100 books like Reflections on the Revolution in France

By Edmund Burke,

Here are 100 books that Reflections on the Revolution in France fans have personally recommended if you like Reflections on the Revolution in France. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Wealth of Nations

Sylvana Tomaselli Author Of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

From my list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself.

Who am I?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.

Sylvana's book list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself

Sylvana Tomaselli Why did Sylvana love this book?

Even though Adam Smith is often said to be the father of all that is good or bad about capitalism very few people have read his famous Wealth of Nations. Why? Well, 1) they think they already know what’s in it: no government intervention in the economy, thank you. 2) It is two volumes. 3) It must be very dreary because it is about economics, and 4) they are not good at economics or math.  

But read it for yourself, and you will find that it is readable, nuanced, and you can skip the bits that you can’t make out, enjoy the examples, and decide for yourself what he actually argued and whether you agree with it or not.

By Adam Smith,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wealth of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. First published in 1776, the book offers one of the world's first collected descriptions of what builds nations' wealth, and is today a fundamental work in classical economics. By reflecting upon the economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the book touches upon such broad topics as the division of labour, productivity, and free markets.


Book cover of Leviathan

Sylvana Tomaselli Author Of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

From my list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself.

Who am I?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.

Sylvana's book list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself

Sylvana Tomaselli Why did Sylvana love this book?

Hobbes’ attention to the meaning of words and his prose make this book well worth reading. If you find the beginning of Part I hard going, leaf through it and slow down as you come to last chapters of that first part of the book. Those and Part II are particularly engaging and make one think about the meaning of liberty, the nature of obedience, and the extent to which we are obliged to obey the state. Hobbes has interesting things to say about mercy and forgiveness, which might not be expected given the way he tends to be a caricatured. Another good book to read for oneself.

By Thomas Hobbes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leviathan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short'

Written during the chaos of the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan asks how, in a world of violence and horror, can we stop ourselves from descending into anarchy? Hobbes' case for a 'common-wealth' under a powerful sovereign - or 'Leviathan' - to enforce security and the rule of law, shocked his contemporaries, and his book was publicly burnt for sedition the moment it was published. But his penetrating work of political philosophy opened up questions about the nature of statecraft and society that influenced governments across the world.

Edited…


Book cover of A Vindication of the Rights of Men

Sylvana Tomaselli Author Of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

From my list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself.

Who am I?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.

Sylvana's book list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself

Sylvana Tomaselli Why did Sylvana love this book?

Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Men, was a vigorous attack, probably the first, on Burke and his Reflections. Short and merciless, it is a spirited diatribe and displays her strong argumentative skills. It is the foundation for her far better-known Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She may not be fair to him, but she thought he hadn’t been fair to anyone either. Both Burke and she are engaging in some of the great issues of modern politics.

By Mary Wollstonecraft,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Vindication of the Rights of Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Less known than Mary Wollstonecraft's later work, A Vindication of the Rights of Men was her first work as a feminist philosopher and commentator. Compared to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, this work is more focused on the specific political environment of the time. However, it covers many of the same themes, including the importance of liberty and equality.

When it was initially published anonymously, it was both successful and and influential. Later, when Wollstonecraft revealed herself as the author, critics focused on her identity as a woman, rather than the political ideals, leading to her rejection by…


Book cover of Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary

Sylvana Tomaselli Author Of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

From my list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself.

Who am I?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.

Sylvana's book list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself

Sylvana Tomaselli Why did Sylvana love this book?

Hume’s Essays were a great publishing success at soon as they appeared. They established his reputation not only in the UK, but also on the Continent and America. Entertaining, they not only considered issues of the day such as commerce and the progress of civilization but treat of questions that remain relevant today on freedom of the press, political parties, taxes, and divorce. The writing is elegant and helps us understand the making of modernity.

By David Hume, Eugene F. Miller (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This edition contains the thirty-nine essays included in Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary that made up Volume I of the 1777 posthumous Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects. It also includes ten essays that were withdrawn or left unpublished by Hume for various reasons.

Eugene F. Miller was Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia from 1967 until his retirement in 2003.

Please note: This title is available as an ebook for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.

Book cover of A Place of Greater Safety

John Xiao Zhang Author Of Sailing Across the Red Storm

From my list on revolutionary background that stir your heart.

Who am I?

I am a retired lecturer at Southampton University, but used to live in China for many years. I experienced the horrible Chinese Cultural Revolution between the 1960s and 1970s, which was similar to Stalin’s Great Purges. I was put in jail and suffered cruel torture. So personally, I can more understand how, in all revolutionary movement, people were struggling with the threat of death and hopelessness; how they were torn between the new value of the revolution and the damage to the existing moral system; and how the strength of humanity could shine in the bloody darkness of terror.

