Cover image for Citizens : a chronicle of the French Revolution
Citizens : a chronicle of the French Revolution
Schama, Simon.
Personal Author:
First Vintage Books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, 1990, 1989.
Physical Description:
xx, 948 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DC148 .S43 1989C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this New York Times bestseller, award-winning author Simon Schama presents an ebullient country, vital and inventive, infatuated with novelty and technology--a strikingly fresh view of Louis XVI's France. One of the great landmarks of modern history publishing, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is the most authoritative social, cultural, and narrative history of the French Revolution ever produced.

Author Notes

Simon Schama is an historian, educator, and writer. He was born in London, England on February 13, 1945. Schama earned a B.A. in history in 1966 from Cambridge University and later became a fellow of Christ College.

Schama was a Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Brasenose College, Oxford from 1976 to 1980. He also was an Erasmus Lecturer in the civilization of the Netherlands at Harvard University in 1978, and from 1980 to 1993 he was Professor of History and Mellon Professor of the Social Sciences and Senior Associate at the Center for European Studies. Schama has been the Old Dominion Professor of Humanities at Columbia University since 1993, teaching in the history, art history and archaeology departments.

Schama's 1977 book, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780-1813, received the Wolfson Prize for history and the Leo Gershoy Memorial Prize of the American History Association. Another book, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, won the NCR Prize for Nonfiction. Schama also worked as an art critic for The New Yorker and has written historical and art documentaries for the BBC. In 2001 he received the CBE. In 2006 Schama earned the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction for Rough Crossings. His more recent works include A History of Britain and The Sory of the Jews, both written in multiple volumes.

(Bowker Author Biography) Simon Schama is the author of The Embarrassment of Riches, Citizens, Landscape and Memory, and most recently, Rembrandt's Eyes. He is currently Old Dominion Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. The second installment of his epic history of Britain is due to be published in April 2001.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

A revisionist history that brilliantly analyzes the conflicting impulses that produced the French Revolution and the bloody violence that followed.

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Old Regime, far from being moribund on the eve of the French Revolution, bristled with signs of dynamism and energy, writes Schama in this sprawling, provocative, sometimes infuriating chronicle that stands much conventional wisdom on its head. His contention is that the Revolution did not produce a ``patriotic culture of citizenship'' but was preceded by one. The privileged classes, he argues, were open to new blood, and a ``capitalist nobility'' deeply involved in industrial enterprise supported technological innovation. If Schama ( The Embarrassment of Riches ) is correct, the fiscal havoc of Louis XVI's regime did not have revolution as its inevitable outcome, but a cult of violence, endorsed by romanticism, became the engine of historical change in a country gripped by paranoia. Schama's startling revisionist synthesis is enriched by over 200 illustrations bringing popular arts and revolutionary fervor to life. 40,000 first printing; BOMC main selection. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The appearance of this book is certain to be one of the main publishing events of the bicentennial year of the French Revolution. It blends gritty details about everyday life with an old-fashioned, dramatic narrative form. Among other things, Schama argues that the Old Regime fell not because it was stagnant but because it was moving too fast. Unlike Marxists and ``new historians,'' Schama stresses the importance of individual events and people. He detects the emergence of a patriotic culture of citizenship in the decades preceding 1789 and explains how citizenship came to be a public expression of an idealized family during the Revolution. One criticism: there are no footnotes citing sources. Despite this flaw, Schama's book will please scholars and a wide general readership.-- Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- This well-written, thoroughly documented book should be on every high-school library shelf. It explains the self-destructive, bloody orgy that occurred in France but not in England or Prussia, countries in similar states of poverty and with similarly deprived, disenfranchised populaces. Schama theorizes that the cause of France's revolution lies in the self-deception of the ruling intelligentsia, who believed that they could make a Utopian France by allowing controlled violence, murder, and the destruction of property in the name of liberty, and all to exist simultaneously with good government. Schama presents Talleyrand, Lafayette, and others with more understanding than they are given in most histories, setting them amidst a web of violence of their own making. This book speaks to today's world, as nations strive to move from despotism to democracy. A more modern view of these same problems is found in Z. Brzezinski's The Grand Failure (Scribners , 1989) .--Barbara Batty, Port Arthur I.S.D., TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Schama's massive book should not intimidate any serious reader who is interested in gaining a comprehensive view of the era of the French Revolution. Written in a marvelously readable narrative style and based upon the latest research, this authoritative chronicle focuses on the reign of Louis XVI (1774-92) and traces the major developments of the Old Regime as it moved toward revolution in 1789. Indeed, roughly half the book is devoted to the years preceding the storming of the Bastille in July 1789. The remainder covers the course of the Revolution through the overthrow of Robespierre in July 1794. Imaginative, beautifully conceived, laced with some 214 illustrations, and providing an impressive bibliography, this work will likely take its place as one of the most popular scholarly books available on the French Revolution. Viewing the events from above, through the eyes of leading public and private figures, Schama's book will be required reading for scholars and serious students of the period, but will also have broad appeal because of its literary style and the author's remarkable storytelling ability. A truly outstanding work. -G. C. Bond, Auburn University