"A New World Begins" is a superbly written survey which should displace Simon Schama's "Citizens" as the go to history of the French Revolution for English language readers. The capstone of a lifetime of study, research and reflection, the book provides a lucid narrative of a tumultuous, indeed often bewildering (to both contemporaries and their successors), chain of events and encompasses the entire period from the background and origins of the Revolution through (unlike Schama's book) Napoleon's coronation as Emperor in 1803. Of special note is the attention Professor Popkin pays to the role of personality and contingency amidst the overall panorama of a nation in revolution, and the unfailingly illuminating quotations he musters from the Revolution's leaders, opponents, observers, foot soldiers - and victims.
The book has the great advantage of appearing after the fall of the Soviet Union and is thereby free from the "to the Finland Station" perspective which posited a connection between the revolutions in France and Russia and thereby forced much writing about the French Revolution into an interpretive straitjacket. Unlike many of his most prominent predecessors therefore, Popkin can approach, and assess, the Revolution on its own terms.
With France currently engulfed in a wave of strikes and disruptions the likes of which are unfathomable in any other Western nation, it is apparent that the currents of popular rebellion unloosed in 1789 have not yet run their course. All the more reason to welcome the appearance of Jeremy Popkin's comprehensive - and timely - treatment of an event that, as today's headlines demonstrate, is not merely of historical interest .
- Hardcover: 640 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (11 February 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465096662
- ISBN-13: 978-0465096664
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 5.5 x 24.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 880 g
- Customer Reviews: 27 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)