A good overview of that most dramatic period of the French Revolution. Andress puts it into the context of foreign war and domestic insurrection.
The Revolution casts a long shadow, and Andress does a good job explaining why. After 225 years, we take constitutional government and the separation of church and state for granted. But the French nation went from quasi-medieval absolutism with a de-facto Catholic state church to radical republic and official dechristianization within a few years. All this was lubricated by hectoliters of blood and the complete suspension of due process.
No wonder the existing powers of Europe viewed this much as they later viewed the Bolsheviks (themselves conscious imitators of the French) and pulled out all the stops to oppose the Revolution.
Also interesting is that the designation of “Terror” as an official policy wasn’t a later calumny, but actually the official name.
The revolutionaries were also horrible misogynists. Politics was not for women, in fact individuals like Mme Roland were especially singled out and vilified.
A superlative historical novel. As in her later Wolf Hall, Mantel does a creditable job inhabiting the inner minds of her characters.
I’m simultanously listening to Mike Duncan’s most excellent Revolutions podcast which is a great help in grasping the wider history of the Revolution. Just as in Wolf Hall, Mantel expects you to have a better grip of history than perhaps you remember from school.
A superlative general history of some now vanished states in Europe. From the well-known (Burgundy, Aragon) to the obscure (Etruria, Rusyn), Davies discusses their history and compares their fates.
The book is thought-provoking, as it makes clear that not all nations are destined to lead long lives. Davies is convinced for example that the UK will break apart, citing the example of how Ireland extricated itself during the 20th century.
This book has justifiably swept the SF awards lately. It’s an intricately designed space opera set in a human future that’s unsettlingly plausible. I’m usually tired of literal “space empires” but Leckie makes enough assumptions to make it work.
Of course there are downsides. The Radch expand by war, “annexing” rival systems and integrating their people and religions into their own. The titular “ancillaries” are prisoners of war, stripped of personality and memory and turned into elements of giant ship’s AI.
Underneath the genteel veneer of tea ceremonies, ritual gloves, and gender-neutral pronouns (everyone is “she” in this novel, a great touch) lies a dark heart of absolute power, state-sponsored euthanasia and utter lack of privacy, if you live on a ship or a Station monitored by an AI. Leckie avoids the trap of simply transplanting today’s society into the far future and gives us a glimpse of something that’s rather different - if instantly recognizable as human.