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Making Democracy in the French Revolution

Making Democracy in the French Revolution

James Livesey

ISBN 9780674006249

Publication date: 10/16/2001

This book reasserts the importance of the French Revolution to an understanding of the nature of modern European politics and social life. Scholars currently argue that the French Revolution did not significantly contribute to the development of modern political values. They no longer hold that the study of the Revolution offers any particular insight into the dynamics of historical change. James Livesey contends that contemporary historical study is devalued through this misinterpretation of the French Revolution and offers an alternative approach and a new thesis.

Livesey argues that the European model of democracy was created in the Revolution, a model with very specific commitments that differentiate it from Anglo-American liberal democracy. The fundamental argument in the book is that these democratic values were created by identifiable actors seeking to answer political, economic, and social problems. The book traces the development of this democratic idea within the structures of the French Republic and the manner in which the democratic aspiration moved beyond formal politics to become embedded in institutions of economic and cultural life. This innovative work rewrites the history of French politics between 1795 and 1799.


  • An important and timely book. There has been a stirring among historians of the Revolution to rethink the 1794-1799 period, but James Livesey is the first to examine in any depth its contribution to the making of "modern" democracy. It will be controversial because it significantly advances our knowledge and insight in areas where others failed to tread. What more could we ask?

    —Christopher H. Johnson, Wayne State University


  • James Livesey is Professor of Global History at the University of Dundee.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press