The Oxford History of The French Revolution

The successor to Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai (, made a famous remark when asked what he considered to be the consequences of The French Revolution ( He replied – ‘It’s too early to say’. I think we can safely say that the consequences have been deep and widespread. There is a huge industry of historical writing on the subject. If you want an initial understanding of the Revolution of 1789 and its effects from a single volume, I’d point you to this work by William Doyle. It is a work of superb scholarship written for the non specialist. The new edition of 2003 draws on a generation of extensive research and scholarly debate to reappraise this most famous of all revolutions. Updates for this second edition include a generous chronology of events, plus an extended bibliographical essay providing an examination of the historiography of the Revolution. Opening with the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, the book traces the history of France through revolution, terror, and counter-revolution, to the triumph of Napoleon in 1802, and analyses the impact of events both in France itself and the rest of Europe. William Doyle ( and shows how a movement which began with optimism and general enthusiasm soon became a tragedy, not only for the ruling orders, but for the millions of ordinary people all over Europe whose lives were disrupted by religious upheaval, and civil and international war. It was they who paid the price for the destruction of the old political order and the struggle to establish a new one, based on the ideals of liberty and revolution, in the face of widespread indifference and hostility.
If you’re gripped by the topic, go on to read Simon Schama’s book Citizens: A Chronicle of The French Revolution, a whopping 948 pages, published 1989,
Alternatively, you could try the volume at 152 pages written by Doyle for Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series – The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (
However you approach the subject it becomes clear what a massive shaping influence those events in France have had in creating our modern world. Enjoy.
Originally published 1989.
496 pages in Oxford University Press (2nd edition) paperback

ISBN 978-0199252985

Professor William Doyle


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