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Reflections on the Revolution in France

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  4,119 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
This new and up-to-date edition of a book that has been central to political philosophy, history, and revolutionary thought for two hundred years offers readers a dire warning of the consequences that follow the mismanagement of change. Written for a generation presented with challenges of terrible proportions--the Industrial, American, and French Revolutions, to name the ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published November 11th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1790)
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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history

In this classic work, Burke--the father of modern conservatism--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 pre
Bookdragon Sean
Burke is a moronic, ignorant, drama queen:

"All Circumstances taken together, The French Revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world."

Really Mr. Burke? Was it really that surprising when the French finally decided that they’d had enough of corruption, poverty and starvation?

He was hated by so many writers in his era because of this work. His contemporaries openly wrote against his opinions and satirised his stupidity. The main problem his readers had with him wa
Roy Lotz
What first attracted me to Edmund Burke was the endorsement of a friend. “Burke is such a good writer,” he told me, “that he momentarily convinced me that monarchy is a great idea.” A writer good enough to do that, I thought, was worth a read; and since I recently read Thomas Paine’s refutation of Burke’s attack on the French Revolution, The Rights of Man, it seemed like the perfect time to give Burke a go.

But now, after reading this book, I think it is far more than a dazzling piece of rhetoric
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
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
Burke's Prefatory Note

--Reflections on the Revolution in France

Bibliographical Note
Curriculum Vitae of Edmund Burke
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.
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
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well, I'm really not interested in writing much about this here because I've spent a torturous stop-and-start month writing about it as part of my surely valuable and important and not at all worthless academic work and reading much associated material. I mostly wanted to offer something in place of the profoundly embarrassing nonsense I'd written here as an uneducated skimmer four or five years ago, in which I dismissed Edmund Burke (on politics and on the Revolution in France) as akin to conte ...more
Taha rabbani
- با این کتاب در مجلهی مهرنامه آشنا شدم. البته، به دلیل علاقهای که به محافظهکاری پیدا کردهام، با نام ادموند برک آشنایی داشتم و وقتی دیدم که مجلهی مهرنامه پروندهای در مورد او کار کرده خیلی خوشحال شدم، هر چند به نظرم رسید که به جز مترجم کتاب، هیچ کدام از نویسندگان مقالات این پرونده آشناییای با محافظهکاری و ادموند برک ندارند و اصلاً داخل موضوع حرف نزدهاند. مترجم کتاب، آقای سهیل صفاری، معلوم بود که به موضوع آگاهی دارند و محافظهکاری را با انقلاب ایران هم تطبیق داده بودند، منتهی اشکال کار ایشان در ترج ...more
Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Kate Woods Walker
Feb 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"...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
Another of the books I had to read for history class, I'm glad I had to read it for class otherwise, I probably wouldn't have finished it. I read many books that some would describe as dry or boring. While not boring, his views on the French Revolution were interesting, the way it was written was a bit dry for me and made it very hard to read. I am happy that my class gave me a reason to read a book that has been on my TBR pile for so long. If you are interested in the history of the French Revo ...more
Elie Feng
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Human flourishing is embedded in historical traditions, and any total revolution that intends to strip away this necessary embedment is dangerous. Actually, if we strip away historical traditions, Burke believed that there is nothing solid beneath. What is left is sheer violence and beastly force. Progression might not be as desirable as it sounds. Great insight, and very relevant today!
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
Whig windbag mounts his defence for inherited privilege and vested interest: roll on Tom Paine, s'all I can say.
Luís C.
Lisbon Book-Fair 2016.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: filosofie
Standard on conservatism, but in my opinion after about 200 years somewhat outdated. The author rightly points at the many flaws related to the French Revolution: greed as a driver to use violence against King and Church, proof that the new institutions hardly do any better than the ones that were torn down. Mr Burke is more in favour of the non-violent Glorious Revolution that took place about 100 years before the French Revolution and did respect the existing powers that be.
Geoff Sebesta
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the key books I think everyone ought to read, if they want to understand the roots of the present crisis; the obsession with "equality"; and the revolutionary egalitarian spirit.
Burke was the real "conservative" (to be distinguished from the modern Tory!), and here he sets out his stall. This is a key book for all of us, for in this book you will find out what real "conservatism" (with a lowercase C) really is, and how it stands in contrast to the modern deviation. Modern Conserv
Natacha Pavlov
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Having been into Revolutionary history as of late, I was happy to stumble upon this conservative account; and this was so at least in part to my dawning realization that most, if not all, of my exposure to its history thus far had been from pro-Revolutionary sources. Overall I found it engrossing, and it remains just as remarkable to know that, given its publication in 1790 (just at the start of the Revolution), it ended up being a work of accurate premonition.

To start off, the introduction was
W. Littlejohn
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I only read about 100 pages. And I read/browsed a couple of background books on the subject.

Very interesting. Beautifully written. From reading background, I learned that, although Burke DOES make a strong arguement against the French Revolution, that he very skillfully emphasized the positives of the current British system and exagerated--to a degree--the negatives of the revolutionaries in France.

A good deal of what he wrote could be applied to today.
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.
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Since Burke composed this thing as a letter there are no section or chapter breaks; Burke just keeps going and going and going and going and this has nothing to do, really, with his actual arguments, which, due to their influence on people who influenced people who influence us, still deserve some attention.
Evelyn Biden
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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An enemy of the people? 2 7 Aug 21, 2015 05:07AM  
  • The Old Regime and the French Revolution
  • The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
  • Rights of Man, Common Sense and Other Political Writings
  • The Discourses & Other Early Political Writings (Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • The Quest For Community: A Study In The Ethics Of Order And Freedom (Ics Series In Self Governance)
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Natural Right and History
  • A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles
  • The Principles of Morals and Legislation
  • Virtue and Terror
  • The French Revolution: A History
  • The Discourses
  • The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • The Coming of the French Revolution
  • On the Republic/On the Laws
  • New Science
  • Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays
  • Witness
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...
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” 116 likes
“Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government.” 42 likes
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