Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune

John Merriman. Basic, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-465-02017-1
The Paris Commune is an event that tends to more referenced than understood, but Yale University historian Merriman (The Dynamite Club) changes that with this harrowing account of its 64 days in 1871. He brings the reader up to speed quickly, from Napoleon III's rule as Emperor to the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian War to the birth of the Commune, when a "spontaneous defense of National Guard cannons had quickly evolved into an insurrection and then a revolution." While post-Napoleon III French leader Adolphe Thiers and French elite holed up at Versailles and plotted the downfall of the Commune, the Communards struggled to adjust to the realities of running Paris. Francois Jourde, one of the Commune's National Committee members, hints at how woefully unprepared the Communards were for governing: "We were very embarrassed by our authority." Merriman's writing is straightforward and unsentimental, and he captures just how fast events transpired in Paris for the Commune up to the Bloody Week, when the Army of Versailles overran Paris and executed between 12,000 and 15,000 Communards. In the aftermath, Thiers and his forces labeled the Communards "wild animals" and worse, but Merriman turns his focus on the longevity of the Commune's ideals: "The Communards may have been mortal, but their cause was not." (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/2014
Release date: 12/01/2014
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-300-17452-6
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-300-21290-7
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-300-21944-9
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