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Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre
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Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre (Hardback)

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Synopsis

Historians of the French Revolution used to take for granted what was also obvious to its contemporary observers--that the Revolution was shaped by the radical ideas of the Enlightenment. Yet in recent decades, scholars have argued that the Revolution was brought about by social forces, politics, economics, or culture--almost anything but abstract notions like liberty or equality. In Revolutionary Ideas, one of the world's leading historians of the Enlightenment restores the Revolution's intellectual history to its rightful central role. Drawing widely on primary sources, Jonathan Israel shows how the Revolution was set in motion by radical eighteenth-century doctrines, how these ideas divided revolutionary leaders into vehemently opposed ideological blocs, and how these clashes drove the turning points of the Revolution. In this compelling account, the French Revolution stands once again as a culmination of the emancipatory and democratic ideals of the Enlightenment. That it ended in the Terror represented a betrayal of those ideas--not their fulfillment.

Jonathan Israel is professor of modern history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the author of A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (Princeton).

More books by Jonathan Israel

Customer Reviews

Fantastic read. Like a novel the tension is so high even though you know the story this is such a different aspect it's like living through it all. Israel is extremely well read and makes a cogent case for seeing Robespierre and St Just and Marat as proto-fascists. The parallels with contemporary revolutions are unstated but clear. I would class this as the best book I've read this year so far, by far.

- 26/05/2014
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