The French and Their Revolution: Selected Writings

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9781565845404: The French and Their Revolution: Selected Writings

Illuminating essays on daily life during the French Revolution from a master historian. Like Eric Hobsbawm and E. P. Thompson, Richard Cobb had a gift for understanding great historic events in terms of ordinary human relations. Here for the first time Cobb's widely admired chronicles of daily life in Revolutionary France are gathered into one volume with an illuminating introduction by his former pupil, historian David Gilmour. In these pages we meet not makers of history like Robespierre or Danton but les petites gens living in the shadow of events. As Gilmour writes, for Cobb "history was not simply a matter of spending long days in the archives; it had to be walked, observed, smelt, drunk and above all listened to, in cafs, buses, parks and railway stations." These essays combine prodigious scholarship with the best of the storyteller's craft to bring human perspective to the world-shaking events of the French Revolution. Richard Cobb was the author of many books, including Something to Hold On To and The End of The Line.

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Product Description:

Like Eric Hobsbawm and E. P. Thompson, Richard Cobb had a gift for understanding great historic events in terms of ordinary human relations. Here for the first time Cobb’s widely admired chronicles of daily life in Revolutionary France are gathered into one volume with an illuminating introduction by his former pupil, historian David Gilmour.


Review:

Rather than write yet another biography of Robespierre or another examination of Girondists or Jacobins, Francophile Richard Cobb chose to spend most of his career writing social histories of Revolutionary France.

These essays are broadly representative of his work, focusing on les petites gens, their influence on the revolution, and the revolution's influence on them. Several pieces provide wonderfully detailed portraits of the individuals inside the masses--within the army, the Sans-Culottes, or simply the common people. In the final essay, Cobb recounts the melancholy testimony of unwed mothers making a déclaration de grossesse to identify their seducer, request a place in the foundling hospital for their unborn children, or both, and points out that, for them, the revolution is not nearly as important as their unwanted pregnancies.

Though the lengthy quotations in French, usually without translations, may dismay the non-Francophone, detailed footnotes and a thorough index make this collection valuable to anyone interested in the French Revolution. --C.B. Delaney

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