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Lynn Hunt's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Lynn Hunt recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Lynn Hunt's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Confident that they had broken with a discredited past, French revolutionaries after 1789 referred to pre-revolutionary times as the ancien regime (old regime). The National Assembly proclaimed the sovereignty of the people, grasping the reins of power and asserting the supremacy of law over all other interests. Even as the liberalism of 1789 collapsed into the Terror and then into the Napoleonic dictatorship, a new regime emerged at the juncture of state and civil society. The cycles of recrimination, hatred, and endemic local conflict unleashed by the Terror did not obliterate this new... more
Recommended by Lynn Hunt, and 1 others.

Lynn HuntIsser Woloch was a student of R. R. Palmer’s and was very influenced by his point of view. This book is a somewhat dry presentation. It is, however, an absolutely crucial book for making you understand that after Tocqueville, after Furet, after Schama – books that focus on all the problems of the revolution – here is one that concretely lays out the staggering number of changes that take place in... (Source)

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The Reign of Terror continues to fascinate scholars as one of the bloodiest periods in French history, when the Committee of Public Safety strove to defend the first Republic from its many enemies, creating a climate of fear and suspicion in revolutionary France. R. R. Palmer's fascinating narrative follows the Committee's deputies individually and collectively, recounting and assessing their tumultuous struggles in Paris and their repressive missions in the provinces. A foreword by Isser Woloch explains why this book remains an enduring classic in French revolutionary studies.

Recommended by Lynn Hunt, and 1 others.

Lynn HuntPalmer’s Twelve Who Ruled is my single most favourite book on the French Revolution. He does precisely what I was just talking about. He doesn’t do it for the tens of thousands – I’m more interested in the tens and the hundreds of thousands – but for the twelve who ruled. He’s incredibly good at giving you a sense of what these people are confronted with, the incredible difficulty of their... (Source)

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Instead of a dying Old Regime, Schama presents an ebullient country, vital & inventive, infatuated with novelty & technology. A fresh view of Louis XVI's France. A NY Times cloth bestseller. 200 illustrations. less
Recommended by Lynn Hunt, and 1 others.

Lynn HuntIt’s filled with incredibly interesting titbits and anecdotes and characterisations of people. It’s generally negative about the revolution, because it’s basically about how the revolution is really, really violent. (Source)

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Interpreting the French Revolution

The French Revolution is an historical event unlike any other. It is more than just a topic of intellectual interest: it has become part of a moral and political heritage. But after two centuries, this central event in French history has usually been thought of in much the same terms as it was by its contemporaries. There have been many accounts of the French Revolution, and though their opinions differ, they have often been commemorative or anniversary interpretations of the original event. The dividing line of revolutionary historiography, in intellectual terms, is therefore not between the... more
Recommended by Lynn Hunt, and 1 others.

Lynn HuntIt reveals that if you try to push for democracy without having an adequate institutional basis for it, you will end up with terror, violence, and the suppression of dissent. (Source)

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The Ancien Régime and the Revolution

The Ancien Régime and the Revolution is a powerful comparison of revolutionary France and the despotic rule it toppled. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) is an objective commentator of both periods – providing a merciless critique of the ancien régime, with its venality, oppression and inequality, yet acknowledging the reforms introduced under Louis XVI, and claiming that the post-Revolution state was in many ways as tyrannical as that of the King; its once lofty and egalitarian ideals corrupted and forgotten. Writing in the 1850s, Tocqueville wished to expose the return to... more
Recommended by Lynn Hunt, and 1 others.

Lynn HuntWhat’s striking is that he is able to develop broad analytical categories that relate the French Revolution to the direction of modern society as a whole, which he sees as the destruction of the aristocracy and the coming of democracy. But he adds a twist that will remain influential to this day, which is that he points to the weakness of democracy as a form of government. It has an internal,... (Source)

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