Liberty and Violence: The Heritage of the French Revolution
To many Americans, the French Revolution is but a distant memory of a barbaric time marked by brutal violence and bearing little relevance to 20th Century life. Yet many of the principles and ideals at the heart of the 1789 uprising are very much alive today. Was the Revolution one of history’s noblest moments, or one of its most atrocious? And what of the dual legacy of liberty and violence left to us today, more than 200 years later? Is contemporary society any more virtuous or less vicious than its forbearers in its zealous pursuit of liberty?
“Liberty and Violence” takes both a short and long view of the philosophies, personalities, and events that transformed 18th-century France into a bastion of human rights through its legislative reforms yet at the same time made a mockery of those rights through a raging program of terror that remains an unfortunate symbol of the Revolution. Through the minds of five distinguished authors, whose opinions sometimes conflict, we have the opportunity to see anew the opposing forces that gave birth to a new concept of the Rights of Man, one whose very principles form the basis of many modern governments.
- The Days of the French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert
- Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
- Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution by R.R. Palmer
The humanities scholar’s essay was written in 1989 by James Friguglietti, Professor of History, Eastern Montana College, Billings.
Download the scholar’s essay, annotated book list, and supplementary texts (PDF). Please note: The American Library Association is the copyright owner of this essay and annotations. The credit lines embedded in the program materials and/or sponsor and funder logos must remain on all published (print and web) materials derived from these materials.
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