A Companion to the French Revolution by Peter McPhee

By Peter McPhee

A spouse to the French Revolution includes twenty-nine newly-written essays reassessing the origins, improvement, and influence of this nice turning-point in sleek history.
• Examines the origins, improvement and impression of the French Revolution
• good points unique contributions from prime historians, together with six essays translated from French.
• provides a wide-ranging evaluation of present old debates at the revolution and destiny instructions in scholarship
• offers both thorough therapy to either explanations and results of the French Revolution

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The challenge is to find new ways of talking about the motivation of individuals and groups in political situations, and then to situate these within the structures at all levels. Currently there are only two collections dealing explicitly with the origins of the Revolution (Campbell 2006; Kaiser and Van Kley 2011). Both throw a good deal of new light on the problem of the origins, but neither even attempts to offer more than a provisional explanation any more than does the best survey article (Bossenga 2007).

A classic example of this is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Old Regime and the Revolution (1856), in which the Revolution is defined as a further stage in a process of centralization going back to Louis XIV (though it would be a grave injustice to imply that his study argued no more than this). The same could be said about the role of the bourgeois or artisanal “actors” in a revolution that was thought to be essentially about class struggle. It is unsurprising that this approach should continue to dominate historical analysis, because History has long been about meaningful generalization, about finding patterns, and about making sense of the past for the present.

But fundamentally the ethic was not of a modern bureaucracy, and the office-holders had a patrimonial conception of their functions. Social privilege, hierarchy, and a strong sense of the legitimacy of limits to royal interference remained so important that a proactive royal administration generated tensions. So rhetoric, representation, patronage and clientage, bluff, negotiation, and compromise remained fundamentally important, as in the seventeenth century. The more so as the theoretically absolute monarchy was based on a working compromise with the elites (Beik 2005).

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