100 books like The Giant of the French Revolution

By David Lawday,

Here are 100 books that The Giant of the French Revolution fans have personally recommended if you like The Giant of the French Revolution. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Stew Ross Author Of Where Did They Put the Guillotine?-Marie Antoinette's Last Ride: Volume 2 A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris

From my list on the French Revolution without losing your head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not a trained historian (I received my B.S. in geology and spent my career in commercial banking). However, I grew up in Europe during the 1960s and developed a passion for history. I learned to write as a banker back in the “good old” days. I enjoyed it so much that I told myself, “One day, I'm going to write a book.” Well, that day came in Nashville when I was running a small company. Then I found Leonard Pitt’s book called Walks Through Lost Paris. As we walked through the streets of Paris, I turned to my wife and said, “I can write a book like this.” And so I did.

Stew's book list on the French Revolution without losing your head

Stew Ross Why did Stew love this book?

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 1970s, Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai was asked what he thought was the significance of the French Revolution. He answered, “It’s too soon to tell.” I’m not sure I agree.

By Simon Schama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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 in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist'
Eugen Weber, The New York Times Book Review

'The most marvellous book I have read about the French Revolution'
Richard Cobb, The Times

'Dazzling - beyond praise - He has chronicled the vicissitudes…


Book cover of Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution

Stew Ross Author Of Where Did They Put the Guillotine?-Marie Antoinette's Last Ride: Volume 2 A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris

From my list on the French Revolution without losing your head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not a trained historian (I received my B.S. in geology and spent my career in commercial banking). However, I grew up in Europe during the 1960s and developed a passion for history. I learned to write as a banker back in the “good old” days. I enjoyed it so much that I told myself, “One day, I'm going to write a book.” Well, that day came in Nashville when I was running a small company. Then I found Leonard Pitt’s book called Walks Through Lost Paris. As we walked through the streets of Paris, I turned to my wife and said, “I can write a book like this.” And so I did.

Stew's book list on the French Revolution without losing your head

Stew Ross Why did Stew love this book?

There has been much written about Maximilien Robespierre (in French and English).

I enjoyed Ms. Scurr’s biography because it is well-written, superbly researched, and represents a complete picture of the ruthless leader of the Jacobins and the French Revolution. The author paints her young bourgeois subject as the zealous revolutionary who demanded nothing less than complete devotion to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Responsible for the period we know as “The Terror,” Robespierre’s edicts were so severe that people lost their heads if even suspected of a “crime.”

As so often happens, what goes around, comes around. Robespierre’s downfall is outlined in detail and serves as a warning to political and other leaders whose extremist views are imposed on people.  

By Ruth Scurr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Robespierre was only 36 when he died, sent to the guillotine where he had sent thousands ahead of him. Only a few months before, this pale and fragile man, formal, anxious to the point of paranoia, steeled by deep-held principles, had held centre place in the new Festival of the Supreme Being, wearing his sky-blue coat and decreeing a new religion for France. Robespierre and the Revolution were inseparable: a single inflexible tyrant. But what turned a shy young lawyer into the living embodiment of the Terror at its most violent? Admirers called him 'the great incorruptible'; critics dubbed him…


Book cover of Women of the French Revolution

Stew Ross Author Of Where Did They Put the Guillotine?-Marie Antoinette's Last Ride: Volume 2 A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris

From my list on the French Revolution without losing your head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not a trained historian (I received my B.S. in geology and spent my career in commercial banking). However, I grew up in Europe during the 1960s and developed a passion for history. I learned to write as a banker back in the “good old” days. I enjoyed it so much that I told myself, “One day, I'm going to write a book.” Well, that day came in Nashville when I was running a small company. Then I found Leonard Pitt’s book called Walks Through Lost Paris. As we walked through the streets of Paris, I turned to my wife and said, “I can write a book like this.” And so I did.

Stew's book list on the French Revolution without losing your head

Stew Ross Why did Stew love this book?

