A history of the age of revolution in the Atlantic world’s three largest cities.
Throughout this eye-opening comparative history, Rapport (History/Univ. of Glasgow; Nineteenth-Century Europe, 2005, etc.) effectively explores “how groups and individuals lived through the revolutionary upheaval with all its anxieties, its stirring visions of the possible, its wrenching fear, its abject despair and seething hatred. The key point is that revolution is a human experience in all its exhilaration, terror and squalor.” The author ably captures this experience, following the rise of the populace, those who were newly literate and learning from pamphlets and fliers now readily available due to the expansion of printers. They gathered in urban locales like pubs, taverns, and public meeting spaces across New York, Paris, and London, and they were alike in the blooming of suppressed anger. While London did not suffer a true revolution, the anger and demands for rights were still there. Rapport spots the differences in England’s economic segregation and the strength of her loyalists, but there’s a great deal more to it. All three cities were reeling under the costs of the Seven Years’ War. France was literally broke, and England looked to her colonies to refill her coffers, resulting in the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, the Intolerables Act, and other tariffs that aroused the ire of the colonists. Though the cities couldn’t be more different—in their topography, geography, culture, and class distinctions—the author points to the differences in a manner that allows readers to see how they did what they had to do to arrive at similar conclusions. The French had no history of free assembly, nor an elected legislature, not to mention few constitutional safeguards. One must wonder if the wide economic differences and suppressions led to the vast differences in the levels of violence.
Rapport’s in-depth research into these three cities at war is significant, the similarities and differences making the story all the more fascinating.