. Schama presents Talleyrand, Lafayette, and others with more understanding than they are given in most histories, setting them amidst a web of violence of their own making. This book speaks to today's world, as nations strive to move from despotism to democracy.-- Barbara Batty, Port Arthur Independent School District, Texas
New York Times Books of the Century
...[A] most intelligent work.
From the Publisher
"Dazzling...stimulating...This is no ordinary book...Schama does not merely write brilliantly about people, about events, about the abuse of rhetoric, and about festivals and executions. He also chronicle with a dramatic burst of poetic imagination.... The virtues of this book [lie] in the coruscating brilliance of dazzling display of erudition and intelligence ... His chronicle is, after all, a stunningly virtuoso performance." — Lawrence Stone, The New Republic

"One of The Best Books Of The Decade." — Time

"Monumental...a delight to read...Lively descriptions of major events, colorful cameos of leading characters (and obscure ones too), bring them to life here as no other general work has done....Above all, Mr. Schama tells a story, and he tells it well." — The New York Times Book Review

"Citizens, like the great 19th-century narratives it emulates, makes entertainment and erudition work hand in hand....As no other recent historian of the revolution, Schama brings to life the excitement — and harrowing terror — of an epochal human event." — Newsweek

"A fresh and elegant narrative...A brilliantly readable and beautifully illustrated account." — Washington Post Book World

"We are in the hands of a master storyteller...Vivid, dramatic, thought-provoking...Schama's portrait of the revolution is often surprising...His splendid recounting convinces us that much of what we thought we knew is wrong." — Time

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141017273
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK)
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004

Meet the Author

Simon Schama

Simon Schama is the prize-winning author of seven acclaimed books. An art critic and essayist for The New Yorker, he also writes and presents documentaries for BBC television. He is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and lives outside New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2001

    Brilliant history

    This excellent book should appeal to both the scholar and the interested amateur student of history with its fascinating depiction of the causes, events, and personalities of the French Revolution. The hundreds of illustrations serve the text very well. This is serious history that reads like a novel--a very long and complex novel, to be sure. <P> It has its faults; I would have preferred that it continue the history of the Revolution at least to the beginning of the Directory rather than conclude with an abrupt cutoff (no pun intended) at the death of Robespierre and the end of the Terror. And there are some minor but glaring errors of fact that should have been caught by the author, editor, or even copy editor. But overall, a grand and ambitious history.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2013

    Let's me be the first to day that I enjoy Mr. Schama's style and

    Let's me be the first to day that I enjoy Mr. Schama's style and the wit that I have seen in his television presentations on British history and art. But this book is so expansive, so detailed, that it becomes too much to take in. And after all the time I'd spent digesting the material, the only answer I have for the violence and utter turmoil behind the French Revolution was that the nation was collectively insane. After you get past the basic point—&quot;it's the economy stupid&quot;— all you get is internecine warfare, and vitriol-spouting pols prodding on a generation of malcontents to go collectively nuts. Unfortunately after awhile even the author seems bogged down in the minute details of EVERYTHING and that means we have no real focus. Then the book becomes a sort of tedious text where the reader slogs through it not because it's enjoyable but because it's a badge of honor. If you are an amateur student of history then I can't recommend this book. If you're a professor trying to inflict the most amount of pain on students or are interested in using this as a text, then go to it! In the meantime I'll try to find another book that explains French character and how a revolution shouting out &quot;Liberty, Fraternity and Equality&quot; could offer so little and provide even less to those people affected by it. This is an occasion when perhaps a little less research would've freed the author's narrative talent to do the subject justice. 

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    Posted July 30, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

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