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1 Burnside France- 18th Century and Revolutionary

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution

by

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A riveting biography of the French Revolutions most enigmatic figure that restores him to his pivotal historic place

     Since his execution by guillotine in July 1794, Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians, at once the most notorious leader of the French Revolution and the least comprehensible. Was he a bloodthirsty charlatan or the only true defender of revolutionary ideals? Was his extreme moralism—he was known as “The Incorruptible”—a heroic virtue or a ruinous flaw? Was he the first modern dictator or the earliest democrat?

     Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr follows the trajectory of Robespierres paradoxical life, from his unprepossessing beginnings as a provincial lawyer opposed to repressive authority and the death penalty, to his meteoric rise in Paris politics as a devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure. She explores his reformist zeal, his role in the trial of the king and the fall of the monarchy, his passionate attempt to design a modern republic, even his extraordinary effort to found a perfect religion. And she follows him into the depths of the Terror, as he makes summary execution the order of the day, himself falling victim to the violence at the age of thirty-six.

     Written with epic sweep, full of nuance and insight, Fatal Purity is a fascinating portrait of a man who identified with the Revolution to the point of madness, and in so doing changed the course of history.

Born in 1971, Ruth Scurr studied at Oxford and Cambridge, where she currently teaches politics and history. A prominent literary critic, she has written for The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement. Fatal Purity is her first book.
Since his execution by guillotine in July 1794, Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians, at once the most notorious leader of the French Revolution and the least comprehensible. Was he a bloodthirsty charlatan or the only true defender of revolutionary ideals? Was his extreme moralism—he was known as "The Incorruptible"—a heroic virtue or a ruinous flaw? Was he the first modern dictator or the earliest democrat?
 
Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr follows the trajectory of Robespierre's paradoxical life, from his modest beginnings as a provincial lawyer opposed to repressive authority and the death penalty, to his meteoric rise in Paris politics as a devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure. She explores his reformist zeal, his role in the trial of the king and the fall of the monarchy, his passionate attempt to design a modern republic, even his extraordinary effort to found a perfect religion. And she follows him into the depths of the Terror, as he makes summary execution the order of the day, himself falling victim to the violence at the age of thirty-six.
"Ruth Scurr does for Robespierre and the French Revolution what Quentin Bell did for Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury: she apprehends the complete personality of the man, the moment, and the movement. A work of genuine scholarship and political literature, Fatal Purity is an electrifying biography of an epoch's vaulting ambitions and wounded pride, radical vision and terrifying uncertainty, bracing heroism and decimating energies."—Corey Robin, author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea

"Lively and well-written . . . Scurr is too good and scrupulous a historian to try to absolve Robespierre of deeds like the persecution of the Dantonists."—David Gilmour, The New York Times Book Review

 
"Ruth Scurr does for Robespierre and the French Revolution what Quentin Bell did for Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury: she apprehends the complete personality of the man, the moment, and the movement. A work of genuine scholarship and political literature, Fatal Purity is an electrifying biography of an epoch's vaulting ambitions and wounded pride, radical vision and terrifying uncertainty, bracing heroism and decimating energies."—Corey Robin, author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea
 
"Maximilien Robespierre was an ambitious provincial lawyer whose political career came to epitomize the bloody excesses of the French Revolution. Few would argue that his commitment to egalitarian principles was anything less than genuine, but his intransigent commitment to these principles set the basis for a terror-based state whose legacy still haunts the postmodern world. Scurr skillfully uses Robespierre's writings to provide insight into a complex personality of the man called the Incorruptible, who was kind and gentle in private life and a brutal infighter in the public arena. Scurr maintains that Robespierre's iron will sustained the Revolution during its most turbulent period but that within his fanaticism lurked the seeds of his demise. His Reign of Terror eventually devoured him. This is Scurr's first book, and one hopes that it is not her last. She evokes the temper of those times through the copious use of primary sources, and her characterizations of such personalities as Mirabeau, Marat, and Brissot are splendid. This is the best biography of the Incorruptible since David Jordan's The Revolutionary Career of Maximilien Robespierre over 20 years ago and is highly recommended."—Jim Doyle, Library Journal
 
"The short, violent life of Maximilien Robespierre was a mass of contradictions crowned with a supreme irony: this architect of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror would in July 1794 be executed by the same guillotine to which he had consigned so many others. Cambridge University historian Scurr says she has tried to write a biography that expresses 'neither partisan adulation nor exaggerated animosity,' but even she must conclude that with the Terror, he 'kept moving through that gory river, because he believed it necessary for saving the Revolution. He can be accused of insanity and inhumanity but certainly not of insincerity.' Robespierre can also be accused of being a revolutionary fanatic who hated atheists, and 'became the living embodiment of the Revolution at its most feral'; a dedicated upholder of republican virtues whose hands were smothered in blood; a fierce opponent of the death penalty who helped send thousands to their deaths; and a democratic tribune of the people who wore a sky-blue coat and embroidered waistcoats so aristocratic they wouldn't have been out of place at the court of the Sun King. Scurr's first book scores highly in unraveling not only her subject's complexities but those of his era."—Publishers Weekly

