Even as the historical crow flies, it is a very long way from Elijah and King David to the Buddhists in Vietnam and General de Gaulle in France. When the route includes countless sidetrips to visit such fascinating figures as Cicero, Cromwell, Sieyes, Trotsky, and T. E. Lawrence, surely only a competent navigator could journey all the way between the covers of a single volume. James H. Meisel manages handsomely in largely uncharted seas. His erudition by itself would be impressive; it is the more so because of his supple style and wit. Mr. Meisel accepts the concept of revolution as a ""natural"" sociological phenomenon, but he has pushed the study far beyond the stages effected by such pioneers as Crane Brinton, and has developed his investigatory tools into precise instruments. Concentrating on the terminal stages of revolution, he has illumined the least known element of a little-understood human process and at the same time informed the entire subject.