100 books like Terror

By Michel Biard, Marisa Linton,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution

Marisa Linton Author Of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution

From my list on French Revolutionary terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of eighteenth-century France, above all, the French Revolution. Throughout my career, my primary goal has been to try to reconstruct the experience of revolution in all its dimensions. I have published extensively on subjects relating to the French Revolution, including the French revolutionary terror; the politics of the Jacobins; ideology, emotions, and revolution; revolutionary leaders – including Robespierre and Saint-Just; fear of conspiracy as a driver of actions; the influence of classical antiquity; women participants in the Revolution.

Marisa's book list on French Revolutionary terror

Marisa Linton Why did Marisa love this book?

There is a reason why this book, published during the darkest days of World War Two, is still in print eighty years later. It is a profound study, deeply informed by Palmer’s own experience of living through a time of war, crisis, and fear. It focuses on the twelve men who served on the Committee of Public Safety and together played a leading role in revolutionary government throughout the critical period of the Year II (1793-94).

This was the first book I ever read on the period of existential crisis known as ‘the Terror’, and it helped me make sense of what was happening and why. If you want to know what it was like to be leading a government during war and revolution. Palmer’s book is the place to start. Forty years since I read it, Palmer’s book still occupies a prime place on my bookshelf.

By R.R. Palmer,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Twelve Who Ruled as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Reign of Terror continues to fascinate scholars as one of the bloodiest periods in French history, when the Committee of Public Safety strove to defend the first Republic from its many enemies, creating a climate of fear and suspicion in revolutionary France. R. R. Palmer's fascinating narrative follows the Committee's deputies individually and collectively, recounting and assessing their tumultuous struggles in Paris and their repressive missions in the provinces. A foreword by Isser Woloch explains why this book remains an enduring classic in French revolutionary studies.


Book cover of Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 made me want to study with Lynn Hunt. 

Divided into “The Poetics of Power” and “The Sociology of Politics,” the better known first half explores rhetoric, symbolic forms of political practice, and imagery in novel ways that have influenced both my scholarship and my teaching. 

But I was even more struck by the second part where Hunt considered the backgrounds, age, occupations, and experience of Revolutionary political actors in four French cities as a way to understand the political geography of the Revolution, networks, culture brokers, and the emergence of a new political class. 

This approach shaped my dissertation and first book, but, more importantly it made me think about the link among and between cultural influences, socio-economic backgrounds, and the lived experience to understand the French Revolution.

By Lynn Hunt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When this book was published in 1984, it reframed the debate on the French Revolution, shifting the discussion from the Revolution's role in wider, extrinsic processes (such as modernization, capitalist development, and the rise of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes) to its central political significance: the discovery of the potential of political action to consciously transform society by molding character, culture, and social relations. In a new preface to this twentieth-anniversary edition, Hunt reconsiders her work in the light of the past twenty years' scholarship.


Book cover of The Life and Opinions of Maximilien Robespierre

Colin Jones Author Of The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris

From my list on the life of Maximilien Robespierre.

Why am I passionate about this?

France has always been my special inspiration in life and I am lucky to have made a career writing about its history. Many of my books are framed in a long-term perspective. Paris: Biography of a City (2004)  and The Cambridge Illustrated History of France (1994), for example, take the story back to the earliest times and comes up to the present. Wanting a complete change and a new challenge, I shifted focus dramatically in my current book: the history of a city in a single day – the dramatic day in the French Revolution when the Parisians overthrew Maximilien Robespierre.

Colin's book list on the life of Maximilien Robespierre

Colin Jones Why did Colin love this book?

This is my own favourite. Realising that he could not make up his mind whether he loved Robespierre or hated him, Hampson staged his own dilemma by presenting Robespierre’s life through an imagined set of conversations between a version of himself and three fictional members of the public. Witty and insightful and superbly researched below the water-line, this brilliantly experimental biography is a neglected masterpiece.

By Norman Hampson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Life and Opinions of Maximilien Robespierre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This investigation into the mind of Robespierre is now available in paperback. The book is presented as a discussion between three figures - a civil servant, a member of the Communist Party and a clergyman - representing different viewpoints in their reactions to evidence presented by a fourth figure, the narrator. In this way, the author sets out to display the contradictions in the character of Robespierre that so puzzled his contemporaries and continue to perplex historians. The book should be of interest to students of the French Revolution and general readers.


