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Revolutionary France, 1770-1880 
by François Furet, translated by Antonia Nevill.
Blackwell, 630 pp., £40, December 1992, 0 631 17029 4
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... In 1989, François Furet was frequently hailed (or criticised, depending on the context) as the ‘king’ of the Bicentenary of the French Revolution. He seemed to be everywhere, on television, in the newspapers, and adorning the pages of almost every glossy magazine. Foreign reporters featured him in pieces on the celebration ...

Le Journal and Le Club

Tariq Ali: Mediapart, 23 October 2014

... 1830, 1848, 1871, 1936, 1968 – misrepresented or forgotten? The new liberals, the historians François Furet and Pierre Nora, the politicians Jospin and Hollande, prepared the ground well for the French right. Manuel Valls, currently the Socialist prime minister, declares his admiration for Tony Blair while competing with the Front National’s ...

Come and see for yourself

David A. Bell: Tocqueville, 18 July 2013

Tocqueville: The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty 
by Lucien Jaume, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Princeton, 347 pp., £24.95, April 2013, 978 0 691 15204 2
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... on a road we once travelled? Many in the recent past have sought to make use of Tocqueville. François Furet invoked him in an attempt to revive the French liberal tradition, in the hope of dismantling what he saw as a suffocating ‘Jacobin’ statism and guarding against totalitarian temptations. American conservatives – notably the Straussian ...

Friend Robespierre

Norman Hampson, 5 August 1982

Interpreting the French Revolution 
by François Furet, translated by Elborg Forster.
Cambridge, 204 pp., £15, September 1981, 0 04 330316 1
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Class, Ideology and the Rights of Nobles during the French Revolution 
by Patrice Higonnet.
Oxford, 358 pp., £22.50, November 1981, 0 19 822583 0
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... Francois Furet’s book, which appeared in France in 1978, reopens the debate on the nature and significance of the French Revolution. For a very long time, what Professor Soboul likes to describe as the ‘classical’ interpretation provided the frame of reference for all the arguments. It was challenged by the late Professor Cobban in his Wiles Lectures, published in 1964 as The Social Interpretation of the French Revolution, but Cobban’s attack was essentially negative ...

Where will this voyage end?

Neal Ascherson, 14 June 1990

Echoes of the Marseillaise: Two centuries look back on the French Revolution 
by E.J. Hobsbawm.
Verso, 144 pp., £24.95, May 1990, 0 86091 282 5
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... not his outstanding work on the Parisian sans-culottes) sometimes leave themselves open to Furet’s gibe about une sorte de vulgate lénino-populiste.’ But he is scornful of some of the claims by Furet and Co, in particular objecting that their arguments are seldom based on new facts emerging from research but ...

Le Roi-machine

Jan-Werner Müller: Beyond Elections, 19 March 2020

Good Government: Democracy beyond Elections 
by Pierre Rosanvallon, translated by Malcolm DeBevoise.
Harvard, 338 pp., £32.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97943 7
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Notre Histoire intellectuelle et politique 1968-2018 
by Pierre Rosanvallon.
Seuil, 448 pp., €22.50, August 2018, 978 2 02 135125 5
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... served as prime minister in the late 1980s, but his presidential ambitions were frustrated by François Mitterrand.Rosanvallon, who was close both to the liberal historian François Furet and to Michel Foucault, eventually decided he wanted to be an academic, not a union apparatchik. He entered the École des ...

Cobban’s Vindication

Olwen Hufton, 20 August 1981

Origins of the French Revolution 
by William Doyle.
Oxford, 247 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 19 873020 9
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... which persisted in France until the mid 19th-century, has been active in its criticism of what François Furet called the ‘catechism’ of French Revolutionary studies. Standing apart from this development has been Soboul, now in control of the Chair of Revolutionary Studies, and Soboul’s acolytes, who continue to tread and retread the old ...

Family Stories

Patrice Higonnet, 4 August 1994

The Past in French History 
by Robert Gildea.
Yale, 416 pp., £30, February 1994, 0 300 05799 7
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La Gauche survivra-t-elle aux socialistes? 
by Jean-Marie Colombani.
Flammarion, 213 pp., frs 105, March 1994, 2 08 066953 2
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... of 1789, a vertical relationship that Gildea might have extended to include a reference to François Furet, who has recently revived Cochin’s anti-revolutionary work. Nor does Gildea situate Cochin horizontally, as it were, in relationship to the narratives of the Left, which is too had because his first purpose was to defy the Republicans by ...

