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The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France
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The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  266 ratings  ·  34 reviews

For two hundred years, the Terror has haunted the imagination of the West. The descent of the French Revolution from rapturous liberation into an orgy of apparently pointless bloodletting has been the focus of countless reflections on the often malignant nature of humanity and the folly of revolution.

David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, presents a r

Paperback, First American paperback edition, 441 pages
Published 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2005)
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Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
“If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, amid revolution it is at the same time both virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue.”
- Maximilien Robespierre (1794)

“I no longer desire to remain in a world covered with crime.”
- from the suicide note of Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, written after his wife’s beheading

One re
Steve.  g
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic subject and I love reading about it. David Andress starts ‘The Terror’ with two big claims. One is that the conclusion to Simon Schamas brilliant book ‘Citizens’, that the revolution was just about violence,’ is not good enough’, and two, that the French Revolution like the American Revolution before it was a step forward on the road to civil rights and liberty and that the struggles that were fought were the beginning of modern politics as we recognize them and that the cent ...more
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-history
Well-written, engaging account of the French Revolution's first stages (1789-1795) by an author who understands the relevance of their lessons for today's world. From the book:

"A final series of notes were taken from Saint-Just upon his arrest. ... the last note of all is telling: 'The misfortunes of the fatherland have spread across the whole country a sombre and religious hue. Silent reflection is necessary in these distressing times; it must form the disposition of every friend of the Republi
José Luís  Fernandes
This is a very good introduction to the French Revolution and the Terror, namely on its political side, yet I hoped a bit more on the War of the First Coalition and the civil wars the Convention faced. That was important because of the subtitle and justify why the rating wasn't greater.

I also loved his reflections on the reasons for the Terror, which was the result of the demonization of all those opposing to Revolutionary, but above all, Jacobine ideals, coupled with the military and economic
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read that many books about the French Revolution, but this one must rank among the very best ones. This is History at its best. Obviously Andress not only knows all that one can know about the events that followed 1789 in France, but he's also able to communicate them in a vivid way, and he understands what they mean and represent - as much for the people who lived through those days, as for us, because everything that happened then seems to be a terrifying mirror of what can happen to ...more
Lisa Christian
This book is one of the best overviews of the Terror that I have ever read. And the easiest to read. I first discovered this gem when researching for my thesis on the development of women's citizenship during the French Revolution. I needed a refresher on the Terror, but a work that would examine the Terror from the inside out - allow historical documents and actions speak for themselves rather than being molded to an author's agenda. Andress's "The Terror" did just that. He allows those who exp ...more
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Truth is better than fiction." Whoever first coined that term had to be thinking about the French Revolution. This is history at its finest.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wholly tedious read. Unfocused text with no clear coherence. Not a good book to get on the subject.

This author does not write clearly. He delves on too many insignificant details and persons of lesser importance you've never heard of. His text is a labyrinth to wade through. It's full of distracting terms and titles that contribute little to the understanding of what the author is trying to get at. Most of the attention is on the politics of the day than anything else, and even that attention is
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
The writing is not great, but it gets four stars because of the author's approach to the subject. Rather than finger wag in a 'I would have done better fashion' (a fault as prevalent in historians as it is in humanity) Andress attempts to understand the Terror from the inside out. He takes a sober look at the threats facing France as a result of the Revolution. He explains without explaining away the evil.

