Cover: The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, from Harvard University PressCover: The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution in PAPERBACK

The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution

Product Details


$23.00 • £20.95 • €20.95

ISBN 9780674979895

Publication Date: 11/20/2017


480 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

20 halftones, 3 maps

Belknap Press


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[A] grippingly written and deeply insightful book.—Robert Zaretsky, The Los Angeles Review of Books

[A] boldly conceived and important book… This is a thought-provoking book that makes a major contribution to our understanding of terror and political intolerance, and also to the history of emotions more generally. It helps expose the complexity of a revolution that cannot be adequately understood in terms of principles alone.—Alan Forrest, The Times Literary Supplement

With the instincts and passion of an experienced truffle-hunter, Tackett has snuffled his way through dozens of municipal, departmental, and private archives throughout la France profonde in a quest for letters and diaries from the Revolutionary period. He has discovered a hugely valuable hoard of new testimonies by men and women, Parisians and provincials. His focus is on the bourgeois class that drove the Revolution onward, ranging from individuals elected to serve in successive national assemblies, to local officeholders and functionaries, through to the broader pool of literate and vocal private citizens… The Coming of the Terror allows us into this maelstrom of emotion, highlighting individual reactions well beyond the range of historians’ usual suspects… By refreshing the sources of French Revolutionary history in a way that is likely to prove enduring, and placing his findings within a lively, robust, and up-to-date narrative, Tackett has put all historians of the Revolution in his debt.—Colin Jones, New York Review of Books

Drawing on their day-to-day observations, Tackett argues that the revolutionary process fundamentally changed the people who watched and participated in its unfolding. As France careened in just four years from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy to democratic republic and then descended into the Terror, citizens veered too… By attending to the role of emotions in propelling the Terror, Tackett steers a more nuanced course than many previous historians have managed… Imagined terrors, as…Tackett very usefully reminds us, can have even more political potency than real ones.—David A. Bell, The Atlantic

The work of Timothy Tackett on the French Revolution has made him one of its most influential recent historians.—William Doyle, Literary Review

Drawing on contemporary accounts, Tackett vividly describes [the events of early 1789], showing how the excitement of political change was muted by fear of chaos… Throughout his book, Tackett shadowboxes with Tocqueville, who argued that the Revolution merely reconstituted the centralization of the old regime. Tackett’s more convincing argument is that there was an abrupt disjunction from past structures.—Gavin Jacobson, London Review of Books

[Tackett] analyzes the mentalité of those who became ‘terrorists’ in 18th-century France… In emphasizing weakness and uncertainty instead of fanatical strength as the driving force behind the Terror,…Tackett…contributes to an important realignment in the study of French history.—Ruth Scurr, The Spectator

[Tackett] shows how fear engendered by countless disappointments, betrayals, invasion, insurrection, and numbing violence on all sides, especially from the revolution’s own militants, progressively turned fervent enthusiasts into conspiracy-obsessed terrorists. Tackett succeeds brilliantly; his volume is now the starting point for all efforts to understand this episode.—G. P. Cox, Choice

A wonderful book, a veritable masterpiece. Tackett finds new sources to answer one of the oldest questions about the French Revolution: why did the deputies of the National Assembly put the Terror in place? In a captivating synthesis of the entire Revolution, he captures its drama and emotion, the fluctuating joys, anxieties, and fears of those who lived through unprecedented events.—David Garrioch, author of The Making of Revolutionary Paris

Essential reading for anyone interested in how revolutions devolve into terror. Beautifully written, superbly documented, and fair and balanced in its judgments, it will be a landmark of scholarship for decades to come.—Lynn Hunt, author of Writing History in the Global Era

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