The assault on the Bastille, the Reign of Terror, Danton mocking his executioner, Robespierre dispensing a fearful justice, and the archetypal gadfly Marat – the events and figures of the French Revolution have exercised a hold on the historical imagination for more than 200 years. It has been a template for heroic insurrection and, to more conservative minds, a cautionary tale.
In the hands of Eric Hazan, author of The Invention of Paris, the revolution becomes a rational and pure struggle for emancipation. In this new history, the first significant account of the French Revolution in over twenty years, Hazan maintains that it fundamentally changed the Western world – for the better.
Looking at history from the bottom up, providing an account of working people and peasants, Hazan asks, how did they see their opportunities? What were they fighting for? What was the Terror and could it be justified? And how was the revolution stopped in its tracks? The People’s History of the French Revolution is a vivid retelling of events, bringing them to life with a multitude of voices. Only in this way, by understanding the desires and demands of the lower classes, can the revolutionary bloodshed and the implacable will of a man such as Robespierre be truly understood.