Meticulous, readable account of the French Revolution’s poisonous politics and blood-soaked methods of conflict resolution.
Author of several scholarly works about the Revolution, Andress (History/Univ. of Portsmouth) draws upon his expertise to successfully expand on the characters and forces involved in one of history’s most significant events. He places particular emphasis on its most violent phase, the Reign of Terror (1792–94), which claimed thousands of lives. Beginning with a dramatic, highly readable account of Louis XVI’s flight to Varennes and ending with the arrival on the scene of Napoleon Bonaparte, Andress provides a cornucopia of detail about the people and events leading to a dictatorship that allowed mass detentions and executions of perceived enemies of the Revolution. Driven by real and imagined fears of enemies within and outside France, the vicious cycle of killings was noted for the ferocity and ruthlessness of the players involved in this tragic internecine battle to the death (most infamously by guillotine). Murders and campaigns of devastation were carried out to quell counter-revolutionaries; in the Vendée region alone, more than 200,000 perished. Intense factionalism bitterly divided the political leadership. In the end, the Revolution turned on itself, and the blade of the dreaded guillotine claimed its leading light, Maximilien Robespierre. Girordins and Montagnards, St. Just and Robespierre are but a few of the dizzying array of factions and notables crowding the narrative. Mercifully for those unfamiliar with the history, Andress includes a timeline, glossary and list of characters to help the reader navigate through a myriad of information.
A useful contribution to understanding the terrible and prolonged tragedy that engulfed France.