Citizens

By Simon Schama,

Book cover of Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Book description

One of the great landmarks of modern history publishing, Simon Schama's Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is the most authoritative social, cultural and narrative history of the French Revolution ever produced.

'Monumental ... provocative and stylish, Simon Schama's account of the first few years of the great Revolution…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Citizens as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book is an erudite deep-dive into a topic familiar to many, though superficially (as reading the book makes abundantly clear.) No one who reads it will ever see a Bastille Day celebration in quite the same way.

Schama emphasizes how the hideous violence often and justifiably associated with the later Reign of Terror under Maximilien Robespierre was there right from the beginning in 1788-89. He also convincingly demonstrates how much of the aristocracy and even members of the extended royal family enabled the revolutionaries by criticizing their own class, simply because it was fashionable to do so.

It’s chilling…

Mr. Schama’s chronicle is considered the essential historical tome of the French Revolution. He presents the background and events leading to the revolution through its end when Robespierre was executed. The author leaves no stone unturned and many of the people, events, and outcomes have chilling similarities to our contemporary world more than 230-years later.

I like how Mr. Schama sticks to the facts. The reader is allowed to digest the events and reach their own conclusions. I think the lessons from the French Revolution are very fluid and every generation can learn from them.

At one point during the…

There are so many good books on the Enlightenment era, but my favorite ones have tended to deal with events in France. Among my preferred reads is Simon Schama’s Citizens, which I first breezed through in graduate school when it appeared in 1998. Citizens not only provides stunning, jaw-dropping insight into the events of the revolution, it confers an unforgettable texture to the main characters. (The images I have of Danton and Robespierre still come from the pages of this book, despite having read many other works on the same subject.) In recent years some critics have taken the…

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