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Liberty or Death


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About the Author

Peter McPhee serves as a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne, and is an internationally esteemed historian of modern France. He lives in Abbotsford, Australia.


"Richly detailed . . . finds way to both revivify and dissect the revolutionary passions through not just Paris, but throughout France, it's colonies and eventually the rest of the world."-Ruth Scurr, Financial Times

"McPhee . . . skillfully and with consummate clarity recounts one of the most complex events in modern history. . . . [This] extraordinary work is destined to be the standard account of the French Revolution for years to come."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Articulate and perceptive. . . . Numerous histories of the French Revolution exist; while many are good, none is so current on the literature and lucidly presented as this. Scholars and history lovers will rejoice."-David Keymer, Library Journal (starred review)

"Any card-carrying historian must record with admiration Peter McPhee's remarkable mastery of the literature, the debates, and the generations of interpretation about the French Revolution. . . . McPhee's splendid book - historiographically astute, sensitive to moral as well as political and social positions, beautifully written - provides a guide through the complexities of the Revolution and reflects on its legacy."-Robert Aldrich, Australian Book Review

"Peter McPhee's bold and scrupulously researched book poses a question not beforehand considered: just how French was the French Revolution?"-Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

"This splendid and accessible synthesis, lavishly illustrated with some striking visual images, will surely become the standard text in English. . . . Succeeds in the daunting task of encompassing a host of issues in a comprehensible fashion."-Malcolm Crook, History

"Transforms our understanding of this epochal event, focusing squarely on the importance of developments in the provinces while offering a fluent and compelling narrative of the whole catastrophe."-Jonathan Wright, Catholic Herald

"The great merit of Peter McPhee' new synthesis is the weight it gives to the earthy, even mundane, aspects of revolutionary experience. . . McPhee offsets popular devotion to the revolution with evidence of apathy, frustration and profanity."-Tom Stammers, LRB

"This brilliant essay charts the profound alterations in many aspects of life, including the economy, the notion of citizenship and meritocracy, and the place of women and religious minorities. Relying on the latest scholarship, McPhee masters the complexity of these areas to give a concrete picture of the extent of change. His mastery of the historical literature deserves applause." - Jack R. Censer, American Historical Review

"Liberty or Death recounts the epic story of a people struggling to give birth to the modern concepts of popular sovereignty, human rights, religious toleration, equality before the law, the abolition of slavery, and the beginnings of gender equality. Rejecting the facile and antiquated view equating the French Revolution with blood and violence, McPhee reveals a nation tragically swept up in waves of fear and suspicion engendered by the revolutionary process itself and by the violence of the groups and foreign powers who sought to destroy all such transformations. It is a masterful synthesis by one of the world's greatest specialists of the French Revolution."-Timothy Tackett, author of When the King Took Flight

"Peter McPhee is a superb historian, and in my view this is the finest full history of the French Revolution. McPhee carries memorable description and thoughtful analysis beyond France and Europe, presenting us with an intriguing, essential global dimension, including the Caribbean. It is a significant and absorbing book."-John Merriman, author of Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune

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