The Jacobins: An Essay in the New History

Overview

The Jacobins were the most famous of the political clubs that fomented the French Revolution. Initially moderate, they are remembered mainly for instituting the Reign of Terror. Crane Brinton’s The Jacobins was written in the 1930s, itself a decade of the violent centralization of unchecked political power.

Brinton offers not an account of the actions of major figures, but an anatomy of Jacobinism, its membership, beliefs and political platform, the relations between the central...

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Overview

The Jacobins were the most famous of the political clubs that fomented the French Revolution. Initially moderate, they are remembered mainly for instituting the Reign of Terror. Crane Brinton’s The Jacobins was written in the 1930s, itself a decade of the violent centralization of unchecked political power.

Brinton offers not an account of the actions of major figures, but an anatomy of Jacobinism, its membership, beliefs and political platform, the relations between the central Paris club and the regional groups, and how it evolved from moderation to tyranny. Brinton argues that when one considers the material facts about the Jacobins— their social environment, occupations, and wealth—one finds evidence of their prosperity to justify predicting for them quiet, uneventful, conservative, thoroughly normal lives. But when one studies the records of their proceedings, one finds them violent, cruel, and intolerant. The Jacobins present a paradox. Their political being seems inconsistent with their actual intentions.

The Jacobins presented for a brief time the spectacle of men acting without apparent regard for their material interests. As the brilliant new introduction by Howard G. Schneiderman indicates, this contradiction defines the Jacobins, and perhaps most other revolutionary movements.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Review of the 1930 edition: “The author’s analysis and description in each of the chapters are painstaking and fresh, his appreciations, quick and penetrating . . . [T]he author’s original approach to a problem which has never before been systematically examined, his keen conclusions, tempered by sound reservations, and his well-rounded generalizations make this work an invaluable one for all students of the French Revolution.” —Leo Gershoy, The American Historical Review Review of the 1930 edition: “[F]ull of useful information.” —Louis Gottschalk, The Journal of Modern History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758143501
  • Publisher: Textbook Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2003
  • Pages: 319

Meet the Author

Crane Brinton (1898–1968) was professor of history at Harvard University. He wrote extensively on the history of Western political and moral philosophy and was an expert on the dynamics of revolutionary movements. Some of his books include A History of Western Morals, The Shaping of Modern Thought, and The Americans and the French.

Howard G. Schneiderman is professor in the department of anthropology and sociology at Lafayette College. He is the editor of The Protestant Establishment Revisited and The Hindrances to Good Citizenship.

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