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Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon Lecture

Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon

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Publisher's Summary

The 25 years between the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Bourbon Restoration after Napoleon in 1814 is an astonishing period in world history. This era shook the foundations of the old world and marked a permanent shift for politics, religion, and society - not just for France, but for all of Europe. An account of the events alone reads like something out of a thrilling novel:

  • France’s oppressed and hungry masses rise up against their government.
  • In Paris, crowds storm the Bastille looking for bread and weaponry.
  • Rumors, panic, and fear grip the nation as it faces an uncertain future.
  • The National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the first bold step toward the invention of democratic politics and a republican state.
  • A young Corsican named Napoleon Bonaparte stuns Europe with his military strategy and political boldness.

Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon is your opportunity to learn the full story of this captivating period. Taught by Dr. Suzanne M. Desan, these 48 exciting lectures give you a broad and comprehensive survey of one of the most important eras in modern history.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Jeremy NEW YORK, NY, United States 04-05-14
    Jeremy NEW YORK, NY, United States 04-05-14 Member Since 2012

    This is the kind of styles I like: good pace, cerebral, well-documented, meaty, mind-bending.

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    "Revolution vs. tradition"

    The French Revolution is this two-headed historical anomaly. On the one hand, a brutal repression (think: off with your head) followed by the most devastating wars until the 20th century. On the other hand, it is the first spread of democratic ideals and human rights in continental Europe. The point is not to judge but to try explain the commonality between those two, very different, interpretations and, perhaps, draw more philosophical lessons on the price paid for liberties we enjoy idea.

    The book delivers a set of answers to this question and it is of course, nearly impossible to summarize those answers in a few sentences or without the historical context. Yet, I'd like to try to phrase the most contemporary insight that comes out of it. Human progress, as it seems, appears to be driven between the forces of tradition and order (conservatism) vs. the forces of idealism and change (liberalism). Where tradition is based on concrete practices, inherited from parents and ancestors, idealism posits fresh beliefs and ideas. Where order emphasizes social peace, change values the destruction of whatever came before.

    Perhaps this one-time event in history is teaching us the value of moderation, of a middle-way. That even idealistic improvements to human conditions, where applied brutally with no respect for existing institutions and context, are portent of ill consequences. The end does not justify the means. It also tells us that unrestricted reverence for a set of traditions without any consideration of their social consequences is a dangerous route. In summary, it tells us about the value of slowly evolving, adaptative institutions.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcheta 01-21-15
    Marcheta 01-21-15 Member Since 2007

    love audio books - Anglophile

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    "Whetted my appetite to learn more"

    Reading Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities" in high school was my introduction to the French Revolution. I remember my teacher telling us that the 52 prisoners were symbolic of the 52 cards in a pack of playing cards. This series of lectures led me to Michelle Moran's book on Madame Tussaud, which is also available on audible. Moran's book ties in nicely. I also found a book on amazon, "The Lost King," about the final identification of Louis XVII, the dauphin, through recent DNA identification using his heart. So many intriguing mysteries. I wonder if anyone has identified all the secret passages and rooms in Versailles. Sadly, the Tuileries Palace was demolished in 1883. I'd love to visit Paris to visit the graves and remaining landmarks from this era.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ann Abbotsford, B.C., Canada 11-08-14
    ann Abbotsford, B.C., Canada 11-08-14 Member Since 2017

    Ann.

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    "I WAS THRILLED AND INSPIRED BY THIS PRESENTATION!"

    What a wonderful explosion of knowledge this has been for me. Thank you Professor Desan. Your knowledge and compilation of events is brilliant. I just could not put it down, and completed listening to it in two days. You have whetted my appetite for more. Thank you, again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 01-16-14
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 01-16-14 Member Since 2011

    No B.S. reviews. I'll never soft-pedal bad writing or inept narration.

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    "Very educational"

    A most interesting and educational audiobook. I'm glad I bought it, and glad I listened to it.
    Three negatives, however. One, professor Desan's reading is a bit stressed, and it gets wearing by the end of the lecture series. Two, the lectures are not in strict chronological order, so it's frequently difficult to tell what year is being discussed. To be fair, however, the lectures are organized by topic, which is why this is true, but she rarely re-references the year, so it's often difficult to figure out what year it is. Three, the lectures come across as somehow impersonal, so although there are frequent discussions about people's attitudes and difficulties, I didn't come away with a vibrant visualization of these.
    At the end of the day, this is a good overview of a complex and important part of world history, and Professor Desan's wrap-up and discussion of the repercussions and influence of the French Revolution is excellent.
    Finally, if you want to listen to it, buy some credits and get it at discount.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Seventh Degree Pacific Palisades, CA USA 12-03-13
    Seventh Degree Pacific Palisades, CA USA 12-03-13
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    "This revolution was not like the American one !"
    What made the experience of listening to Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon the most enjoyable?

