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Citizens. A Chronicle of the French Revolution



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Simon Schama, Random House, New York 1989. Tapa Blanda, 948 Págs. Primera Edición, 16×23 cm (no Paperback). Estado: Bueno con señales de uso normal.

Recumbent readers beware. Those who like to do their poring lying down will scarcely rush to take up this book. It is monumental. Once hefted, however, and well balanced on lap, knee or chest, ”Citizens” will prove hard to put down. Provocative and stylish, Simon Schama’s account of the first few years of the great Revolution in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist. Mr. Schama, who teaches history at Harvard University, has committed other large and readable tomes. But nowhere more than here does he challenge enduring prejudices with prejudices of his own. His arguments, though, are embedded in narrative. Above all, he tells a story, and he tells it well.

The French Revolution, according to Mr. Schama, was no bourgeois thrust against stodgy despotism or anachronistic aristocracy. The old regime was not old, nor did it act anachronistic, fusty or decrepit. Neither stagnant nor reactionary, the French nobility, at least its most audible and visible members, were more open to new blood, ideas and ventures than they had ever been. Two-thirds of noble families had become ennobled during the 17th and 18th centuries: a nobleman was no more than a successful bourgeois; and capitalist enterprise among nobles was as vigorous as among their bourgeois counterparts. Far from offering an obstacle to progress, the greatest modernizers in metallurgy, mines, shipbuilding or street lighting were nobly born. Far from rejecting the social and intellectual lessons of the Enlightenment, nobles echoed them: not least the gentleman Mr. Schama says was known in America as Marcus D. Lafayette. In their sympathy for new ideas, the Marquis de Lafayette and his equally noble friends were no exception; and the reign of Louis XVI, Mr. Schama insists, was troubled more by addiction to change than by resistance to it. Indeed, he argues, revolutionary violence was fired more by hostility to modernization, attempted or proposed, than by the will to speed it forward. (New York Times)

One of the great landmarks of modern history publishing, Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is the most authoritative social, cultural and narrative history of the French Revolution ever produced.

‘Monumental … provocative and stylish, Simon Schama’s account of the first few years of the great Revolution in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist’
Eugen Weber, The New York Times Book Review

‘The most marvellous book I have read about the French Revolution’
Richard Cobb, The Times

‘Dazzling – beyond praise – He has chronicled the vicissitudes of that world with matchless understanding, wisdom, pity and truth, in the pages of this marvellous book’
Bernard Levin, Sunday Times

‘Provides an unrivalled impression of the currents and contradictions which made up this terrible sequence of events’
Antony Beevor, Express

Simon Schama is University Professor in Art History and History at Columbia University in New York, and one of the best-known scholars in Britain in any field. He is the prize-winning author of numerous books, including Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations), Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt’s Eyes and three volumes of A History of Britain. He is also the writer-presenter of historical and art-historical documentaries for BBC Television. He lives outside New York City with his wife and children.



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