John's book list on revolutionary background that stir your heart

John Xiao Zhang Why did John love this book?

A compelling historical fiction with the background of the French Revolution. The book describes the three main figures from the outside province to Paris who made the agitated and bloody history. Camille was related to the capture of Bastille; Danton made the execution of Louis XVI and Robespierre—the Terror. They enjoyed the happiness of power, but also paid a heavy price for it. We can see how humanity was lost in the turbulent revolutionary storm. 

By Hilary Mantel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Place of Greater Safety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This novel follows the lives of three major figures in the French Revolution - Robespierre, Danton and Desmoulins - from their childhoods in Northern France through to the last terrifying moments of their execution. The book juxataposes private occasions with public events.


Book cover of The People's Armies

Jeff Horn Author Of The Making of a Terrorist: Alexandre Rousselin and the French Revolution

From my list on the terror in the French Revolution.

Who am I?

I have been trying to understand revolutionary violence my whole life, in the classroom and through scholarship. I am fundamentally interested in questions of “how” and “so what” because even the best, most heavily evidenced historical reconstructions of collective decisions rely heavily on conjecture, especially when it comes to something as complex and controversial as revolutionary violence. My biography of Alexandre Rousselin, an eyewitness and participant in French politics across the Revolutionary era, brings to life the choices and pressures that influenced his actions without minimizing the price he paid for those choices. Rousselin’s extraordinary life story contextualizes and engages understandings of the Terror in the French Revolution like those reviewed below.

Jeff's book list on the terror in the French Revolution

Jeff Horn Why did Jeff love this book?

This book blew me away when I read it in graduate school. 

The depth of archival mastery is simply stunning, but what stands out about Cobb’s magnum opus is how he brought the intervention of the average militant, the men who made the Revolution work, to life. 

He shows why and how people lived the Terror. Cobb also illustrates the Terror in the provinces, noting the unique elements of each place and region but also showing the commonalities of structure and practice. 

Like many who read Cobb, I dreamed of writing something so poignant, so powerful, and so lasting. 

Nobody has the time and financial support to do this kind of work anymore; it is a monument that helps everybody else illuminate different aspects of politics in 1793-94.

By Richard Cobb, Marianne Elliott (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The People's Armies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic book, the famed historian Richard Cobb describes the Armees Revolutionnaires of eighteenth-century France and their clashes with the anti-revolutionary rural populace. In so doing, he provides important insights into the social and administrative history of the French Revolution. First published in France and now translated into English by Marianne Elliott, The People's Armies has had a profound influence on the study of the French Revolution and is still unsurpassed as a history of an important institution of the period of Revolutionary government in France.


Book cover of The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

Peter McPhee Author Of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

From my list on understanding the French Revolution.

Who am I?

I have spent much of my adult life studying the French Revolution with students who, like me, are engrossed by the drama, successes and tragedies of the Revolution, and the scale of the attempts to arrest or reverse it. Why and how did an apparently stable regime collapse in 1789? Why did it prove to be so difficult to stabilize a new order? How could claims to “liberty” and “equality” be balanced? And why was there a period of “terror” in 1793-94? When the Revolution was finally over, how had France and other parts of the world been changed? The answers to those questions remain open and continue to fascinate. 

Peter's book list on understanding the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Why did Peter love this book?

Ever since 1789 people have asked how to explain such a massive upheaval in an apparently stable kingdom. Why did the Revolution follow its particular course after 1789? Why did it result in a civil war and international warfare? When was it “over”? And how “revolutionary” was the Revolution? Was France fundamentally changed as a result of it? What were the international repercussions?

An eminent historian of the eighteenth century here manages to condense decades of research and writing into a pocket-sized paperback. It is a superb, lucid, and up-to-date summary of the origins, course, and outcomes of the Revolution and of the ongoing debates about its meaning and significance, some of which involve Doyle’s own interpretations. 

By William Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The French Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The French Revolution is a time of history made familiar from Dickens, Baroness Orczy, and Tolstoy, as well as the legends of let them eat cake, and tricolours. Beginning in 1789, this period of extreme political and social unrest saw the end of the French monarchy, the death of an extraordinary number of people beneath the guillotine's blade during the Terror, and the rise of Napoleon, as well as far reaching consequences still with us today, such as the
enduring ideology of human rights, and decimalization.

In this Very Short Introduction, William Doyle introduces the French old regime and considers…


Book cover of Dangerous Liaisons

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Author Of The Demon King’s Interpreter

From my list on capturing France's most epic love stories.

Who am I?