    My daughter went to France to write a master's thesis on the French Revolution so I decided to learn about it. I have always been a student of our revolution. This is an expansive story of the details of the revolution and the rise of Napoleon; thank God we had the guidance of the British parliamentary system to form our own government. The French were lost, confused and seemed to have no guiding principles. They fought against the church as much as the monarchy. They tore themselves apart only to be united by an authoritarian conquerer in Napoleon. This is a lesson on how not to have a revolution !


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Swinson 09-15-13
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    "A story every American should know"
    What made the experience of listening to Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon the most enjoyable?

    It is a thorough treatment of a pivotal period of Western Civilization.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon?

    The entry of Napoleon into Paris after leaving Egypt


    Which character – as performed by Professor Suzanne M. Desan – was your favorite?

    Napoleon


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    At 24 hours it takes quite a few sessions.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent historian presentation

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tommy D'Angelo North Providence, RI United States 11-21-16
    Tommy D'Angelo North Providence, RI United States 11-21-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Wish I could've given this course 6 stars"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon to be better than the print version?

    I've never said this before about any other course but I would've given this course 6 stars if possible. Breath-takingly well done from start to finish.

    I went back and forth on whether I wanted to purchase this course for a loooong time. I had some other courses on Western Civilization and European history and wasn't sure if their coverage of the French Revolution and Napoleon would be sufficient enough to satisfy my knowledge hunger needs. Plus the length of this course caused me to shy away: 48 lecture courses or longer always scare me just because I find myself with a short attention span and zone out the longer the course.

    But something kept drawing me back to this course and the intrigue of these monumental historical events. I finally gave in and I am very disappointed in myself for having waited so long.

    This course was just spectacular and stunningly fascinating on so many levels.

    The professor does an excellent job of “setting the scene” and “telling the story” of key events. She knows how to paint a picture and describe the atmosphere of certain events in such a way that makes you feel like you were there yourself (i.e the Estates-General meeting).

    She kept my interest throughout the course and throughout each lecture because she spent just enough time on each topic, never leaving me with the feeling that something was being dragged out. This is one of those few courses that will leave you wanting more. In fact in one of the latter lectures she explained the different forms of government France took during 1815-1940 and she made the comment "Don't worry I won't be covering all of that time" and I found myself cursing my iPhone: YES, I want nothing more than to hear her continue! I would be the first to buy a new course from her on French history.

    She provided excellent narration of historical events surrounding France from 1789-1814 including a great description of the transition between different phases of the revolution including:
    o Abolishment of feudalism and granting of rights to the citizens
    o Creation of a constitutional monarchy with the creation of the Deputies (legislative branch)
    o Creation of a left-leaning Republic with the elimination of the monarchy
    o International war with European powers: first with the Austrian empire (from the north via Belgium) and Prussia & parts of Italy (from the east) and then Spain (from the south) and Great Britain (from the west)
    o Counter revolution civil war (royalists)
    o Intra revolution struggles including those believing in a strong centralized Republic and those in favor of local power
    o The Terror in which the revolutionists executed thousands of political enemies under the accusation that they were “conspiracists”
    o The Directory (moderate Republic) in which an executive branch of five individuals and a two-house legislative branch were introduced
    o The setting up of “sister Republics” in the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of Italy
    o Napoleon’s coup which overthrew the Directory and established the Consulate (three counsuls with Napoleon as First Consul with strong authoritative power)
    o Napoleon crowning himself as Emperor
    o After Austria and Prussia surrendered and after a victory over the Russians resulted in a peace treaty in which France and Russia both recognized the other's empire, Napoleon built an empire stretching throughout continental Europe including German lands, parts of Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland
    o Restoration of the monarchy (Louis XVIII) after the allies (led by Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain) occupied Paris and Napoleon was banished
    o Napoleon's escape and return to power as a constitutional emperor forcing Louis XVIII to flee
    o Louis XVIII’s restoration of the throne following Napoleon's abdication after his defeat at Waterloo


    I usually like to call out at least 1-2 negatives of a course but I really got a headache wracking my brain trying to think of one for this course. The only remote thing I could come up with: On very rare occasions the Professor would try to imitate the voice of one of the characters she was discussing or the big bad wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood tale and it just didn’t work. But this is the definition of nit-picking. She did a stellar job and I learned so much from this course.