Indeed, the French Revolution was 'too big too fail,' and that may have been part of the r
Alexandra Butterworth
The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France by David Andress is an extensive analysis of politics, corruption, constant upheaval, and death. Andress spells out the build-up, peak, and decline of the Terror in order for the reader to answer the very important questions he presents in his introduction. After presenting his initial argument of: the legitimacy of dehumanizing your enemies, detaining anyone suspect, and if terror is justifiable as a way of fixing internal and ex ...more
Rafael Cavalcanti
O livro é excelente como fonte detalhada de informação sobre o período da Revolução Francesa, mas não é para iniciantes no assunto pela escrita bastante seca, minuciosa e às vezes maçante. Além disso, o autor envereda por uma ótica favorável à Revolução, não ocultando os horrores do Terror, mas minimizando seus crimes em prol de autodeclaradas boas intenções por parte dos revolucionários. A narrativa acaba comprometida com flagrantes conclusões equivocadas do autor, tratando os revolucionários c ...more
Josiah Sutton
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive look at the Terror in 18th century France, Andress addresses the issue of using violence and suppression during political upheaval. The final conclusion is a fascinating comparison of current modern politics to principles of Terror. Definitely recommend this book for those interested in the French Revolution and those interested in Political Theory.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have a paperback copy with a different subtitle - Civil War in the French Revolution - but I am assuming this is the same book. A tad dry and hard going especially at the beginning, but it contains a wealth of information and whilst not as rip roaring as many popular histories it’s well worth reading.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really good introduction to the French Revolution but sometimes it does get a little difficult to read. The author has included a nice glossary of terms and biographies of important persons, so if you are confused it is easy to look things up.
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Too academic for me but very fascinating. They didn't teach this in high school history class.
johnny dangerously
I highly recomend this book, but it is painfully dry and awkwardly paced. The writer goes on tangents-- and while I generally approve of that, the pacing is awkward enough to give a reader whiplash. Information is not broken up in a manner conducive to straight-forward reading, and one cannot absorb the information presented without a constant alertness that makes the reading experience uncomfortable, if not downright stressful. That said, the book has some fantastic political theorizing (in my ...more
Glenn Robinson
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The recent uprising in Libya and the resulting anarchy and massacres of opponents show how fragile society is. With ISIS murdering tens of thousands of innocents and opponents, one wonders how this can happen. Society is fragile. Last year in the US, Baltimore showed how fragile day to day safety can become when mob rule takes over.

This recount of the brutal period of France shows what happens when large groups of mobs become leaders. The period of The Terror was when there were quotas to be sen
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. It was comprehensive, utterly readable, and totally free of the usual political posturing you find in books about this period. I really like the way the text focused on the hows and whys on both the personal and national levels, there is (as much as it is possible) clarity as to why the principal actors made the choices they did based on the information and assumptions they had, but also as to the greater political realities that they did not see. It's rare to read something that give ...more
Constance Wallace
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
David Andress does an excellent job of expanding upon the particular points of the French Revolution. Delving into the depths of the circumstances involving the citizens, the government and the country itself during this period of french history, Andress allows the reader to experience much more than just historical rhetoric of the French Revolution by bringing to life episodes such as the September Massacres and the Jacobin manipulation of the Terror. I enjoyed reading this book, and would reco ...more
Pinko Palest
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is very good indeed. A broadly sympathetic treatment of all figures of the French Revolution branded as terrorists, with a lot of deflating of anti-montagnard myths. Perhaps it does not go as deeply into the social aspects of revolutionary politics as it might have, but it is still highly readable. Recommended reading for everyone on the Left who is interested in the French Revolution
Jul 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
This probably should have been my second book about the French Revolution, not the first, because this book assumes some familiarity with the players and the events. I liked it anyway and learned a great deal about some places I have visited in France and now I want to go back!
Wan Peter
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-non-fiction
The best book to uncover what the "TERROR" is all about. I hear of it when I was a teenager and wanted to find a book which is easy to understand and I digest ever chapter twice. My Private collection.
Putting this as a second book in progress
Marty Monahan
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Well worth your time.
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
a real achievement
Exposición algo desordenada que se acentúa con una traducción con altibajos. No hace el texto ningún favor a los conocimientos que maneja el autor.
Gail Kirby
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well written account of the later period of the French revolution (aka The Terror). Fact-filled, but easy to read.
Amber Skantz
Aug 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Gave up on it. Not bad though, too close to academic reading to really be fun right now though. Will revisit, because the author makes some good points.
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An excellent book and one I actually wished was longer.
Aug 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History Buffs
Fascinating and very informative. Easy to read as well. It will make you hunger for more Revolutionary issues/characters.
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David Andress, a leading historian of the French Revolution, is Reader in Modern European History at the University of Portsmouth and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
“To evoke another great phrase of the American revolutionary heritage — widely though inconclusively attributed to Thomas Jefferson — the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Such a phrase is merely trite, however, unless we consider its deeper implications. For the French revolutionaries, as for so many regimes that have succeeded them across the world up to the present day, the call for vigilance against enemies, both external and internal, was the first step on the road to the loss of liberty, and lives.

Of far more significance, and the true and tragic lesson of the epic descent into The Terror, is the summons to vigilance against ourselves — that we should not assume that we are righteous, and our enemies evil; that we can see clearly, and to others are blinded by malice or folly; that we can abrogate the fragile rights of others in the name of our own certainty and all will be well regardless.

If we do not honor the message of human rights born in the revolutions of 1776 and 1786, as the French in their case most certainly failed to do, we too are on the road to The Terror.”
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