Reading Suggestions for the French Revolution
Updated: Mar 6
If you are going to read just one history of the French Revolution, choose The Days of the French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert (1980). A vivid account, written with flair, it focuses on the key days (journées) that shaped and directed the Revolution.
If you read just one memoir of the French Revolution, let it be The Memoir of Madame de la Tour du Pin. Written in 1820 for her only surviving child, the memoir is, by turns, funny and harrowing, personal and shrewd about the politics of the author’s world. Even better, read it side-by-side with Caroline Morehead’s wonderful biography of Lucie Dillon, the Marquise de la Tour du Pin, Dancing to the Precipice. (In Nightfall in Pars, the unnamed woman who says to the fictional Theo “I fear we are all dancing to the precipice” is the real-life Lucie Dillon.)
Sources I drew on for Nightfall in Paris:
Davidson, Ian, The French Revolution: From Enlightenment to Tyranny (Pegasus Books, 2016).
de la Tour du Pin, Lucie, The Memoir of Madame de la Tour du Pin (Harvill Press, 1969).
Doyle, William,The Oxford History of the French Revolution, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2002).
Fraser, Antonia, Marie Antoinette (Doubleday, 2001).
Hazan, Eric, A People’s History of the French Revolution (Verso, 2014).
McPhee, Peter, Liberty or Death (Yale University Press, 2016).
McPhee, Peter, Living the French Revolution (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009).
Morehead, Caroline, Dancing to the Precipice (HarperCollins, 2009).
Mousset, Sophie, Women’s Rights and the French Revolution: A Biography of Olympe de Gouges (Transaction Pubishers, 2007).
Orczy, Emma, The Scarlet Pimpernel (Signet Classics, 2000).
Palmer, R.R., Twelve Who Ruled (Princeton University Press, 1941).
Schama, Simon, Citizens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989).
Wollstonecraft, Mary, An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution (ECCO Print Editions, reproduction from the British Library, 1794).
Yalom, Marilyn, Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory (Basic Books, a division of Harper Collins, 1993).
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution at