Lectures on the French Revolution
Автор(и) : John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
Издател : Liberty Fund
Място на издаване : Indianapolis, USA
Година на издаване : 2000
ISBN : 978-0-86597-281-0
Брой страници : 342
Език : английски
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Delivered at Cambridge University between 1895 and 1899, Lectures on the French Revolution is a distinguished account of the entire epochal chapter in French experience by one of the most remarkable English historians of the nineteenth century. In contrast to Burke a century before, Acton leaves condemnation of the French Revolution to others. He provides a disciplined, thorough, and elegant history of the actual events of the bloody episode—in sum, as thorough a record as could be constructed in his time of the actual actions of the government of France during the Revolution. There are twenty-two essays, commencing with “The Heralds of the Revolution,” in which Acton presents a taxonomy of the intellectual ferment that preceded—and prepared—the Revolution. An important appendix explores “The Literature of the Revolution.” Here Acton offers assessments of the accounts of the Revolution written during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries by, among others, Burke, Guizot, and Taine.
“The revenue of France was near twenty millions when Lewis XVI., finding it inadequate, called upon the nation for supply. In a single lifetime it rose to far more than one hundred millions, while the national income grew still more rapidly; and this increase was wrought by a class to whom the ancient monarchy denied its best rewards, and whom it deprived of power in the country they enriched. As their industry effected change in the distribution of property, and wealth ceased to be the prerogative of a few, the excluded majority perceived that their disabilities rested on no foundation of right and justice, and were unsupported by reasons of State. They proposed that the prizes in the Government, the Army, and the Church should be given to merit among the active and necessary portion of the people, and that no privilege injurious to them should be reserved for the unprofitable minority. Being nearly an hundred to one, they deemed that they were virtually the substance of the nation, and they claimed to govern themselves with a power proportioned to their numbers. They demanded that the State should be reformed, that the ruler should be their agent, not their master.
That is the French Revolution. To see that it is not a meteor from the unknown, but the product of historic influences which, by their union were efficient to destroy, and by their division powerless to construct, we must follow for a moment the procession of ideas that went before, and bind it to the law of continuity and the operation of constant forces.”
John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton (1834-1902), was a major English scientific historian and Catholic philosopher. His work is distinguished by the application of rigorous standards of accuracy and ethical principles to history.
Acton's historical writings consist largely of lectures. However, his importance resulted less from his published works than from his personal influence, his insistence on scientific methods, and his prescient concern with political morality. His essay "Democracy in Europe" (1878) and two lectures delivered at Bridgnorth in 1877 (published in 1907)—"The History of Freedom in Antiquity" and "The History of Freedom in Christianity"—are the only completed portions of his projected History of Liberty. Influenced by Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville, Acton saw liberty threatened by democracy and socialism as well as by the evils of highly concentrated state power. Conscience, the fount of freedom, had higher claims than those of the state. He was a critic of racism and nationalism, with his liberalism rooted in Christianity.
Acton was one of the founders of the English Historical Review and wrote an essay on modern German historians for the first volume (1885). He was appointed professor of modern history at Cambridge University in 1895. His inaugural lecture, "The Study of History, " and his courses, "Lectures on the French Revolution" and "Lectures on Modern History," made a great impression on scientific historiography at the time. Acton was to be the editor of the great multivolume Cambridge Modern History, but only the first volume appeared before his death in 1902.