Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution


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This is quite the calmest and least abusive history of the Revolution you will ever read.

Since his execution by guillotine in July , Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians. Was he a bloodthirsty charlatan or the only true defender of revolutionary ideals? The first modern dictator or the earliest democrat?

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Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution by Ruth Scurr 97800994589

Was his extreme moralism a heroic virtue or a ruinous flaw? Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr tracks Robespierre's evolution from provincial lawyer to devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure.

She explores his reformist zeal, his role in the fall of the monarchy, his passionate attempts to design a modern republic, even his extraordinary effort to found a perfect religion. And she follows him into the Terror, as the former death- penalty opponent makes summary execution the order of the day, himself falling victim to the violence at the age of thirty-six.

If you’d seen his green eyes

Written with epic sweep, full of nuance and insight, Fatal Purity is a fascinating portrait of a man who identified with the Revolution to the point of madness, and in so doing changed the course of history. Written with epic sweep, full of nuance and insight, Fatal Purity is a fascinating portrait of a man who identified with the Revolution to the point of madness, and in so doing changed the course of history.

Born in , Ruth Scurr studied at Oxford and Cambridge, where she currently teaches politics and history. Fatal Purity is her first book. Since his execution by guillotine in July , Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians, at once the most notorious leader of the French Revolution and the least comprehensible.

FATAL PURITY Robespierre and the French Revolution | The Times

Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr follows the trajectory of Robespierre's paradoxical life, from his modest beginnings as a provincial lawyer opposed to repressive authority and the death penalty, to his meteoric rise in Paris politics as a devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure.

A work of genuine scholarship and political literature, Fatal Purity is an electrifying biography of an epoch's vaulting ambitions and wounded pride, radical vision and terrifying uncertainty, bracing heroism and decimating energies. Scurr is too good and scrupulous a historian to try to absolve Robespierre of deeds like the persecution of the Dantonists.


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Few would argue that his commitment to egalitarian principles was anything less than genuine, but his intransigent commitment to these principles set the basis for a terror-based state whose legacy still haunts the postmodern world. Scurr maintains that Robespierre's iron will sustained the Revolution during its most turbulent period but that within his fanaticism lurked the seeds of his demise.

The good terrorist

His Reign of Terror eventually devoured him. This is Scurr's first book, and one hopes that it is not her last.

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She evokes the temper of those times through the copious use of primary sources, and her characterizations of such personalities as Mirabeau, Marat, and Brissot are splendid. This is the best biography of the Incorruptible since David Jordan's The Revolutionary Career of Maximilien Robespierre over 20 years ago and is highly recommended. Cambridge University historian Scurr says she has tried to write a biography that expresses 'neither partisan adulation nor exaggerated animosity,' but even she must conclude that with the Terror, he 'kept moving through that gory river, because he believed it necessary for saving the Revolution.


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    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
    Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution

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