the French revolution

The glory and the misery of Louis XIV’s France

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Louis XIV raised the prestige of France above that of any other European nation – even if he did leave the country starving and bankrupt, says David Crane

Marat was assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday in 1793. Credit Getty Images

Horrors of the house of wax: Little, by Edward Carey, reviewed

3 November 2018 9:00 am

The reader of Edward Carey’s Little must have a tender heart and a strong stomach. You will weep, you will…

Murder and mayhem in 18th-century Bristol

8 April 2017 9:00 am

Helen Dunmore’s new novel concerns lives, consequential in their day, that pass away into utter oblivion. Appropriately, the ‘solitary and…

Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

How a Swiss banker’s bungling led to the French Revolution

2 July 2016 9:00 am

France’s problems today should lessen the condescension of posterity towards Louis XVI. Presidents of the Republic have proved just as…

A butterfly-powered parachute gently ridicules the French obsession with flight in the late 18th century, illustrated in Gaston Tissandier’s Histoire des ballons et des aéronautes célèbres: 1783–1800

Steve Jones’s chaotic theory of history

7 May 2016 9:00 am

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.’ Philip Larkin’s most famous line has appeared in the Spectator repeatedly, and…

To the ends of the earth — but not back

7 November 2015 9:00 am

What’s in a name? The identity of the author offers a clue to one of the themes of this intriguing…

France’s favourite bedtime story: a sanitised version of the French Revolution

18 July 2015 9:00 am

The great conundrum of French history is the French Revolution, or rather, the sequence of revolutions, coups and insurrections during…

James Gillray’s ‘Maniac Ravings or Little Boney in a Strong Fit’ (published 24 May 1803). From Bonaparte and the British: Prints and Propaganda in the Age of Napoleon by Tim Clayton and Sheila O’Connell (The British Museum, £25, pp. 246, ISBN 9780714126937). The book accompanies an exhibition at the British Museum until 16 August

Man of destiny: Napoleon was always convinced he was the chosen one

16 May 2015 9:00 am

It is almost inconceivable that there could be a more densely detailed book about Napoleon than this — 800 crowded…

When the money ran out, so did the idealism in post-Revolutionary France

21 February 2015 9:00 am

Why did the French Revolution go so wrong, descending into a frenzied bloodbath in just five years? Because by 1794 all trust had vanished, and the country had literally run out of cash, explains Ruth Scurr

Jacques-Louis David, emboldened by Madame Vigée Le Brun, included a smiling display of teeth in his portrait of Madame de Sériziat (1795)

How the smile came to Paris (briefly)

13 December 2014 9:00 am

In 1787 critics of the Paris Salon were scandalised by a painting exhibited by Mme Vigée Le Brun. The subject…

This thriller is as good as anything by Hilary Mantel

30 August 2014 9:00 am

A few years ago, after a lifetime of wearing white shirts through which the straps of my white bra were…

Edmund Burke (left) and Thomas Paine, caricatured by Gillray and Cruickshank respectively

Where did the Right and the Left come from? 

15 February 2014 9:00 am

What is the origin of left and right in politics? The traditional answer is that these ideas derive from the…