Reflections on the French Revolution (Everyman's Library #460)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Reflections on the French Revolution (Everyman's Library #460)

by
3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  2,422 ratings  ·  102 reviews
The book, however, is far more than a supremely eloquent piece of occasional writing. For Burke is without a doubt the foremost conservative British political thinker: in his support for piecemeal reform rather than revolutionary change, in his skeptical belief in expediency and practical wisdom rather than abstract theorizing, in his defence of property, religion and trad...more
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published 1955 by J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. and E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc. (first published 1790)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Reflections on the French Revolution, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Reflections on the French Revolution

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
My copy of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France comes with a splendid introductory essay by Conor Cruise O’Brien, onetime academic, politician, journalist and writer. I understand that he also wrote a biography of Burke which his Wikipedia page describes as ‘unorthodox’, though I think he may have used that term himself to describe his interpretation. I’ve not read it so I can’t say if it is or not. What I can say, and say with assurance, is that his essay brings out aspects of...more
sologdin
A turgid, incoherent, mean-spirited confusion of barely readable proto-teabaggery and ancient dogmatic douchebaggery. Written in the form of a letter to a Frenchman, without captions or other markers of manifest internal organization. Best part of this volume is the academic's lengthy introduction. Text is top tier anti-semitism, with frequent references to "Old Jewry" and Jews in general when he needs a negative example.

He opens by implying that he is unable to congratulate France on its new p...more
Bill  Kerwin

The classic work by the father of modern conservatism. Burke criticizes the architects of the French Revolution and the new revolutionary government for their unyielding radicalism and wanton destruction of society's institutions. In Burke's view, the traditions of a society should be respected and its institutions altered gradually; a tradition should be eliminated or an institution replaced only if there is a reasonable assurance that the society as a whole will benefit. Some of this is pretty...more
Justin Evans
How decayed is contemporary political discourse? So decayed that libertarians and small market conservatives consider Burke to be their forebear, and Marx to be the forebear of Democrats. I imagine that Marx and Burke would much rather have a beer with each other than with any of their lilliputian, soi-disant followers.

So, just to be clear. Burke claims that a society functions best when it has a completely stable set of institutions as its base: civil society, landed property, and a state/chur...more
Tunc
Mr. Burke has a good writing style and he knows his rhetorical figures. But his views are not my cup of tea. I could give 2 stars but I got so irritated by his rants throughout the book that I decided 1-star is enough. The book can also be known as the Revolution of 1688 versus of 1789 and why the Revolution of 1688 was good but why the latter was not. I don't think one must read the whole book from the beginning to the end in order to comprehend Burke's position against the revolution in France...more
Sean Chick
The foundational text of Anglo-conservatism. Burke made some good observations. He saw that the French Revolution would end disastrously because its abstract foundations, purportedly rational, ignored the complexities of human nature and society. He advocated central roles for private property, tradition, and 'prejudice' (adherence to values regardless of their rational basis) to give citizens a stake in their nation's social order. He argued for gradual, constitutional reform, not revolution. S...more
Patrice
OK, he's a genius. He repeats himself and sometimes I had a hard time staying awake while reading this, but then he'll throw out a few one liners that astound. I finally got tired of writing "Obama" in the margins. I wonder if Obama has read this? Has anyone who loves Obama read this? Every word applies to the US today. Benevolence turns to weakness and then oppression. A strong country must have a strong economy. Following ideology in the face of reality leads to destruction. Taking the advice...more
D.N.
"...the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever."

The seminal text of contemporary Anglo-American conservatism and a continuing inspiration to classical liberals everywhere. Burke channeled his outrage over the French Revolution into a broadside against the horrors of the barbarous and destructive revolutionaries and the tyranny of their democratic majorities. He instead revered the 1689 Bill of Rights...more
Bruce
In this masterful argument, written in 1790 to a (hypothetical?) French correspondent during the years of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke emphasizes the need for continuity and precedent, not entirely without exceptions in extraordinary situations, but respecting the accumulated wisdom over time of traditional ways of governing and making gradual rather than abrupt and dramatic changes. (No change is without unforeseen consequences, and traditional ways of doing things usually are the result...more
Adam
good lord. What an empty, sad sack waste of space this man was. That his followers today number as many as they do is a pity and embarrassment to the human race.

A bunch of repetitive conservatism that was EVEN THEN TIRED BULLSHIT, coupled with endless amounts of insubstantial, fallacious 'arguments' for his stupid, stupid premises.

