William Doyle

Power to the People

Liberty or Death: The French Revolution

By Peter McPhee

Yale University Press 468pp £25 order from our bookshop

Australian historians have a well-established reputation in French revolutionary studies, and nowadays Peter McPhee is indisputably their leader in the field. This is his second survey of the French Revolution. Since the publication of its much shorter predecessor fourteen years ago, he has edited a wide-ranging companion bringing together the insights of many leading authorities. He has also produced the best recent biography of Robespierre. The experience of doing both clearly underpins Liberty or Death, the freshest general account of the Revolution to appear in a generation. It is impressively documented, with abundant up-to-date endnotes and a full bibliography; and Robespierre and his home province of Artois are brought in at useful illustrative moments. Indeed, throughout the book no opportunity is missed to highlight events in provincial developments. They reflect McPhee’s main interest, which is the impact of the great upheaval on the lives of ordinary people.

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