    If you have any interest whatsoever in the French Revolution, Napoleon, or the major revolutionary wars you will hate yourself for not purchasing this course. Take it from someone who hemmed and hawed for so long before finally deciding to give it a chance. There are few guarantees but I feel safe this one time in guaranteeing your satisfaction.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Henry Davis 07-31-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Best Lecture"

    This is the best of many Great Courses lectures I have heard. Not only does she survey all the relevant events, but she also explores and explains factual and conjectured reasons for those events. Absolutely fascinating lectures.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Traveller 07-08-16
    Traveller 07-08-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Fantastic Explanation of the French Revolution"

    This lecture series was easy to listen to you, highly informative and quite entertaining. The narrator was eloquent and quite engaging. Can't wait to get to the next Great Course.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Parola138 Czech Republic 11-15-15
    Parola138 Czech Republic 11-15-15 Listener Since 2005

    We bite

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I was on the fence for a while"

    The idea of downloading a 24 hour audiobook about a single subject can either be a colossal waste or a great opportunity to learn a great chunk of knowledge. The audiobook has to be well done. I started listening to this about an hour every night when going for a walk, and I found it to be very interesting and very well narrated. It got to the point where even on nights when I was too lazy to go for a walk, I forced myself to walk because it offered me an excuse to listen to another hour of this audiobook. The narrator is perfect and I felt I really gained a great perspective on this time period in history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • mr
    west sussex, United Kingdom
    2/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very good"

    Really very good, focuses on the political and social side more than Napoleon, though he still does feature heavily. I will certainly be getting more books from The Great Courses.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • quene
    7/12/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Entertaining and Informative"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon to be better than the print version?

    Lectures always work best in their original format. However, I feel that the lack of visual images did not bother me at all - the descriptions were vivid and clear.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon?

    I was particularly fond of the stories of 'little' individuals, especially those not often mentioned in the context of the topic.


    What does Professor Suzanne M. Desan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Enthusiasm, passion for history, sense of humour.


    Any additional comments?

    I was left hungry for more. Unfortunately, another Great Courses lecture series I tried just did not compare to this one. I wish Professor Desan would expand on another topic in a similar way.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • D. Wickes
    2/14/17
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Solid Political and Military History"

    Excellent coverage of the trajectory of France from before 1789 up to Waterloo and beyond. Well presented - Professor Desan has something of a shaky start but improves quickly. She captures the passion and Romance of the era, particularly as she builds up to Bonaparte. Trifle US-centric, but that's to be expected.

    I enjoyed the exploration of the international ramifications of the revolution, especially in the colonies. All in all a great listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • N. Holzapfel
    London, UK
    1/21/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Riveting!"
    Any additional comments?

    This is the best Great Courses series I've ever listened to (and I've got through quite a few). It was absolutely enthralling all the way. Just the right level of detail, and just the right degree of focus on individual stories and anecdotes to illustrate the broader themes. I felt I really got a sense of the extraordinary fervour of the times – the boundless uncertainty, fear and optimism – and it felt almost like an unfolding story, as if the eventual endings were not inevitable.

    I disagree with a previous reviewer who complained that Desan was excessively biased in favour of Robespierre. Admittedly, very occasionally she makes statements appearing to justify some violent action (e.g. the execution of the king) and it's not clear whether she's simply explaining the perpetrators' perspective, or whether she is also attempting to present that perspective as one she personally endorses. This doesn't stop her from giving a full sense of the horrors of the revolution's dark side and the grievances felt by many anti-revolutionary French.

    By the end of the course I felt a real desire to find out what happened next in France for the remainder of the century in the same level of detail and narrative style, or else dive in further detail into certain strands of the revolution. I don't think there's anything quite like this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jock
    10/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very detailed"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    if they wanted to know about the frecnh revolution then yes


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon?

    na


    What about Professor Suzanne M. Desan’s performance did you like?

    clear and no mistakes


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    na


    Any additional comments?

    na

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • DrBlues
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    4/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Vive la France!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is a brilliant audiobook. Suzanne is passionate about the subject and it shines through. The book gives a surprising amount of detail about the run-up to the French Revolution before Napoleon's appearance. I liked the reference to literature, politics and fashion that goes beyond the detail I have read before on the topic.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon?

    The first Chapter. The author is so passionate about the French Revolution that it is funny at first, until you get used to it. I enjoyed the character description/development of Robespierre and needless to say, the arrival of the big man, himself - Napoleon.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The assassination of Marat, Napoleon's rise to power, the life of Robespierre.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    If I could have, I would have.


    Any additional comments?

    The book gave a real insight into the importance of the French Revolution and its influence on the world today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • julien
    county wicklow, Ireland
    3/15/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "brilliant"

    the author is passionate and very knowledgeable about her subject, which makes her a great teacher.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    1/25/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Lectures given by Robespierre's mother"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The lecturer can't restrain her enthusiasm for France and all things French. A little more objectivity would be helpful. Liberty and freedom are not the gift of France to the world. Listening to this you might imagine that no other nation had ever thought of them.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The events themselves are remarkable and all the facts are there. When I got to the end I knew much more about French history than when I started. However she can't resist giving too much of her own opinion


    Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Suzanne M. Desan’s performances?

    Not if it was about France, she just is not objective enough.


    Was Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon worth the listening time?

    By and large yes.


    Any additional comments?

    The author makes too much of an effort to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable. She tries too hard to bend the facts to suit her own ideological viewpoint. The French revolution was controversial then and divides opinion now. You would not know it from listening to this.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful

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