Burke was a self-absorbed hack of the very worst sort, and his ideas bear zero importance in the world today, or ever really. All he has legitimately to his credit i...more
Paula
Aug 05, 2008 Paula rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: To all Citizens
Recommended to Paula by: Burke quotes that I came across
Shelves: favorite-books
Burke published this book before Napoleon took power, before the bloodbath of the purges, before the French had beheaded their king. Yet, he predicted that all of that would happen. At first blush, I thought that the man must be a prophet. He fortold it all, in the exact order it would occur, and understood exactly why it would happen. Since that first reading, I have read quite a bit of history, and have learned how Burke did it. He was a genius for certain, but his extraordinary insight came f...more
Geoff Sebesta
An interesting little chunk of history here. Burke wrote a towering condemnation of the constitutional monarchy of Revolutionary France. If you are saying "I didn't know there was a constitutional monarchy in Revolutionary France" that's because it didn't last very long. This is an extremely contemporary account. It does not extend much to either side. So if you want to know a lot about 1790 from the point of view of a British royalist, read this book. But if you want to know about 1791 or any o...more
Kate Woods Walker
It was not so much the politics--I've over the years read any number of authors with whom I disagree vehemently. It was not so much the use of ornate, complicated language--last year I thoroughly enjoyed Vanity Fair and The Odyssey in epic poem form. Perhaps it was just a bit of that plodding, say-it-once-then-say-it-again (and again and again and again!) way that philosophers have about them. Whatever it was, in whatever combination, it was enough to render this book, for me, as one of the most...more
W. Bradford Littlejohn
Burke is eloquent and keenly insightful, offering all kinds of delightfully wise one-liners. His general assessment of the Revolution is certainly right, but with Burke's "Stick with tried and true tradition; don't rock the boat" viewpoint, one can't help but wonder, as a Christian, whether Burke wouldn't have been among those in the Sanhedrin planning Christ's crucifixion, had he lived 1750 years earlier. And that, of course, sets one to wondering about the dangers in the "conservative" school...more
Tariq
I'm a liberal/perhaps oakeshott conservative and I think this is just a well written treatise on caution that, at its heart, actually leads to liberalism. I've always believed that true conservatism - not the current bastardization - has liberal ideals and a liberal worldview at heart. It's methods that matter - and not necessarily small steps all the time - but a commitment to facts and truth, along with a need to fully ascertain as much as possible about a situation, this is what helps build a...more
Stan Bebbington
I read this as a balance to "The Rights of Man", Paine's view of the positive impact of revolution on society. Burke essentially suggests caution in promoting change because of the sometimes adverse consequences which may follow and be difficult to rectify. The twentieth century revolutions perhaps better illustrate the point. I would recommend the idea and read both books.
Evelyn Biden
Edmund Burke's Reflections was very much in depth, but a very dense read (Burke's tone is very "pompous plutocrat"). However it certainly gave me a good view of the other side of the coin - the people of the revolution as opposed to the royalty. A fantastic read... but, that being said, I won't be quick to pick this up and read it again.
Hadrian
Ur-text of modern conservatism. Well, he has a good writing style. I'll give him that.

For all of his self-righteous condemnations, which are so often repeated by conservatives and reactionaries today, I note how so very few of them tend to notice his conspiratorial wailing about international finance and the Jews.
James
A by-turns fascinating, prophetic, irritating and frustrating book, Burke's Reflections... has a resonance far beyond the immediate concerns of the revolution he was writing about. It is perhaps the ultimate insight into the conservative mind, with all of its strengths and weaknesses.

Burke is particularly strong on the follies of taking the lessons of history too literally. When writing about the revolutionaries attitude to the church, he points out that evil is not something which appears in t...more
Catherine Woodman


This spring I have been reading books on change and government since the Age of Enlightenment. The thing that has been most surprising to me is that the work that speaks most to me is this one by Edmund Burke. He is thought of as the father of modern conservatism, which is not exactly a line of politics that is entirely up my alley. But it turns out that a conservative in Burke's time was really more of a moderate in todays' terms. Today conservatives seem to want to go back to a previous time....more
Darran Mclaughlin
I got to page 200 and then decided to put it down. I had fairly high expectations about this book given it's huge influence as the foundation text of conservatism. From what I knew about the book in advance I didn't necessarily expect to agree with Burke but I did think I may find him a persuasive thinker. I think some core conservative beliefs he advocates have merit such as the importance of a unified and stable society, respect for the traditions of the past and and a careful stewardship of o...more
Iris
Reflections on the Revolution in France is Edmund Burke's answer to a young Frenchman's request for his thoughts on the French Revolution. Written during the early years of the Revolution, many of Burke's insight seem prophetic.

