The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by William Doyle

The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by William DoyleTakeaway: Taxes, abuse of power, responsiveness to the citizenry, and corruption seem to be involved in most revolutions.

My European history is lousy. I doubt I will every have a really good handle on European history, but short books like The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction help.

This good addition to the Very Short Introduction series. The book is just over 100 pages of real material. There are six chapters: Echoes; Why It Happened; How It Happened; What It Ended; What It Started; and Where It Stands.

In a short introduction like this, there is not room for a detailed look at the events of the revolution. A broad overview, along with cultural and historical implication is the main focus.

I had a couple of thoughts when reading. First, economics are almost always important to revolutions. But not necessarily directly. The French revolution occurred after some tax cuts and the average person was a bit better off. However overspending on the military and empire still distorted the fundamental economics.

Both the aristocracy and the church share some blame for the revolution. In both cases there were signs that their power and finances were unsustainable in the long term. Instead of voluntarily giving up power, finances and authority for the good of the country as a whole, they were ultimately reduced to a fraction of their previous state. I always think the church should understand giving up power and finances to gain cultural voice and authority. But that seems to be a hard lesson to learn, even when it is part of our faith.

I also did not realize the extent that the church was repressed in France. It went badly for everyone and in many ways it is odd to me that the Soviet Union and later China (and others) did not learn the lesson about the repression of the church and faith from the earlier French revolution.

Overall I thought this was one of better Very Short Introduction series. Its weakness is that it spends too little time on the actual events, but the analysis (where it spent most of its time) was well done.

The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by William Doyle Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook 

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