Citizens: A Chronicle Of The French Revolution by Simon SchamaCitizens: A Chronicle Of The French Revolution by Simon Schama

Citizens: A Chronicle Of The French Revolution

bySimon Schama

Paperback | March 27, 1990

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Instead of the dying Old Regime, Schama presents an ebullient country, vital and inventive, infatuated with novelty and technology -- a strikingly fresh view of Louis XVI's France. A New York Times bestseller in hardcover. 200 illustrations.
Simon Schama is the prize-winning author of seven acclaimed books. An art critic and essayist for The New Yorker, he also writes and presents documentaries for BBC television. He is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and lives outside New York City.
Title:Citizens: A Chronicle Of The French RevolutionFormat:PaperbackDimensions:976 pages, 9.18 × 6.28 × 1.61 inPublished:March 27, 1990Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0394221451

ISBN - 13:9780394221458

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Introduction This book is a well-written introduction to the French Revolution. Despite being very long, it is very interesting to read and disposes of several myths.
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from “Malignancy of the Revolutionary Fever” Would it be an exaggeration to call Simon Schama a Tolstoy of non-fiction? Tolstoy, not in a sense of a big, bearded Saint leading an ascetic life, but Tolstoy who writes nothing but unforgettable epics with innumerable characters and an author who challenges prevailing opinions. Yes, perhaps it would be an exaggeration, but no one deserves this exaggeration better than historian Simon Schama. Many books have been written on the French Revolution, and indeed many more would be written in the future by peon writers, but this book has indescribably peculiar verve. As one reads the pages, one feels as though one sitting in a theatre, watching this epic melodrama, the most horrid of nightmares - exhilarating, no doubt, but petrified that your head would rest on that guillotine. Not only do you read some famous, but mostly forgotten speeches, you feel that you are peregrinating in the streets of Paris or Grenoble, listening to the passions of Marat’s or Robespierre’s calling for you to fight and die for virtuous liberty. Schama has been accused by some for writing a conservative view of the revolution, as though somehow he was defending the “reactionary” Ancien Régime of Louis XVI. Firstly, anyone who comprehends Schama’s political views would know that this remarkable historian is anything but conservative. All of us have been taught that this revolution was necessary and the monarchical regime was intransigent; but Schama reminds us of the fact that changes were being made before the revolution, and aristocrats were themselves assiduous readers of Voltaire and liberal men and women, who supported and were mesmerised by the liberty of American Revolution. Indeed many of these aristocratic men, like Lafayette, would join the revolution. As Schama writes in the preface of ‘Citizens’, “it may be possible to see French culture and society in the reign of Louis XVI as troubled more by its addiction to change than by resistance to it.” ‘Citizens,’ however, is not merely a study of the usual revolutionary facts – petulance of Marie-Antoinette, weakness of Louis XVI, oratory of Robespierre, or paltriness of Artois. Instead, it is a comprehensive of history of the French society of the time, and Schama looks at the every angle of it – from pre-revolutionary art of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun to revolutionary art of Jacque Louis David; from the philosophical writings of Diderot and Voltaire and Rousseau to feverish hysteria of Marat and Robespierre. Nothing stood out more for me, as I was reading this epic, than the role of the media at the time; it is a clear indication that we should be independent and not be consumed by vitriolic phrases and patriotic tirades. So Marie-Antoniette was portrayed as a beautiful, but foreign “despicable prostitute” who nymphomania knew no bounds. (Perhaps it would be interesting to explore further into the relationship between revolutions and sexual intrigues, for same was said of Alexandra during the Russian Revolution.) Plays of Beaumarchais and Chenier, art of David, eruptions of Marat, and grandiose verbosity of Robespierre and Danton all played their part in the butchering of people; such acts devoid of any emotions as though, men and women were not human beings but mere toys for the “virtuous” liberty. As Schama reminds us, “the tone was more visceral rather than cerebral; idealistic rather than realistic.” You may disagree with Schama’s final analysis of the revolution – analysis that claims that political and social changes were inevitable, and indeed they had already begun under Louis XVI and the revolution did not augment the changes, but hindered them – but if there was only one book you had to read from the shelves replete with the books on this subject, it would have to be ‘Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution.’
Date published: 2012-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knockout history! Citizens is a complete chronicle of the French Revolution with heavy emphasis on the changing values of 18th century society. Simon Schama points out that Louis XVI’s France was a much more progressive and dynamic society than the name “Ancien Regime” suggests. Did the Revolution (and subsequent Reign of Terror) actually put a stop to the social and political reforms that were slowly but surely coming to France under the Monarchy? This huge book is knockout history written by an author whose writing style is exciting and compelling!
Date published: 1999-12-16

Editorial Reviews

"Dazzling...stimulating...This is no ordinary book...Schama does not merely write brilliantly about people, about events, about the abuse of rhetoric, and about festivals and executions. He also chronicle with a dramatic burst of poetic imagination.... The virtues of this book [lie] in the coruscating brilliance of dazzling display of erudition and intelligence ... His chronicle is, after all, a stunningly virtuoso performance." -- Lawrence Stone, The New Republic"One of The Best Books Of The Decade." -- Time"Monumental...a delight to read...Lively descriptions of major events, colorful cameos of leading characters (and obscure ones too), bring them to life here as no other general work has done....Above all, Mr. Schama tells a story, and he tells it well." -- The New York Times Book Review"Citizens, like the great 19th-century narratives it emulates, makes entertainment and erudition work hand in hand....As no other recent historian of the revolution, Schama brings to life the excitement -- and harrowing terror -- of an epochal human event." -- Newsweek"A fresh and elegant narrative...A brilliantly readable and beautifully illustrated account." -- Washington Post Book World"We are in the hands of a master storyteller...Vivid, dramatic, thought-provoking...Schama's portrait of the revolution is often surprising...His splendid recounting convinces us that much of what we thought we knew is wrong." -- Time