I read Hobsbawm‘s “long nineteenth century” series years ago, but I probably wasn’t ready for it. And it’s very British, in the sense that it just sort of ambles around for a while; I’m sure it has a plan, and I’m sure that someone who came at it with a different background would get more out of it than I did. Other very British works, like [book: The Victorians] (a gift to me, on the occasion of my 30th birthday, by the sadly departed Dan Weinreb), or Gellner’s astonishing [book: Nations and Nationalism], work great, so I don’t know what my problem with Hobsbawm was.
Anyway, so I picked up Carlyle on the French Revolution the other day and made it literally one page before realizing that this was not the book for me. Whereupon I turned to Google.
So now on the list:
* [book: The Oxford History of the French Revolution] by William Doyle. It backs up a few steps and should, if I chose wisely, give me Just The Facts, Ma’am. I’m in the middle of it now. It’s very good so far. I’m up to Jacques Necker.
* [book: Twelve Who Ruled], recommended effusively by Lynn Hunt:
Palmers [book: Twelve Who Ruled] is my single most favourite book on the French Revolution. He does precisely what I was just talking about. He doesnt do it for the tens of thousands Im more interested in the tens and the hundreds of thousands but for the 12 who ruled. Hes incredibly good at giving you a sense of what these people are confronted with, the incredible difficulty of their situation and the unbelievable stress of the circumstances they find themselves in. Hes just fantastic at recreating that atmosphere and, as a result, forcing you to sympathise with these men. His position is much closer to my own position. He sees this as trying to do something really important, coming up against enormous obstacles in the course of trying to do it, failing, but completely understanding why this would happen in this particular way.
* [book: France, 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution], recommended in the bibliography at the end of Doyle’s book.
* Alexis de Tocqueville, [book: The Old Regime and the French Revolution].
* Edmund Burke, [book: Reflections on the Revolution in France].
This should help me understand the period up to the Congress of Vienna (covered so ably in Kissinger). It’s not much of a jump from there to Bismarck — such a short jump, in fact, that I may know everything I need. And I’ve got there to World War I covered. Then maybe I’ll be able to re-digest Hobsbawm and Gellner as thoroughly as they deserve. And I dunno, maybe Hegel and Kant would fit well into this reading plan. Unsure. Check back later.