THE FRENCH REVOLUTION by N. S. Pratt

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Concision and precision are not often met with together, and balance is hard to maintain on this subject -- all the more credit then to Mr. Pratt's lucid, discriminating compression into 120 pages of the ten years during which France ""traveled from the despotism of the ancien regime, through constitutional monarchy and several forms of republic, back to a despotism controlled by a revolutionary general."" But ""The Significance of the French Revolution"" (the last chapter) is no less clear: equal application of law and taxes; the ascendancy of the bourgeois; land for the peasants, a socialistic model for the workers; and, universally, the birth of modern nationalism with its antipodes totaliarianism and egalitarianism. Each chapter consists of a distinctive time-span, marginal subheadings denote the themes of the paragraphs, a summary coalesces and foreshadows; the textbook-like form notwithstanding there are crisp characterizations and some pauses for expansion (e.g. on Paris and its people), and there is no pretense of infallibility: disagreements among historians are aired and lacunae are noted, giving a glimpse of historiography as a human pursuit. This is most noteworthy re the Terror and the role and character of Robespierre: his government is seen as doomed in part because it would impose virtue. An efficient condensation with a table of dates, note on money and annotated reading list appended, ideal for reference and valuable as a complement to Saral Eimerl's 1967 Revolution which dramatizes what is outlined here.

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1971
Publisher: John Day