I am a French-American writer with a passion for young adult stories and flawed female characters. Born and raised in France in a household without a TV, I spent my entire childhood reading avidly, which in turn led me to study Literature and Film. In fact, most of my life, I have been inspired by novels that offer windows into new worlds that open up possibilities. Some of the novels from the list below feature some of my favorite characters, and provide insights into other worlds and other times. 

Astrid's book list on capturing France's most epic love stories

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did Astrid love this book?

In a pair of sumptuous drawing rooms, one in a Parisian mansion, the other in a chateau on a luxurious estate, two aristocrats are very bored. Through a collection of letters, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, former lovers, recount to each other how they pass the time: by using seduction as a weapon in dangerous games.

A French classic, this novel depicts the French aristocracy’s decadence, shortly before the French Revolution. It is also fascinating in its portrayal of a deeply flawed and complex female protagonist, who refuses to accept her place in the society of that time, where she is “doomed to silence and inaction”.

By Pierre Choderlos De Laclos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dangerous Liaisons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a frightening and ultimately scathing portrait of a decadent society that was first published in 1782, only a few years before the French Revolution. At its centre are two aristocrats who were once lovers and who now play a complex game of manipulation and seduction to liven up their dreary lives. The Vicomte de Valmont is tasked by the Marquise de Merteuil with seducing an innocent convent girl, but he is equally focused on a righteous married woman. The results, however, turn out to be more dire and fatal than Merteuil and Valmont could have imagined…


Book cover of A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

Jack A. Goldstone Author Of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on discover the power of revolutions across history.

Who am I?

I have studied revolutions for over forty years, trying to understand how people fought for liberty and democracy--but also to understand how things so often went wrong!  I have worked at universities in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Hong Kong, gaining a global view of how societies change. I have learned that everywhere people have to struggle for their rights.  Whether in ancient Greece or in modern Cambodia, the resulting revolutionary drama unfolds sometimes with wonderful results, but sometimes with tragedy.  No events better display the very best and worst that we can accomplish.  I’ve chosen the books on this list to convey the power of revolutions, their grand successes and tragic failures.

Jack's book list on discover the power of revolutions across history

Jack A. Goldstone Why did Jack love this book?

There are a thousand books on the French Revolution, but most of them focus on the foibles of the aristocracy, or the wild rage of the crowds, or the heroism of Napoleon. Popkin’s new history does a masterful job of covering all the key events and personalities in France in the years leading up to the Revolution and in its unfolding over almost two decades. He is particularly good at placing the Revolution in the context of world history (showing its relation to events in the New World, from the American Revolution to the Revolution in Haiti), and in keeping a focus on the role of the French Revolution in the history of liberty. Indeed, through the eyes of the revolutionaries and their followers in this book, you can watch the dawn of liberty arise in the early years of the Revolution, and then fade under the increasingly militarist and…

By Jeremy D. Popkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A New World Begins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The principles of the French Revolution remain the only possible basis for a just society -- even if, after more than two hundred years, they are more contested than ever before. In A New World Begins, Jeremy D. Popkin offers a riveting account of the revolution that puts the reader in the thick of the debates and the violence that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a new society. We meet Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Danton, in all of their brilliance and vengefulness; we witness the failed escape and execution of Louis XVI; we see women…


Book cover of The Structure of the Terror: The Example of Javogues and the Loire

Jeff Horn Author Of The Making of a Terrorist: Alexandre Rousselin and the French Revolution

From my list on the terror in the French Revolution.

Who am I?

I have been trying to understand revolutionary violence my whole life, in the classroom and through scholarship. I am fundamentally interested in questions of “how” and “so what” because even the best, most heavily evidenced historical reconstructions of collective decisions rely heavily on conjecture, especially when it comes to something as complex and controversial as revolutionary violence. My biography of Alexandre Rousselin, an eyewitness and participant in French politics across the Revolutionary era, brings to life the choices and pressures that influenced his actions without minimizing the price he paid for those choices. Rousselin’s extraordinary life story contextualizes and engages understandings of the Terror in the French Revolution like those reviewed below.

Jeff's book list on the terror in the French Revolution

Jeff Horn Why did Jeff love this book?

Lucas’ evocation of the mission of deputy Claude Javogues in the department of the Loire made me want to study the French Revolution. 

It is intricate, complicated, and messy, as might be expected of politics amidst the stresses of war, revolution, and terror. 

Lucas situates the motives and methods of a representative of the French central state in the context of local politics, specifically the politics of the Jacobin Clubs and revolutionary militants, who often had different needs and priorities. 

Their frequent conflict and occasional collaboration as well as their difficulties in getting the rest of the population to support the war effort and Revolutionary government make for gripping, though not always easy, reading. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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