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Best Books on French Revolution

Revive the spirit of liberté, égalité, fraternité with these authoritative books on the French Revolution, acclaimed and repeatedly highlighted by esteemed literary platforms and historians.

Recommendations from 19 articles, Marc Andreessen, Daryl Morey, Maya Angelou and 10 others.
33 books on the list
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Citizens book cover
A Chronicle of the French Revolution
Simon Schama - 1990-03-17 (first published in 1989)
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Experience a captivating journey through Louis XVI's France with Citizens. Simon Schama presents a unique perspective of a country brimming with creativity and an obsession for innovation, rather than a dying regime. The book is a New York Times bestseller and features 200 stunning illustrations that add depth to this refreshing portrayal of history.
The Old Regime and the French Revolution book cover
The Old Regime and the French Revolution
Alexis de Tocqueville - 1983-10-01 (first published in 1856)
Goodreads Rating
This book by a renowned political economist and historian analyzes French society before the Revolution and explores the causes behind it. The author argues that despite attempts to build a new government, France ultimately circled back to a central power. The book's ideas on democratic societies have become foundational, including in China where it is popular in intellectual circles. If you're interested in the theory and challenges of building a democratic society, this book is a must-read.
Twelve Who Ruled book cover
Twelve Who Ruled
The Year of Terror in the French Revolution (Princeton Classics (99))
R. R. Palmer - 2005-07-25 (first published in 1941)
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Explore the bloody Reign of Terror in French history as the Committee of Public Safety attempted to defend the first Republic from its many enemies. R.R. Palmer's fascinating narrative recounts the tumultuous struggles of the Committee's deputies in Paris and their repressive missions in the provinces. A classic in French revolutionary studies, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in this period of history.
Fatal Purity book cover
Fatal Purity
Robespierre and the French Revolution
Ruth Scurr - 2007-04-17 (first published in 2006)
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This captivating historical book explores the life and evolution of Maximilien Robespierre, one of the most controversial figures of the French Revolution. Ruth Scurr presents a balanced and nuanced portrayal of Robespierre, tracing his journey from a provincial lawyer to a powerful revolutionary leader. The book delves into his reformist zeal, his role in the fall of the monarchy, and his quest to design a modern republic. Scurr also follows Robespierre into the Terror, examining his moralism and the violence that ultimately led to his own downfall. Fatal Purity examines the complex legacy of this polarizing historical figure and its impact on the course of history.
Liberty or Death book cover
Liberty or Death
The French Revolution
Peter McPhee - 2016-05-24
Goodreads Rating
This book explores the French Revolution, a seismic event that transformed France and launched shock waves across the world. It provides a fresh account of the world’s first great modern revolution - its origins, drama, complexity and significance. The author draws on a lifetime of research to evaluate the revolution within a genuinely global context and investigates the personal, social, and cultural world of the eighteenth century. This deeply researched book redefines and illuminates the experience and the legacy of France’s transformative age of revolution.
The Scarlet Pimpernel book cover
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Orczy - 2005-02-28 (first published in 1905)
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This classic historical fiction novel, set during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, follows the chivalrous Englishman known as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Leading a double life as a wealthy fop and daring rescuer of aristocrats before they are sent to the guillotine, only a select few know his true identity. But when his French wife becomes entangled in his secret world and threatened by the new French envoy, she sets out to stop him and protect her husband.
Place of Greater Safety book cover
Place of Greater Safety
A Novel
Hilary Mantel - 2006-11-14 (first published in 1992)
Goodreads Rating
Get swept up in the raw drama of the French Revolution with this captivating novel. Follow the intertwining fates of three of the Revolution's most pivotal figures: Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins. Explore their complex relationships, romantic entanglements, and deadly political ambitions as they navigate the turbulent waters of one of history's most chaotic and transformative periods.
Recommended by
Leah Greenberg
The Oxford History of the French Revolution book cover
The Oxford History of the French Revolution
William Doyle - 2003-08-28 (first published in 1989)
Goodreads Rating
This authoritative one-volume history has established itself as the most comprehensive account of the French Revolution in English. Spanning from 1774 to Napoleon's triumph in 1802, the book analyzes the impact of events in France on Europe and the world. It reveals a movement that began with enthusiasm but soon became a tragedy, disrupting the lives of millions. With a fully updated third edition, this volume includes an appendix surveying the past and present historiography of the revolutionary period. Recently translated into Chinese, it's a must-read for history buffs.
The French Revolution book cover
The French Revolution
Ian Davidson - 2016-12-06
Goodreads Rating
This engaging book by Ian Davidson delves into the complexities of the French Revolution, a defining moment in European history that influences our debates on freedom, equality, and authority today. Through a fresh perspective, Davidson illuminates how the revolution was multifaceted, taking place in different spheres and times, and evolved to carry significant political, social, and moral values. This narrative history is a must-read for understanding the colorful players and the dramatic, turbulent period in which they lived.
Interpreting the French Revolution book cover
Interpreting the French Revolution
François Furet - 1981-10-30 (first published in 1978)
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This historical book explores the French Revolution and provides a conceptual interpretation of the event, analyzing the new changes it produced and the continuity it provided. The author delves into the riddle that the French Revolution has become for the European left, discussing various elements from the works of Alexis de Tocqueville and Augustin Cochin. His analysis is based on complementary ideas from these writers, attempting to decipher some of the enigmatic problems of revolutionary ideology. This book will be valuable to historians of modern Europe and their students, as well as to students of political thought.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
A New World Begins by Jeremy Popkin
The Giant of the French Revolution by David Lawday
Revolutionary Ideas by Jonathan Israel
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
Origins of the French Revolution by William Doyle
Napoleon by Andrew Roberts
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution by Timothy Tackett
City of Darkness, City of Light by Marge Piercy
Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
Our lady of the potatoes by Duncan Sprott
From Deficit to Deluge by Thomas Kaiser
French Revolution from Its Origins to 1793 by Georges Lefebvre
The First Total War by David A. Bell
The Great Demarcation by Rafe Blaufarb
The Days of the French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert
The French Revolutionary Wars by Gregory Fremont-Barnes
The French Revolution by Laura Mason
The Gods Will Have Blood by Anatole France
The New Regime by Woloch Isser
The French Revolution by William Doyle
Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas