Sunday, August 28, 2011
Book Review: A Concise History of the French Revolution by Sylvia Neely
The trouble with some concise histories, short histories and general overviews is that the author tends to skip and jump between events that they find interesting at the expense of providing the reader with a real basic overview of a particular event. While they might be a delightful read, they don't truly fit the bill of a "concise history." Thankfully, Sylvia Neely's trim A Concise History of the French Revolution avoids this shortcoming by providing a general and fairly no-nonsense overview of the French Revolution, its primary causes, figures, and events.
Neely's conclusions on the nature of the revolution may be new to readers who are more familiar with the traditional outlook on the events of 1789, which are usually boiled down to a simple "the peasants rose against the monarchy." A Concise History, however, places the events of 1789 in a different context by exploring how the nature of the class system in France and how the nature of that class system, along with a failing tax system and burdening national debt, contributed to the initial revolutionary actions of 1789. I did not always agree with some of Neely's conclusions but the book is well footnoted and, in my opinion, an excellent addition to any history-lover's library.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an introductory read about the French Revolution or for anyone interested in 18th century France.