History

Burton, Richard D. E. Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris, 1789-1945. Ithica and London: Cornell University Press, 2001. This intense, very intriguing book deals with three distinct periods in Parisian history: the Terror, 1793-1794; the repression of the Paris Commune in 1871; and the aftermath of the Liberation in 1944. What is particularly horrifying in these periods were the extraordinary number of French citizens, mostly Parisians, who were slaughtered, in almost orgiastically violent fashion, by fellow Frenchmen. That a city, old, established, functioning, suddenly, systematically begins destroying its own in unprecedented numbers is both unthinkable, and deserving of study.

Castelot, Andre. (Denise Folliot, tran.) The Turbulent City: Paris 1783-1871. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. This is history the way the Scarlet Pimpernal would write it–personal, swashbuckling, and vigorous–as suspenseful as a thriller. Central characters are drawn in bold and vivid strokes. I chiefly used the chapters describing the Revolution. No footnotes or bibliography, but a rollicking good story to fire your imagination.

Jones, Colin. The Great Nation: Framce from Louise XV to Napoleon 1715-1799. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. This is a political history of 18th Century France. It has been excellently researched and documented, and is also accessible and well-integrated. The emphasis is Paris–the players, the economy, the problems. Again, I was chiefly researching the Terror, and found here invaluable, and terrifying, information.

Norwich, John Julius. Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy. New York: Random House, 2011. Wow. Two thousand years of popes, at times two or three of them all claiming to the the real one. And alas, Norwich discounts the entire Pope Joan story. This is an amazing portrait of the men, good, bad, indifferent, reforming, sometimes horrendous, who claimed the Chair of St. Peter. This is not a hagiography, and the author is clear that often the issue was power, control, and wealth, not God or Salvation. Amazing.

Sparrow, Elizabeth. Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792-1815. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999. This is an utterly fabulous book. It gives any would-be Napoleonic spy a marvelous playbook. The author has a wonderful gossipy style that dishes great dirt, while pinning her narrative to what was happening in the larger world of the military and politics. The same author has an excellent article published in The Historical Journal, V. 33, No. 2,(1990) pp. 361-384, titled “The Alien Office” that is an equally illuminating look at the bureaucracy and funding that supported espionage, first in reaction to the French Revolution, then in trepidation about Napoleon.  The article can be obtained, for photocopy or downloading, at most university libraries. Sparrow has written another article “Secret Service under Pitt’s Administrations, 1792-1806” published in the April 1998 volume of History, pp. 280-294,  that she says “elaborates and corrects my previous assessment of the Alien Office.” It is available on-line or through university library databases. The book itself, alas, has become very expensive, more than $300. on Amazon, nearly $200. at abebooks.com. Consider this: I contemplated paying that much for such a marvel!

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