Fatal Purity : Robespierre and the French Revolution Paperback
by Ruth Scurr
Robespierre was only thirty-six when he died, sent to the guillotine where he had sent thousands ahead of him.
Robespierre and the Revolution were inseparable: a single inflexible tyrant.
But what turned a shy young lawyer into the living embodiment of the Terror at its most violent?
Admirers called him 'the great incorruptible'; critics dubbed him a 'monster', a 'bloodthirsty charlatan'.
Ruth Scurr sheds new light on this puzzle, tracing Robespierre's life from a troubled childhood in provincial Arras to the passionate idealist, fighting for the rights of the people, and sweeping on to the implacable leader prepared to sign the death warrant for his closest friends.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 400 pages, 8
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 05/04/2007
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9780099458982
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Review by john257hopper
A well written and fascinating account of the life and career of this most famous and infamous of French revolutionaries. Robespierre is a fascinating man of contrasts. For much of his life, certainly before the Revolution and for a couple of years after the fall of the Bastille, his positive points predominate - a passion for justice and for the plight of the poor, as shown by his advocacy of the poor in many court cases when he was a simple lawyer in Arras, and by many of his speeches afterwards; and his radical and uncompromising democracy, an advanced phenomenon in the 18th century. It is only really from 1792, the fall of the monarchy and the suspension of the 1793 constitution before it ever came into effect, that we see the awful side of Robespierre - his singlemindedness becoming a complete personal identification of his own views with the interests of the Revolution, and an utterly and chillingly sincere belief therefore that those opposed to himself and, ipso facto, the Revolution must die - the title of this biography "Fatal Purity" is well chosen. The story from the arrest of the Girondins in June 1793 is the story of the fall and massacring of one faction after another until Robespierre's own fall and death in late July 1794. There are some sickening, horrific and tragic stories along the way, especially those of the prison massacres of September 1792, the separating of Marie Antoinette from her children, the execution of Camille Desmoulins's wife and the many poor and working class people who fell under the guillotine's blade - it was by no means aristocrats who were its most common victims as is commonly supposed. A great and tragic read.