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A History of the French Revolution


A History of the French Revolution


“Citizens, did you want a revolution without a revolution?”

Carlyle's A History of the French Revolution, the book that established Thomas Carlyle’s reputation when first published in 1837, is a remarkable history of the revolution, in three volumes, and has been accepted as one of the most essential works on the subject.

As one of the seminal social revolutions in human history, A History of the French Revolution holds a unique legacy, especially in the West: the earliest years of the Revolution were fueled by ideals that sought the overthrow of the caste system that gave the royalty and aristocracy absolute control over the lower classes.

The height of France’s tyranny came during a 10-month period forever known as the Reign of Terror, the most notorious part of the French Revolution.

One of the first victims of the Reign of Terror was its most famous: former French Queen Marie Antoinette. Antoinette was soon followed by thousands more, including everyone from aristocrats to clergy to prostitutes and even instrumental revolutionaries like Danton, Desmoulins, and, most notably, Robespierre.

It was Robespierre whose position on the Committee of Public Safety made him the Reign of Terror’s instrumental figure until he himself became a victim of it in July 1794.

Robespierre’s date with the guillotine is often considered the official end of the Reign of Terror, but by then it is estimated that at least 16,000 people were guillotined in that time and perhaps 25,000 more were summarily executed across the country.

Carlyle combines shrewd insight into character, a vivid realization of the picturesque, and a singular ability to bring the past to blazing life, making it a reading experience as thrilling as a fine novel.

“A History of the French Revolution is “one of the grand poems of Carlyle’s century, yet its poetry consists in being everywhere scrupulously rooted in historical fact.”

-John D. Rosenberg

THOMAS CARLYLE (1795–1881) was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician, and teacher. His 1837 work A History of The French Revolution was the inspiration for Charles Dickens' 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, and remains influential today.


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