For generations of historians, 1789 was a defining moment in world history and it has been said to mark, amongst other things, the triumph of the bourgeoisie, the birth of modernity, the rise of nationalism or even the invention of ideology. To explain an event of such magnitude it was understandable that historians should seek no less portentous explanations of its origins and that factors such as the rise of capitalism, class struggle or the impact of the Enlightenment were cited as the long-term causes of Revolution. In recent years, however, there has been a preoccupation with the actual course of the Revolution. The prevailing concern with political culture and gender as analytical tools has illuminated developments in Paris and in the French provinces, and has brought to prominence many themes inadequately explored during earlier scholarly generations. Rather less attention is given currently to how France was plunged into revolutionary turmoil, which is now taken largely as a 'given'.
The present collection, by contrast, focuses once again upon the origins of the dramatic events within and beyond France which transformed later eighteenth-century Europe so comprehensively and established the terms of political and social struggle for the next two centuries. It presents a series of up-to-date essays which, collectively, provide a new interpretation of the origins of the Revolution. Uniquely among recent contributions to the field, this volume transcends national historiographical traditions and includes contributions by leading experts from France, Britain and the United States, giving it a breadth of approach which previous scholarship has lacked.
Julian Swann is a professor at Birkbeck College. Joel Felix is a professor at the University of Redding."
1. Introduction: The Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy ; 2. How, and how not, to use the concept of crisis in the reign of Louis XVI ; 3. The End of a Golden Age or the Implosion of a False Absolutism? The Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia from Absolutism to Revolution, 1685-1814 ; 4. From servant of the king to "idol of the nation": The breakdown of personal monarchy in Louis XVI's France ; 5. The marechal de Castries and the pre-revolution ; 6. The problem with Necker's Compte Rendu au Roi (1781) ; 7. Necker and aristocratic constitutionalism: the British connection ; 8. The Culture of War in Europe, 1750-1815 ; 9. The Austrian Alliance, the Seven Years' War, and the Emergence of a French 'National' Foreign Policy, 1756-1790 ; 10. A Model of Conduct from the Age of Chivalry?: Honour, International Decline and the End of the Bourbon Monarchy ; 11. Franco-British naval rivalry and the crisis of the monarchy (1759-1789) ; 12. 'Complaints Lost in the Wind'. French India and the Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy: a Global Dimension? ; 13. The Maison militaire du Roi and the disintegration of the Old Regime ; 14. The crisis of the nobility at the twilight of the monarchy ; 15. The making of a bourgeois identity? Urban histories and their historians in eighteenth-century France ; 16. William 'Bill' Doyle and the Origins of the French Revolution