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Vineland (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
Thomas Pynchon
Tristes Tropiques
John Weightman, Doreen Weightman, Patrick Wilcken, Claude Lévi-Strauss
Richard III
William Shakespeare
The Dwarf
Alexandra Dick, Pär Lagerkvist
The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen, Cecil Day-Lewis
Richard Wolin
Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery
Jill Dunkerton, Susan Foister, Dillian Gordon, Nicholas Penny
Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics
Hubert L. Dreyfus, Paul Rabinow
Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon
A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel
Steven Weisenburger

Concise History of French Revolution

Concise History of French Revolution - This is a fabulous book - for one looking (like myself) for a reliable and sturdy refresher course on the French Revolution; and for its focus and intelligence and analytical clarity, albeit in brief format (a plus).

Neely writes without sentiment. She is generally sympathetic to Louis XVI (who does emerge as a surprisingly sympathetic figure here), and is clearly horrified by the excesses of the Terror. But her scalpel is used on all-comers.

According to Neely, the Revolution was not an inevitable consequence of vast historical forces, but came about because of specific factors that could have turned out otherwise. The principal factor was the economic crisis of the 1780's (government debt) and the political inability to deal with it through taxation. This led to a political and financial crisis, that was then compounded by the famine of 1789 (after two consecutive years of crop failure). She rejects what she calls the 'Marxist' view that the Revolution was the inevitable result of class conflict (that is, a Bourgeoise Revolution).

On the Terror -- she rejects Burke's claim that the Terror was due to the Enlightenment's rejection of religion, and also the view (of supporters of the Revolution) that it was to be blamed on the opponents of the Revolution -- who forced their hand. She then looks at François Furet's belief that the Terror emerged from the rhetoric of the early Revolution (which she finds wanting and reductionist; p. 219), and concludes instead that none of these later events would have taken place had it not for the War -- that it was the War (and the suspicions it fostered) that especially disordered everything and which eventually brought the country to the extreme dictatorship of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety.

I can't judge of any of this, of course -- but I can at least say that the book is much better than Hibbert's (which is pretty useless), and positions the reader to tackle more ambitious works.

Neely has also written what looks like a fascinating account (and I have the book in front of me) of Lafayette and the Restoration. Lafayette, too, emerges as a central and sympathetic figure.

This is a good place to repost my favorite French Revolution film - in case anyone's missed it --