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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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Such a great balance of the big picture and detail

Any additional comments?

This was a marvelous course. Professor Desan has clearly mastered her subject and so her organization and presentation of the material was nothing short of brilliant. She provides an overview of the forces at work during this historical period and illustrates them with wonderful particulars - songs, quotes, diary entries, letters, etc. She gives you a sense of what it felt like to be alive during each of the stages of the Revolution.

I recommend this with no reservations.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Mostly French Revolution

Whilst the course is about the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon, it's primary focus is on the French Revolution. That being said, whilst I'm a fan of Napoleon, this is a bit more hostile towards Napoleon than Napoleon podcast by J David Markham and Cameron Reilly, it's more friendly towards the Revolutionaries.

Overall, this is a great overview of the French Revolution.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Stunning!

If you could sum up Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon in three words, what would they be?

Memorable, entertaining tale

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

Suzanne Desan picks her examples & words carefully. This is not presented in a dry manner, but is comprehensive in scope.

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

Far too long (at 48 lessons) but couldn't wait to listen to next chapters.

Any additional comments?

This is educational but it's pure fun too. Beautifully planned to keep you interested & informed.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Feels like you're there

This course combines big historic events and trends during the era of the French Revolution and through Napoleon's reign with the everyday lives of the people who lived during that time. We need more history courses like this.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • Homewood, AL, United States
  • 10-18-13

Excellent Presentation

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

Professor Desan's enthusiasm really brought this topic to life. She did an excellent job explaining what was going on in ancien regime France that brought about such a profound event and the revolution's impact on France and Europe. In fact, I have a much better understanding of why the French Revolution is still so important to the French, perhaps even more so than our own. Finally, her lectures on Napoleon were balanced and nuanced. Napoleon is treacherous territory for any historian, but she traversed it with skill and aplomb.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • Old Bridge, NJ, United States
  • 05-08-14

One of the Better Courses

Where does Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very High.

What did you like best about this story?

Loved it. Through and Through.

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

She's got a great speaking voice-

Any additional comments?

very good overview of the events during the french revolution, the factions, and the later napoleonic era. engaging and very well done. i recommend it.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Perfect amount of information

Professor Desan has written a narrative that details enough information to give the listener the insights needed to make sense of the French Revolution, the Terror, the Hundred Days and finally the carving up of Europe and the Americas that reveal the reasons that eventually lead to the modern era and its wars.
The performance is dry. Imagine your favorite professor at the lectern going on about the love of her life. She has real enthusiasm but lacks the inflections of a professional reader.
If you are a person with a curiosity about history, you should definitely get this course.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Lots to learn!

I did not know much about the French Revolution so I purchased this course. It is a lot! There is no way that I will remember all that was covered but I certainly know much more than I did previously. I am very pleased with this purchase.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • Santa Clara, CA, United States
  • 01-16-14

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Amazing events amazing presentation

Would you listen to Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon again? Why?

Yes, the narrative was well told. You really get an understanding of what was happening, what the atmosphere must have been like. Professor Desan is great to listen to and does not bore even after many hours.

What did you like best about this story?

When France became a republic

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

N/A, this was not a storybook

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

No. Throughout the course, one becomes immersed and grows attachments to certain characters and certain sides. I wouldn't want that to all be over so quickly.

Any additional comments?

If you are on the fence about getting this. Get it!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • 02-08-14

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

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  • Andrew
  • 03-05-18

Good, but get your facts right.

Any additional comments?

This is a very thoughtful and comprehensive coverage of the period. However, I do wish that she would be much more accurate in her terminology. She seems to move with ease between talking about Great Britain and England as if they were the same thing. They are decidedly not! England was only one country within Great Britain. As a Scot, this really annoys me. I am very happy to be called British and to associate with Great Britain, for the good and for the bad things it was involved in, but I really do not appreciate it when people talk about England when they really mean Great Britain. I am afraid this really grated with me in the end, and spoilt what was, on the whole, a really excellent set of lectures.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • quene
  • 07-12-14

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

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-28-18

Excellent!

The professor does a great job of telling the story in an entertaining and engaging way, it almost feels like Game of Thrones at times! She goes through the key events and drivers without any boring, overly detailed tangents or exhaustive personal histories (Napoleon's excepted). She also provides some interesting corrections to the modern conception of the Revolution/Napoleon in US/UK popular culture.

However this is strictly a history, it is light on the larger political context but I listened to this after Francis Fukuyama's Political Order and Political Decay which serves as fantastic setup for this important period. Also keep in mind the professor is American, although she seemed pretty unbiased this isn't necessarily the best source for understanding the French domestic perspective on this period.

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  • Ross C
  • 04-03-18

Fantastic!

I am so grateful that this level of quality is available to me.

The great courses via audible is just a great thing.

I wish I could have some sort of lending system to share this experience.

This course gives a detailed insight into 1790 to 1815 Western European history.

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  • JCT
  • 11-28-17

Simply brilliant!

For those who want to gain a good overview of the French revolution and Napoleon, this audio book will definitely achieve such a goal. Professor Desan is also an excellent narrator.

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  • Nick
  • 01-21-17

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • jock
  • 10-21-15

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

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  • Mark
  • 01-25-15

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.

3 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Wickes
  • 02-14-17

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 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stan
  • 05-31-15

Clarity leaves me feeling informed

Professor Desan knows how to give a half hour history class well. She goes from detail to breadth. She identifies themes and explores them. She links them together well. Her style is steady, clear and u dramatic even when dealing with such dramatic subject matter. She lets the primary sources do that work and occasionally introduces humour or a personal touch. Clearly Prof Desan knows much more in greater depth than is presented here. I thoroughly recommend this series for those like me, who know so little when starting the series.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful