The French Revolution is undoubtedly one of the most significant events in world history, one whose repercussions still affect Western society today, two hundred years later. The most important contribution to our understanding of the French Revolution was written almost one hundred years ago by Alexis de Tocqueville, who is recognized today as one of the greatest political thinkers of the nineteenth century. Tocqueville's Democracy in America was only one part of the study of democracy to which he devoted his life; the second, and to his mind more important, part was to be a monumental study of the French Revolution, its origins, course, and consequences. Only the first section--The Old Regime and the French Revolution--was completed before his death. It brilliantly and searchingly examines the nature of French society in the years before the Revolution. Why did the Revolution break out? Was it inevitable, and if so, why? How was France really changed by the Revolution? Why did the intellectuals become enemies of the old French state and society? Why was the French nobility so estranged from the French people? Why, in short, were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette doomed to the guillotines of the Revolution? In The Old Regime and the French Revolution, Tocqueville examines these and many other questions and in large measure succeeds in answering them.
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October 01, 1955
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