Burke begins by addressing the proceedings of the Revolution Society, an English group that has voiced their approval for the happenings in France. He explains how the group has misrepresented England's monarchal changes. His belief is that England will not follow France...more
Yann
Ce livre a été édité à l'aube même de la révolution française, en 1790, par un anglais inquiet de la possible propagation des désordres continentaux sur son île. La Bastille a été prise et le roi est à Paris, suite à la marche des femmes d'octobre 89. Burke fait la somme de tout ce qu'un contempteur partial et acharné pouvait réunir comme arguments propre à flétrir l'honneur de la jeune assemblée constituante. Tout son ouvrage est un immense procès d'intention: les partisans de la Révolution son...more
Will
I hereby alter my rating of this work. It has become evident to me that for all his rhetorical prowess, Burke does not really argue in good faith. I once held the view that if I wanted to argue for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, and like principles, I ought to have a good grip on the opposing arguments. I imagined that if I could get in my opponents' heads and see how they reasoned, I could show them where they went wrong. This was naive and mistaken. There is no convincing people like Burke, bec...more
Jeremy Purves
This is a powerful work. And there is no way to fully appreciate it without paying attention to when it was written. The storming of the Bastille occurred in July of 1789 with the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" being published in August of 1789. Burke started writing this in 1789 and it was finally published in November of 1790.

This is before the death of Mirabeau and the National Assembly's legislation against the émigrés. It was before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were murdered. It was b...more
The Thousander Club
Adam C. Zern opines on Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France:

"Yet another political science book to stash away in my ever-growing collection. Reflections on the Revolution in France is a perfect example of why I love political science and why there is such a large barrier for the average reader to embrace it, especially the historical treatises like Burke's. Reflections is both insightful and incoherent. It's not incoherent because of the author's writing; rather, it's due the r...more
Kenneth
Burke is the elder statesman of the Anglo-American “right”. The Reflections is a classic of political philosophy. The inspired rhetoric is unparalleled.

I found the book difficult to read from start to finish. Many passages were re-cognizable from other contemporary writings, which made the reading a little smoother.

Of interest is the initial justification of the Glorious Revolution.

Burke defended traditional customs or conventions from the abstract ideals of liberty. He protected established...more
Robert
First, I recommend the Yale University Press Edition—"Rethinking the Western Tradition"—with introduction by Frank M. Turner, and essays by Darrin M. McMahon, Connor Cruise O'Brien, Jack N.Rakove and Alan Wolfe. Burke's magnificent essay, put in perspective by these thinkers/scholars/interested parties, offers a delectable exercise in thought and manner.

Really what can I add to any discussion on this much discussed book, except to suggest that Burke has never seemed quite so relevant to me as o...more
Chris
Not one for history, and merely reading this for my History of Western Society II class, I had to give it two stars. I must state that although I did not finish the book all the way through to the end, given the length in which Burke goes on about his opinions, I was able to use what sections I read effectively. Those inclined to reading about the history or Europe, or France and Britain in particular, will find this book of great insight into the opinion of those that support Conservatism. As B...more
Andrew Hill
I read this because I started to read Russell Kirk's "the Conservative Mind" and decided I should first become more familiar with Burke's magnum opus, which constitutes the bulk of the foundation (by Kirk's telling) of modern conservative political thought. Burke's reputation as a writer is certainly well-deserved. He is a virtuoso.

Much of the book will be a bit dense for anyone (including me) who is not intimately familiar with the English constitution. Nevertheless, this is a canonical work,...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Conservative Mind
  • The Old Regime and the French Revolution
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Natural Right and History
  • Rights of Man, Common Sense and Other Political Writings
  • The Basic Political Writings
  • On the Republic/On the Laws
  • The French Revolution: A History
  • A Letter Concerning Toleration: Humbly Submitted
  • The Discourses
  • The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • The Constitution of Liberty
  • Ideas Have Consequences
  • New Science
  • Witness
  • On Liberty and Other Essays
  • The Fable of the Bees and Other Writings
  • The Days of the French Revolution
17142
Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher who served for many years in the British House of Commons as a member of the Whig party. He is mainly remembered for his support of the American colonies in the dispute with King George III and Great Britain that led to the American Revolution and for his strong opposition to the French Revolution. The l...more
More about Edmund Burke...
A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful The Portable Edmund Burke The Evils of Revolution Two Classics of the French Revolution: Reflections on the Revolution in France & The Rights of Man A Philosophical Enquiry...and Other Pre-Revolutionary Writings

Share This Book

“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” 61 likes
“Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government.” 25 likes
More quotes…