Women played a major role in the French Revolution. Providing fuel for the core of the revolution, the female sans-culottes, poissardes, and other working-class women were instrumental in shaping the events and opinions of the revolutionaries such as Robespierre and Danton.

During the revolution, prominent women became agitators, hosted politically influential salons, led several major revolutionary clubs, wrote contemporary political position papers, organized and led women in para-military groups, and murdered key revolutionaries. The women of the French Revolution were no “shrinking violets.”

Ms. Stephens’s book is an excellent introduction to the various women who influenced the revolutionaries on a day-to-day intellectual basis. Madame Guillotine did not discriminate by gender⏤many of these women ultimately lost their heads.

By Winfred Stephens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the "public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank…


Book cover of Marie Antoinette: The Journey

Will Bashor Author Of Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

From my list on Marie Antoinette from a fan and a historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although the books on my list all delve into the history of Queen Marie Antoinette and her family, they also provide an understanding of the chaotic period leading up to the French Revolution. I’ve always been fascinated by the historical drama, controversy, and tragedy of her personal life, but the readings on my list also explore the social changes in manners, clothing styles, and class distinctions that accompanied the political unrest.

Will's book list on Marie Antoinette from a fan and a historian

Will Bashor Why did Will love this book?

As a Francophone myself, I found that Fraser's biography offered a captivating study of the French monarchy. And through nuanced storytelling, it challenged conventional perceptions of Marie Antoinette. By fostering empathy for her incredible plight amid French society’s expectations, the book ultimately reshaped her historical portrayal. 

Fraser's portrayal of the characters' emotional states added depth to the Marie Antoinette’s story, making it vivid in my imagination. She also offered a sympathetic view of the queen, highlighting her tragic end. Balanced in her views, the author also challenged my misconceptions, revealing the queen’s humanity and providing insightful, little-known details of her short life.

By Antonia Fraser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The national bestseller from the acclaimed author of The Wives of Henry VIII.  France’s beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous “Let them eat cake,” was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death; she has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history. Antonia Fraser’s lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette,…


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 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?

Thompson published his life of Robespierre in 1935, yet despite its age, it belies its age and is well worth a look. It is a heavyweight two-volumed biography, that is profoundly researched yet gracefully written. Extraordinarily comprehensive, it spans from shrewd analyses of Robespierre’s ideas and actions down to some of the most trivial (and fascinating) minutiae of his life. Thompson was ordained as a priest, subsequently renouncing his faith, and his study is particularly interesting on Robespierre’s contentious religious ideas.

His conclusion that Robespierre was ‘the embodiment of the revolutionary spirit of the French people' is, however, more than a little worrying. Maybe Robespierre is one of those enigmatic characters who is always with us!

By J.M. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Using the rich documentation of the period, Thompson aims to give a detailed account of the play of intrigue and manipulation that characterized the Revolution. The biography attempts to combine historical accuracy with the excitement of a novel.


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 Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution

Peter McPhee Author Of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

From my list on understanding the French Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

After 1792 French revolutionaries had to confront European armies and internal counter-revolution in a battle for the survival of the Revolution – and their own lives. The Jacobins saved the Revolution, but an enormous cost in human life. Marisa Linton takes us inside the personal dimensions of this deadly struggle, examining how personal friendships and alliances among revolutionary leaders disintegrated into recrimination and killings. By the Year II (1793-94) the policies of “terror” unleashed at the armed enemies of the Revolution had been extended to other revolutionaries believed to lack the authenticity necessary to the practice of republican “virtue”. Linton unravels the deadly logic of suspicion at a time of violence and acute fear which underpinned this “politicians’ terror”.  

By Marisa Linton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution examines the leaders of the French Revolution - Robespierre and his fellow Jacobins - and particularly the gradual process whereby many of them came to 'choose terror'. These men led the Jacobin Club between 1789 and 1794, and were attempting to establish new democratic politics in France. Exploring revolutionary politics through the eyes of these leaders, and against a political
backdrop of a series of traumatic events, wars, and betrayals, Marisa Linton portrays the Jacobins as complex human beings who were influenced by emotions and personal loyalties, as well as…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.


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