Sister revolutions : French lightning, American light /
Susan Dunn.
1st ed.
New York : Faber and Faber, 1999.
x, 258 p. : ill.
0571199003 (alk. paper)
More Details
New York : Faber and Faber, 1999.
0571199003 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1999-10-01:
In this insightful work, Dunn (history of ideas, Williams Coll.) quickly puts to rest the mistaken notion that all political revolutions are the same. She notes that while the American and French revolutions were "sister" revolutions, there were some distinct differences, most importantly in visions employed and policies pursued. Dunn explores the dramatic differences between these two ideological episodes of the modern political world, illustrating the limits and excesses of revolutionary political thought and behavior. Central to her work is the thesis that the American revolutionaries were more properly guided by skepticism concerning the perils of putting too much faith in reason; they believed, she argues, that experience and a healthy dose of historical understanding and appreciation were critical. Highly recommended for all public libraries.ÄStephen Kent Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, ID Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Appeared in Choice on 2000-05-01:
Dunn's book is both less and more than its title indicates. "Less," because it does not attempt a full survey and analysis of the American and French Revolutions. Rather, it offers reflections on what the author considers crucial themes and personalities. But the book is also "more," because in its final chapters it ponders the ways in which the two major late-18th- century revolutions influenced persons like Frederick Douglass, Vladimir Lenin, and Ho Chi Minh. Dunn has read widely in the published literature on the two revolutions, and her insights are always interesting. Her major argument takes its inspiration from Gouverneur Morris, the American representative in France during the Reign of Terror. Morris stated that the French had taken genius instead of reason as their guide, experiment instead of experience, and lightning instead of light. The American Revolution, according to Dunn, was more peaceful and practical, in part because its leaders were both intellectuals and men of political experience. The French Revolution, on the other hand, veered into extravagant abstractions because its leaders were intellectuals with little or no previous political experience. This book is clearly written and should appeal particularly to undergraduate students and members of the general public. T. J. Schaeper; St. Bonaventure University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1999-09-20:
The American and French Revolutions claimed the same Enlightenment ideals: freedom, equality, justice. Still, the two events were profoundly different in method and result. The American Revolution led to a well-reasoned public dialogue on the nature of democracy and the role of the fledgling government. This dialogue culminated first in the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution, on which the country has been anchored securely ever since. The French Revolution, on the other hand, led to the height of unreasonableness: a bloodbath of recrimination followed by a fragile republic destined to yield again and again to upheaval. Williams College professor Dunn (The Deaths of Louis XVI) explores the roots of these differences, finding that they spring from differences in the basic philosophy of citizenship espoused in each embryo state. While the Americans believed individual rights to be paramount, the French insisted on the appearance of public unity. Individual liberty was no more valued in the early French Republic than it had been under the Bourbons, she explains: "Armed with the `truth,' Jacobins could brand any individuals who dared to disagree with them traitors or fanatics," writes Dunn. "Any distinction between their own political adversaries and the people's `enemies' was obliterated." And as Dunn observes, tyranny does not good nation-building make. Dunn's comparative analysis is solid and well articulatedÄas far as it goes. A penultimate chapter, "Enlightenment Legacies," which treats the influence of the French and American experiences on subsequent revolutions from Russia to Africa, only begins to explore the legacies left by the sister revolutions. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, August 1999
Publishers Weekly, September 1999
Booklist, October 1999
Library Journal, October 1999
Reference & Research Book News, February 2000
Choice, May 2000
New York Times Book Review, January 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
Sister Revolutionsp. 3
Revolutionary Leadershipp. 27
Conflict or Consensus?p. 53
Revolutionary Talk, Revolutionary Stagep. 102
Declaring - and Denying - Rightsp. 137
Enlightenment Legaciesp. 162
On "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition"p. 193
The Bill of Rights
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizenp. 209
Notesp. 217
Indexp. 249
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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