Book cover of Marriage and Revolution: Monsieur and Madame Roland

Peter McPhee Author Of Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life

From my list on understanding Robespierre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been intrigued by Maximilien Robespierre ever since, as a student, I pondered how it could be that someone who articulated the highest principles of 1789 could come to be seen as the personification of the “Reign of Terror” in 1793–94. This is the great conundrum of the French Revolution. Was this a tragic case of the dangers of ideological and personal rigidity, or rather an extreme example of how great leaders may be vilified by those they have served and saved? Or, as I found while researching and writing my biography, something quite different, the tragic, human story of a vulnerable but determined young man who put himself at the heart of one of the world’s greatest upheavals?

Peter's book list on understanding Robespierre

Peter McPhee Why did Peter love this book?

Jean-Marie Roland and Marie-Jeanne Phlipon (later Madame “Manon” Roland) were the Revolution’s power couple, their lives both entwined and contrasting with Robespierre’s. Their fascinating and tragic story, expertly researched and retold by Siân Reynolds, has much to tell us about the power and passions of the Revolution and the personal relationships at its heart. We also learn much about provincial life, parenthood, and a companionate marriage. The Rolands were initially political allies of Robespierre, and “Manon” sought to cultivate personal friendship with him, but their bitter falling-out would be fatal for them in November 1793 – and ultimately for Maximilien in July 1794.

By Siân Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marriage and Revolution is a double biography of Jean-Marie Roland (1734-1793) and Marie-Jeanne Phlipon, later Madame Roland (1754-1793), leading figures in the French Revolution. J.-M. Roland was minister of the Interior for a total of eight months during 1792. The couple were close to Brissot and the Girondins, and both died during the Terror. Mme Roland became famous for her posthumous prison memoirs and is the subject of many biographies, but her
husband, despite being a key figure in administration of France, seldom out of the limelight during his time in office, is often marginalized in histories of the Revolution.…


Book cover of Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life

Marisa Linton Author Of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution

From my list on French Revolutionary terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of eighteenth-century France, above all, the French Revolution. Throughout my career, my primary goal has been to try to reconstruct the experience of revolution in all its dimensions. I have published extensively on subjects relating to the French Revolution, including the French revolutionary terror; the politics of the Jacobins; ideology, emotions, and revolution; revolutionary leaders – including Robespierre and Saint-Just; fear of conspiracy as a driver of actions; the influence of classical antiquity; women participants in the Revolution.

Marisa's book list on French Revolutionary terror

Marisa Linton Why did Marisa love this book?

Maximilien Robespierre will always be associated in people’s minds with ‘the Terror’. In reality, he was not a dictator, but one of a group of committed revolutionaries in the National Convention. Within hours of his execution in July 1794 a myth began to circulate that he had been the sole mastermind behind ‘the Terror’. This myth was a way of exculpating the men who had also backed terror during the crisis of the ‘Year II’. Afterward, it was so much simpler for them to lay all the blame onto Robespierre. McPhee’s profound knowledge of the Revolution enables him to situate Robespierre in his context, showing not just how Robespierre affected the course of the Revolution, but how the Revolution changed Robespierre. This is simply by far the best recent study in English of Robespierre’s life.

By Peter McPhee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Robespierre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate new portrait of one of history's most controversial figures: heroic revolutionary or the first terrorist?

For some historians and biographers, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-94) was a great revolutionary martyr who succeeded in leading the French Republic to safety in the face of overwhelming military odds. For many others, he was the first modern dictator, a fanatic who instigated the murderous Reign of Terror in 1793-94. This masterful biography combines new research into Robespierre's dramatic life with a deep understanding of society and the politics of the French Revolution to arrive at a fresh understanding of the man, his passions,…


Book cover of The Revolutionary Career of Maximilien Robespierre

Colin Jones Author Of The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris

From my list on the life of Maximilien Robespierre.

Why am I passionate about this?

