On a June night in 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette fled Paris in disguise, hoping to escape the mounting turmoil of the French Revolution. They were arrested by a small group of citizens a few miles from the Belgian border and forced to return to Paris. Two years later they would both die at the guillotine. It is this extraordinary story, and the events leading up to and away from it, that Tackett recounts in gripping novelistic style.
The king's flight opens a window to the whole of French society during the Revolution. Each dramatic chapter spotlights a different segment of the population, from the king and queen as they plotted and executed their flight, to the people of Varennes who apprehended the royal family, to the radicals of Paris who urged an end to monarchy, to the leaders of the National Assembly struggling to control a spiraling crisis, to the ordinary citizens stunned by their king's desertion. Tackett shows how Louis's flight reshaped popular attitudes toward kingship, intensified fears of invasion and conspiracy, and helped pave the way for the Reign of Terror.
Tackett brings to life an array of unique characters as they struggle to confront the monumental transformations set in motion in 1789. In so doing, he offers an important new interpretation of the Revolution. By emphasizing the unpredictable and contingent character of this story, he underscores the power of a single event to change irrevocably the course of the French Revolution, and consequently the history of the world.
The royal family's attempt to flee France in 1791 was one of the defining events of the French Revolution. Timothy Tackett, the most accomplished historian of the Revolution now writing, tells the story of the great flight memorably. The reader will feel that he or she is accompanying the disguised royal family out of the Tuileries in Paris and riding along with them in the big black coach as it falls further and further behind schedule. This is the story, brilliantly told, of how the decision to flee Paris changed the course of the Revolution.
Timothy Tackett has written a superb book. Not only is this a spellbinding story well-told, Tackett restores the centrality of Louis XVI to the history of the Revolution and shows how the royal betrayal had incalculable consequences for the monarchy and for the tragedies that lay ahead.
A meticulous work, combining smooth-flowing narrative with cogent analysis. He thereby demonstrates how far the Revolution had progressed by June 1791, and how the king's flight helps to explain its subsequent radical and repressive turns.
Tackett...describes the failed attempt by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette to escape revolutionary France in June 1791, astutely assessing the consequences. Beginning with the climax--the capture of the French king and his party in Varennes ("not a particularly distinctive town")--the author then flashes back two years and leads us forward once again to that astonishing moment. Tackett cogently sketches the two principals and displays a fine historian's eye for engaging detail...Exciting, provocative, instructive: popular history at its finest.
For scholars and general readers alike, the French Revolution remains a perennially favorite historical event. And one of the most intriguing as well as pivotal occurrences in the whole revolutionary period took place on the night of June 21, 1791, when "something quite extraordinary did happen" that "changed the history of France"...Tackett explores the ramifications of the event on the direction the Revolution subsequently took--namely, toward terror and republicanism. The book's approachable style, clear ideas, and excellent pacing guarantee general readership interest.
Historian Tackett skillfully shows how Louis XVI's infamous failed flight from his revolutionary captors in Paris in 1791 led to the eventual victory of radicalism and strengthened those calling for terror to "protect" the revolution from its enemies...[A] dramatic account...Tackett describes the nation's reaction to the king's flight and return, not just in Paris but also in the provinces, where widespread fears of foreign invasion immediately followed news of Louis's escape...Tackett has penned a highly accessible popular history that should appeal to those wanting to learn more about one of the central events of the French Revolution.
According to Tackett...Louis XVI's aborted escape from the clutches of revolutionary Paris led to the rise of radical republicanism and the bloody excesses of the Reign of Terror. In many respects, his book is a rebuttal of a prevalent school of thought that views the French Revolution as an abhorrent event from beginning to end...Tackett contends that the political culture of 1789 had placed the revolution on an essentially moderate course and that it was the duplicitous recalcitrance of the king and his network of supporters that unleashed the demons of extremism. Tackett is a lucid writer, and he presents his unique thesis in a scholarly and lively style...Recommended.
In a taut, quickly paced narrative, Timothy Tackett tells the captivating story of [the] flight, an event that changed the course of the French Revolution and set in motion an extraordinary chain of actions and reactions.
In his excellent and well-researched book Timothy Tackett makes the most of the story [of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's flight from Paris], neatly broadening it from human melodrama to the stuff of high politics.
Tim Tackett ably demonstrates [that], in unprecedented detail, [Louis XVI's flight from Paris to the Varennes in June 1891] also produced a panic akin to the Great Fear of summer 1789 and induced a climate of violence that would worsen in the future, a consequence of contingency rather than of revolutionary ideology. This book is beautifully produced, extremely well written, lavishly illustrated and modestly priced, Tackett has already made some splendid contributions to the study of the revolution and this accessible volume will both enhance his reputation and attract a broad readership Tackett has conducted a great deal of research in the departmental archives, to show how support for Louis drained away in the provinces as well as Paris.
- 288 pages
- 0-13/16 x 5 x 7-15/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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