Review:

"The short, violent life of Maximilien Robespierre was a mass of contradictions crowned with a supreme irony: this architect of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror would in July 1794 be executed by the same guillotine to which he had consigned so many others. Cambridge University historian Scurr says she has tried to write a biography that expresses 'neither partisan adulation nor exaggerated animosity,' but even she must conclude that with the Terror, he 'kept moving through that gory river, because he believed it necessary for saving the Revolution. He can be accused of insanity and inhumanity but certainly not of insincerity.' Robespierre can also be accused of being a revolutionary fanatic who hated atheists, and 'became the living embodiment of the Revolution at its most feral'; a dedicated upholder of republican virtues whose hands were smothered in blood; a fierce opponent of the death penalty who helped send thousands to their deaths; and a democratic tribune of the people who wore a sky-blue coat and embroidered waistcoats so aristocratic they wouldn't have been out of place at the court of the Sun King. Scurr's first book scores highly in unraveling not only her subject's complexities but those of his era. 2 maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

A riveting biography of the French Revolution's most enigmatic figure that restores him to his pivotal historic place

Since his execution by guillotine in July 1794, Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians, at once the most notorious leader of the French Revolution and the least comprehensible. Was he a bloodthirsty charlatan or the only true defender of revolutionary ideals? Was his extreme moralism--he was known as "The Incorruptible"--a heroic virtue or a ruinous flaw? Was he the first modern dictator or the earliest democrat?

Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr follows the trajectory of Robespierre's paradoxical life, from his unprepossessing beginnings as a provincial lawyer opposed to repressive authority and the death penalty, to his meteoric rise in Paris politics as a devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure. She explores his reformist zeal, his role in the trial of the king and the fall of the monarchy, his passionate attempt to design a modern republic, even his extraordinary effort to found a perfect religion. And she follows him into the depths of the Terror, as he makes summary execution the order of the day, himself falling victim to the violence at the age of thirty-six.

Written with epic sweep, full of nuance and insight, Fatal Purity is a fascinating portrait of a man who identified with the Revolution to the point of madness, and in so doing changed the course of history.

About the Author

Born in 1971, Ruth Scurr studied at Oxford and Cambridge, where she currently teaches politics and history. A prominent literary critic, she has written for The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement. Fatal Purity is her first book.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805079876
Author:
Scurr, Ruth
Publisher:
Metropolitan Books
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Revolutionaries
Subject:
France History Revolution, 1789-1799.
Subject:
France History Reign of Terror, 1793-1794.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
Robespierre and the
Publication Date:
20060418
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
2 8-pg bandw inserts
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Europe » France » 18th Century and Revolutionary

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Used Hardcover
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Product details 432 pages Metropolitan Books - English 9780805079876 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The short, violent life of Maximilien Robespierre was a mass of contradictions crowned with a supreme irony: this architect of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror would in July 1794 be executed by the same guillotine to which he had consigned so many others. Cambridge University historian Scurr says she has tried to write a biography that expresses 'neither partisan adulation nor exaggerated animosity,' but even she must conclude that with the Terror, he 'kept moving through that gory river, because he believed it necessary for saving the Revolution. He can be accused of insanity and inhumanity but certainly not of insincerity.' Robespierre can also be accused of being a revolutionary fanatic who hated atheists, and 'became the living embodiment of the Revolution at its most feral'; a dedicated upholder of republican virtues whose hands were smothered in blood; a fierce opponent of the death penalty who helped send thousands to their deaths; and a democratic tribune of the people who wore a sky-blue coat and embroidered waistcoats so aristocratic they wouldn't have been out of place at the court of the Sun King. Scurr's first book scores highly in unraveling not only her subject's complexities but those of his era. 2 maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,
A riveting biography of the French Revolution's most enigmatic figure that restores him to his pivotal historic place

Since his execution by guillotine in July 1794, Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians, at once the most notorious leader of the French Revolution and the least comprehensible. Was he a bloodthirsty charlatan or the only true defender of revolutionary ideals? Was his extreme moralism--he was known as "The Incorruptible"--a heroic virtue or a ruinous flaw? Was he the first modern dictator or the earliest democrat?

Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr follows the trajectory of Robespierre's paradoxical life, from his unprepossessing beginnings as a provincial lawyer opposed to repressive authority and the death penalty, to his meteoric rise in Paris politics as a devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure. She explores his reformist zeal, his role in the trial of the king and the fall of the monarchy, his passionate attempt to design a modern republic, even his extraordinary effort to found a perfect religion. And she follows him into the depths of the Terror, as he makes summary execution the order of the day, himself falling victim to the violence at the age of thirty-six.

Written with epic sweep, full of nuance and insight, Fatal Purity is a fascinating portrait of a man who identified with the Revolution to the point of madness, and in so doing changed the course of history.

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