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A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution

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$193.00 • £154.95 • €173.50

ISBN 9780674177284

Publication Date: 09/09/1989


1120 pages

59 color illustrations, 10 halftones, 1 line illustrations

Belknap Press


It was a splendid idea to compile a critical dictionary of the French Revolution, and the idea has been splendidly executed… A great work.—Conor Cruise O’Brien, The New York Review of Books

A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution is really a manifesto representing the views of François Furet, who is now the most influential historian of the French Revolution in the world… Mr. Furet and his collaborators have revived interest in the philosophical problems of modern democracy and shown the importance of the French Revolution in establishing the limits of modern political debate.—Lynn Hunt, The New York Times Book Review

Not the least merit of Furet and Ozouf’s spectacular Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution is to take declared meaning at face value; to restore, in fact, full historical autonomy to the conflict of ideas. Those not within the guild of self-described ‘professional historians’ may be amazed to hear that such conflicts have ever not been taken seriously in their own right. But it may well have taken this monumental work…to reinstate their full causal power. In the Dictionary, in particular, the play of debate and its intersection with the combat of personalities and the shaping of institutions is given primary significance. The great moments of the French Revolution are rescued from compression into the social structure or burial beneath symbolic bricolage… No praise can really be too high for what this work represents: spectacular scholarship, consistently gripping writing, and intellectual penetration… [It] adds up to a coherent vision of the Revolution (all the more remarkable for being written by more than 20 hands). It is certainly the most enduring book to be published in the bicentennial year.—Simon Schama, The New Republic

In all respects, this Dictionary of more than a thousand pages is a monument of scholarship, and an object of elegant quality, served by original and suggestive illustrations and by a rare quality of writing.—Michelle Perrot, Libération

A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution has already been hailed as the literary event of the bicentennial… This success has come from the originality of its format. In effect, the entire team of historians, led by François Furet and Mona Ozouf, has broken with the traditional forms: chronological narratives, monographs, biographies…in order to adopt a new style that reconciles these diverse approaches. The work is erudite but unfolds like a historical novel. It is enormous—a thousand pages—but reads like a magazine with ten-page articles illustrating the one hundred ‘key words’ of the Revolution.—Janick Jossin, Le Nouvel Observateur

This Dictionary represents what I would judge to be one of the most comprehensive statements yet of the new historiography, against Annales; and in so doing, it represents what I would also judge to be one of the clearest interpretations of a renewal of liberal thinking in France which in its distinctiveness, its break from standing conceptions, will be of general interest to all but the most parochial of Anglo-Americans.—Geoffrey Hawthorn, Cambridge University

A spectacular collection of essays covering virtually every aspect of the French Revolution, written by the most powerful minds currently working on its history. As a whole, the book provides a stunning vindication of the centrality of politics to the lasting significance of the event. Some of the essays—Furet on Quinet, Higonnet on the Sans-culottes, Ozouf on Revolutionary Religion—are miniature masterpieces. The bicentennial is unlikely to produce any other work that serves up so rich and nourishing an intellectual feast.—Simon Schama, Harvard University

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