The Sober Science

Mark Lilla, 20 April 1995

German Ideology: From France to Germany and Back 
by Louis Dumont.
Chicago, 259 pp., £25.95, March 1995, 0 226 16952 9
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... anthropologist. If Dumont’s research was inspired by any great thinker, it was Tocqueville. What François Furet did for French history, Dumont did for anthropology, turning it away from engaged politics and towards the sober study of the modern age. Dumont’s monumental study of India, Homo Hierarchicus, had the misfortune of being published in ...

Poland and the New France

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, 4 March 1982

... Cannac and Verdeil): but he did not a priori advance liegemen whom he had brought up from nothing. François Mitterrand’s position is quite different: he has behind him a powerful Socialist Party with a membership of well over a hundred thousand. Moreover, this party is founded on the new social groups – like teachers, for example, and civil servants ...

Violets in Their Lapels

David A. Bell: Bonapartism, 23 June 2005

The Legend of Napoleon 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Granta, 336 pp., £20, August 2004, 1 86207 667 7
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The Retreat 
by Patrick Rambaud, translated by William Hobson.
Picador, 320 pp., £7.99, June 2005, 0 330 48901 1
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Napoleon: The Eternal Man of St Helena 
by Max Gallo, translated by William Hobson.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £10.99, April 2005, 0 333 90798 1
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The Saint-Napoleon: Celebrations of Sovereignty in 19th-Century France 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Harvard, 307 pp., £32.95, May 2004, 0 674 01341 7
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Napoleon and the British 
by Stuart Semmel.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 09001 3
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... Western head of state in recent memory (British monarchs included) has had a more regal touch than François Mitterrand, alleged socialist. Nothing is more alien to mainstream French democracy than the American-style ‘populism’ practised by politicians from Andrew Jackson to George W. Bush. The word populiste is a deadly insult, most recently deployed by ...
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... developed in close symbiosis since 1933-45. Historians like Febvre, Braudel, Jacques Le Goff and François Furet have presided successively over the École Pratique des Hautes Études (now the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), through which have passed many men of account in the social sciences in France: Aron, Lévi-Strauss, Alain ...

The Revolution is over

R.W. Johnson, 16 February 1989

The Permanent Revolution: The French Revolution and its Legacy 1789-1989 
edited by Geoffrey Best.
Fontana, 241 pp., £4.95, November 1988, 0 00 686056 7
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... of the Revolution with liberty, the Republic and not much else attests to the fact that, as François Furet puts it, ‘the Revolution is over’ – a fact the large number of ‘Don’t knows’ in the IPSOS poll would seem to confirm. Two things kept the Revolution alive so long: the ever-present possibility of violent political change and the ...


Alan Ryan, 9 November 1989

Burke and the Fall of Language: The French Revolution as Linguistic Event 
by Steven Blakemore.
University Press of New England, 115 pp., £10, April 1989, 0 87451 452 5
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The Impact of the French Revolution on European Consciousness 
edited by H.T. Mason and William Doyle.
Sutton, 205 pp., £17.95, June 1989, 0 86299 483 7
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The French Revolution and the Enlightenment in England 1789-1832 
by Seamus Deane.
Harvard, 212 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 674 32240 1
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... was finally to lay those old quarrels to rest. ‘The French Revolution is over’ was how François Furet began his Penser la Révolution Française some ten years ago. Hampson isn’t so sure. ‘Some of the writing inspired by the bicentenary of 1789 suggests that the old wounds bleed as freely as ever.’ It is certainly true that the French ...

Mother’s Boys

David A. Bell, 10 June 1993

The Family Romance of the French Revolution 
by Lynn Hunt.
Routledge, 220 pp., £19.99, September 1992, 0 415 08236 6
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... fit in well with the current direction of revolutionary studies (and particularly with the work of François Furet, who has greatly influenced Hunt in the past), but not all historians would accept them. Hunt acknowledges that a more exhaustive study of the family romance would have to examine what separated the different groups and factions more ...

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