The Oxford History of the French Revolution

2142776.jpgOverall this is a very readable book about the French Revolution. I’m not sure it would work for the complete novice – because I’m not, so I can’t judge that anymore. But it gives a generally thorough overview of the French Revolution and, interestingly, its impact on the wider world; Ireland and Poland both get mentions as being inspired by the Revolution itself during the Revolution, and the rest of Europe by virtue of conquest, with Latin America being mentioned in passing. Haiti also gets a few mentions in terms of the uprising there inspired by the Revolution.

I have two complaints; one stylistic, the other content. The first is that some of the writing is a bit obscure, in that sentences could definitely have been better formulated to avoid confusion. The second is Doyle’s attitude towards women. On the first page he mentions ‘an empty-headed queen’, and doesn’t really walkabout Marie Antoinette much except in terms of being anti-revolution. On one of the last pages he mentions that equality between men and women was never going to be a thing, despite women’s contributions to the revolution – which he’s mentioned about once, with the Women’s March to Versailles, which would be hard to avoid – but there he talks about women pushing matters to extremes, and Mme de Stael as ‘Necker’s busybody daughter’ (!!), and Theroigne de Mericourt and Olympe de Gouges and Claire Lacombe only once each. I found this very disappointing. Of course you can’t mention everyone in one book, but surely these women deserve more than just the one line dismissal of their contributions.

I would still recommend this a very good overview, keeping in mind that no single book is going to be perfect.

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