• The French Revolution

  • From Enlightenment to Tyranny
  • By: Ian Davidson
  • Narrated by: Clive Chafer
  • Length: 11 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (669 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

A vital and illuminating look at this profoundly important (and often perplexing) historical moment, by former Financial Times chief foreign affairs columnist Ian Davidson

The French Revolution casts a long shadow, one that reaches into our own time and influences our debates on freedom, equality, and authority. Yet it remains an elusive, perplexing historical event. Its significance morphs according to the sympathies of the viewer, who may see it as a series of gory tableaux, a regrettable slide into uncontrolled anarchy - or a radical reshaping of the political landscape. 

In this riveting new book, Ian Davidson provides a fresh look at this vital moment in European history. He reveals how it was an immensely complicated and multifaceted revolution, taking place in different places, at different times, and in different spheres; and how subsequently it became weighted with political, social, and moral values. Stirring and dramatic - and filled with the larger-than-life players of the period and evoking the turbulence of this colorful time - this is narrative history at its finest.

©2019 Ian Davidson (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The French Revolution

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Overall I think its good, but...

Good information on the French Revolution I have found to be hard to find, this book is a good retelling of the events leading up to during and after the initial revolution. However, take it with a grain of salt, despite the lofty claims of Mr. Davidson, who I do not doubt worked hard and long on this book, he still shows the typical British Bias in taking cheap shots and the US Constitution and its founders, and blithely calls the Deceleration of Independence a deceleration of War against George the 3rd which it was not and goes on to insult it at every turn while showing deference to the French Constitution.

Every person is allowed their own opinion, all I ask is that they not go around touting that opinion as factual. Other than that I rather enjoyed listening to this book and learning more about this often controversial revolution, I just feel that it hurts an authors credibility to be passing off his own personal bias as factual about the US, I get it, you got your arses kicked and your still embarrassed about it, but get the hell over it already!

17 people found this helpful

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Overview of the French Revolution

I read a lot of history books, including many involving French history, but until now none of them centered on the French Revolution so my knowledge of the events that took place during the revolution was limited to what I learned in my history classes at the University and what I could infer from other books I had read. I thought I knew the general outline of the revolution but felt I was missing some central points, but reading this book made me realize that I knew almost nothing about the revolution itself, including how it started, how it slid into tyranny and how it finally dragged itself back out of the dictatorship it had become.

This book is an overview of the revolution but I found it detailed enough for an initial understanding of the phases of the revolution and to see who was involved and how events moved from it's initial legal constraints to the increase in violence and the rise of a dictator. While the names of the central figures in the revolution, especially in it's latter phases, are well known I did not know their relationship to each other, to the revolution itself and especially how and why the revolution turned truly violent, nor did I know exactly how the revolution dealt with the resulting civil war or the wars of conquest. Mr Davidson's book gave me a much better understanding of the period in question and the personalities involved. I have seen some reviews that said the book was not detailed enough but for someone like myself who had no real understanding of how the revolution proceeded I feel that it was just about perfect. With this background of how the pieces fit together I feel I can now read a more detailed book and understand what was going on at the time.

My main complaint about the book is that the author apparently assumes that the reader has a working knowledge of French and thus gives the names of documents, committees and legal events by their French name without providing an English translation and thus leaving a reader like me wondering exactly what that translation was. Had I been reading the Kindle version I would have been able to get the translation but of course there is no way to do that in an audio book.

I found Clive Chafer's narration to be excellent. It is clear and easily understood and the volume is high enough so that I did not have to strain to hear. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the details of the French Revolution and does not already have a working knowledge of the events and the times, but with the caveat that a working knowledge of French would be a big help.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

superficial; trite

if you've read any other book on the French revolution, skip this one. Even for people looking to be introduced, listen to the Revolutions Podcast instead

32 people found this helpful

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a history of some "great' men

I'm blown away that the author would bookmark the French revolution with the king exceeding to the revolutionary demands of the people as the beginning, and Charles de Gaulle stepping down from power as the end. this book is thoroughly confused by any sort of mass movement of people and seeks constantly to attribute those mass outcries for change to one or two great men leaders. what a disappointing history text.

6 people found this helpful

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excellent book; terrible narrator. worth it.

The narrator makes this book difficult to listen to. Constant emphasis on words just for the sing-song effect, but distracting from meaning. That said, it is worth listening to.
The book is excellent, especially for what is available on the app. The French Revolution is massively complicated and so is a difficult story to tell. Every encounter with it I want to go deeper into everything before The Terror. This book does not include the Napoleonic Age, which I appreciate. It sticks to the actual revolution and does a better job by doing so.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

listen to something else

audible makes approachable faux histories like this free so people dipping their feet into history will start off already drinking the cool-aid
it's a propaganda piece written by someone who read the first six pages of Shama's work and thought he didn't view it through enough of a modernist's eye.

4 people found this helpful

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The narrator obviously likes to speak French!

This book is best read the normal way. It appears the narrator enjoys immensely the fact that he can speak French and utilizes the French language in the most superfluous of ways. It is difficult to follow simply because there are so many words that could have been simply narrated in the English language. The history narrated in and of itself was superb. The redundant use of the French language was just extremely distracting.

4 people found this helpful

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powerful history, but ...

i found this book very informative, but less engaging than I'd hoped. The narrator was clear, seemingly good french pronunciation (though I wouldn't be a good judge of that), but his style variations for other voices were just ok.

4 people found this helpful

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Not for beginners

If I wasn’t already very knowledgeable about all the names and groups in the French Revolution, I would have been completely lost in the sheer number. There are groups within groups with groups and if I wasn’t paying attention, I’d lose track of what he was saying.

That said, it was a nice overview.

3 people found this helpful

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Essential but not an introduction.

Superb overview on the political and legal history of The French Revolution. I am very familiar with the events of the revolution. This book brought insight as to what was happening in the process of reform as the revolutionaries were grapping with the collapse of the French state. The narrator may be a problem for some. I am used to his cadence as I have heard him in several other books.

3 people found this helpful