cover image Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799–1914

Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799–1914

Robert Gildea, . . Harvard Univ., $35 (540pp) ISBN 978-0-674-03209-5

The French Revolution's cries of “liberty, fraternity, and equality” reverberated throughout Europe and America. Yet in France, as Oxford historian Gildea (Marianne in Chains ) demonstrates in this elegant political and cultural history, the consequences of the revolution were far more ambiguous: its mixed legacy included “hope for a new day” as well as “anarchy, bloodletting and despotism.” Chronicling five generations, Gildea discovers diverse responses, including opposition and a longing for the monarchy in the first generation. The second generation after the revolution—those born around 1800—longed for liberty, equality and fraternity without the terror and dictatorship that called into question the revolutionary project. The third generation, born around 1830, was more pragmatic than ideological, but did develop a secular morality that challenged the political power of the church. Later in the 19th century, the revolution sharply divided the French Republic, but by WWI, both opponents and proponents laid aside their differences and fought side by side for France's greatness and unity. Invoking writers and thinkers from Musset to Flaubert to Péguy, Gildea's spellbinding book offers a challenging new portrait of the long-term impact of the French Revolution. Maps. (Sept.)