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Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914
Synopses & Reviews
For those who lived in the wake of the French Revolution, from the storming of the Bastille to Napoleon’s final defeat, its aftermath left a profound wound that no subsequent king, emperor, or president could heal. Children of the Revolution follows the ensuing generations who repeatedly tried and failed to come up with a stable regime after the trauma of 1789. The process encouraged fresh and often murderous oppositions between those who were for, and those who were against, the Revolution’s values. Bearing the scars of their country’s bloody struggle, and its legacy of deeply divided loyalties, the French lived the long nineteenth century in the shadow of the revolutionary age.
Despite the ghosts raised in this epic tale, Robert Gildea has written a richly engaging and provocative book. His is a strikingly unfamiliar France, a country with an often overwhelming gap between Paris and the provinces, a country torn apart by fratricidal hatreds and a tortured history of feminism, the site of political catastrophes and artistic triumphs, and a country that managed—despite a pervasive awareness of its own fall from grace—to fix itself squarely at the heart of modernity. Indeed, Gildea reveals how the collective recognition of the great costs of the Revolution galvanized the French to achieve consensus in a new republic and to integrate the tumultuous past into their sense of national identity. It was in this spirit that France’s young men went to the front in World War I with a powerful sense of national confidence and purpose.
"The French Revolution's cries of 'liberty, fraternity, and equality' reverberated throughout Europe and America. Yet in France, as Oxford historian Gildea (Marianne in Chains) demonstrates in this elegant political and cultural history, the consequences of the revolution were far more ambiguous: its mixed legacy included 'hope for a new day' as well as 'anarchy, bloodletting and despotism.' Chronicling five generations, Gildea discovers diverse responses, including opposition and a longing for the monarchy in the first generation. The second generation after the revolution — those born around 1800 — longed for liberty, equality and fraternity without the terror and dictatorship that called into question the revolutionary project. The third generation, born around 1830, was more pragmatic than ideological, but did develop a secular morality that challenged the political power of the church. Later in the 19th century, the revolution sharply divided the French Republic, but by WWI, both opponents and proponents laid aside their differences and fought side by side for France's greatness and unity. Invoking writers and thinkers from Musset to Flaubert to Pguy, Gildea's spellbinding book offers a challenging new portrait of the long-term impact of the French Revolution. Maps. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
<>Robert Gildeais Professor of <>Modern History at the University of Oxford, and the author of Marianne in Chains, the winner of the Wolfson Prize for history.
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