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Splendid biography of one of the key figures in the French Revolution.

  • Jul 9, 2011
Rating:
+4
Clearly the time had come.  The people of France had grown weary of an increasingly repressive monarchy that had stood for more than a thousand years.  Winds of change were in the air and buoyed by the success of the American Revolution "across the pond" courageous leaders like George-Jacques Danton stepped forward to demand that the people be given a much greater say in the affairs of their nation.  How to go about accomplishing this goal was a subject of great debate among the revolutionaries in France in the years following the storming of The Bastille in 1789.  Author David Lawday has chronicled these tumultuous events and the life of the man who was one of the key instigators in his fascinating new book "The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life".  You will quickly discover that the situation in France was far more complicated and daunting than that which American patriots had to deal with some years earlier.

What struck me most about the situation in France was the large number of factions that existed within the Revolutionary movement.  Obviously the movement was fueled by the lower and middle classes but unlike the situation in America there was considerably more support for the Revolution among the upper class.  Some factions favored maintaining the monarchy in some form or fashion while others argued passionately that the monarchy should be eliminated once and for all.  And unlike the situation in the United States there were formidable outside forces in places like England, Prussia, Belgium and Austria who were in favor of the status quo and thus opposed the bubbling revolution in France.  King Louis XVI was counting on his allies abroad to help him hang on to his throne.  Throughout the period from 1789 to 1794 George-Jacques Danton was one of the key players in the revolution.  In "The Giant of the French Revolution" you will discover just what made this man tick, his virtues and vices, his successes and failures.  Likewise, you will be introduced to other revolutionary leaders including those who shared Danton's views and those who vehemently opposed them.  And you will also discover what perpetrated The Reign of Terror that would ultimately cost Danton and thousands of other French citizens their lives.

Revolution is a dangerous business.  George-Jacques Danton was often known to remark that it was likely that events far beyond his control would ultimately determine the fate of the uprising.  This most certainly proved to be the case. "The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life" succeeds in giving the reader the full measure of this man.  David Lawday does a workmanlike job providing us with a glimpse at the inner workings of the day-to-day struggle for French independence.  I found this to be a meticulously researched and extremely well-written volume. Reading "The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life" was definitely time well spent.  A very worthwhile project indeed.  Highly recommended!
Splendid biography of one of the key figures in the French Revolution. Splendid biography of one of the key figures in the French Revolution. Splendid biography of one of the key figures in the French Revolution. Splendid biography of one of the key figures in the French Revolution.

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Wiki

Attempting to reconcile what he sees as DantonÖs essentially humane nature with the Terror he helped to unleash, former Economist correspondent Lawday (NapoleonÖs Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand) gives us not only a fine biography but a moving description of revolutionary tragedy as well. The man Lawday calls the "gentle giant of terror" was a giant physically and in his impact on European history. Danton (1759–1794) took charge of the Revolution when it faced failure and saw violence as the only way to save it and avert greater violence if Britain invaded and royalists sought vengeance. Basically, a family man longing for his country village, he was responsible for the overthrow of the monarchy and for the use of extreme violence against the RevolutionÖs enemies, yet he quietly sought moderation when possible. Riding the revolutionary wave, Danton attempted to stay afloat as his archenemy, Robespierre, manipulated events. DantonÖs loss to RobespierreÖs bloodthirstiness was inevitable and he was condemned to the guillotine. An exciting history, gracefully written and well researched, but slightly weakened by occasional attempts, in the absence of documentation, to imagine what DantonÖs thoughts and motives might have been. Illus., 1 map.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0802119336
ISBN-13: 978-0802119339
Author: David Lawday
Genre: European history
Publisher: Grove Press
Date Published: July 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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