France has always been my special inspiration in life and I am lucky to have made a career writing about its history. Many of my books are framed in a long-term perspective. Paris: Biography of a City (2004)  and The Cambridge Illustrated History of France (1994), for example, take the story back to the earliest times and comes up to the present. Wanting a complete change and a new challenge, I shifted focus dramatically in my current book: the history of a city in a single day – the dramatic day in the French Revolution when the Parisians overthrew Maximilien Robespierre.

Colin's book list on the life of Maximilien Robespierre

Colin Jones Why did Colin love this book?

Jordan’s is probably the most elegantly written of the five studies and stands out for providing a particularly generous allocation of space to Robespierre’s voice, telling the story of his life as much as possible through his own words. At the same time, Jordan’s intellectual biography is quietly attentive to providing a sense of the complex political environment in which any French revolutionary statesman had to act.

By David P. Jordan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Revolutionary Career of Maximilien Robespierre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In changing forever the political landscape of the modern world, the French Revolution was driven by a new personality: the confirmed, self-aware revolutionary. Maximilien Robespierre originated the role, inspiring such devoted twentieth-century disciples as Lenin—who deemed Robespierre a Bolshevik avant la lettre.

Although he dominated the Committee for Public Safety only during the last year of his life, Robespierre was the Revolution in flesh and blood. He embodies its ideological essence, its unprecedented extremes, its absolutist virtues and vices; he incarnated a new, completely politicized self to lead a new, wholly regenerated society.

Yet as historian David P. Jordan observes,…


Book cover of The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Tackett is the historian who has taught me the most about the French Revolution. 

This book is a magisterial evocation of the mentality and choices of the men and women who decided to deploy state-sponsored violence on behalf of the Revolutionary French government. 

It shows the era as a crucible that molded many people who had entered politics on behalf of liberty, equality, and fraternity to embrace the law on suspects and the guillotine. 

Tackett, as always, bases his analysis on personal reflections and caches of letters, digging deep to find new and different voices that conjure the emotional tenor of the shifts and upheavals of the Revolutionary crisis. 

It shows how the French Revolution of 1789 got to the Terror of 1793-94.

By Timothy Tackett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1793 and 1794, thousands of French citizens were imprisoned and hundreds sent to the guillotine by a powerful dictatorship that claimed to be acting in the public interest. Only a few years earlier, revolutionaries had proclaimed a new era of tolerance, equal justice, and human rights. How and why did the French Revolution's lofty ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity descend into violence and terror?

"By attending to the role of emotions in propelling the Terror, Tackett steers a more nuanced course than many previous historians have managed...Imagined terrors, as...Tackett very usefully reminds us, can have even more political…


Book cover of The Terror: Civil War in the French Revolution

Marisa Linton Author Of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution

From my list on French Revolutionary terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of eighteenth-century France, above all, the French Revolution. Throughout my career, my primary goal has been to try to reconstruct the experience of revolution in all its dimensions. I have published extensively on subjects relating to the French Revolution, including the French revolutionary terror; the politics of the Jacobins; ideology, emotions, and revolution; revolutionary leaders – including Robespierre and Saint-Just; fear of conspiracy as a driver of actions; the influence of classical antiquity; women participants in the Revolution.

Marisa's book list on French Revolutionary terror

Marisa Linton Why did Marisa love this book?

This is a gripping, wide-ranging, and detailed study of the explosive years of ‘the Terror’. Andress ranges far beyond the claustrophobic assemblies, clubs, and streets of Paris to show the country-wide impact of war, revolution, and terror. Andress has little time for revolutionary idealism, and there are no heroes in this book. His deep knowledge of his subject shines out from every page. The result is a vivid and disturbing account, dense, lively, and well-written. 

By David Andress,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The French Revolution marks the foundation of the modern political world. It was in the crucible of the Revolution that the political forces of conservatism, liberalism and socialism began to find their modern forms, and it was the Revolution that first asserted the claims of universal individual rights on which our current understandings of citizenship are based. But the Terror was, as much as anything else, a civil war, and such wars are always both brutal and complex. The guillotine in Paris claimed some 1500 official victims, but executions of captured counter-revolutionary rebels ran into the tens of thousands, and…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, the Reign of Terror, and the French Revolution?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, the Reign of Terror, and the French Revolution.

France Explore 894 books about France
The Reign Of Terror Explore 17 books about the Reign of Terror
The French Revolution Explore 128 books about the French Revolution