Massacre : The Life and Death of the Paris Commune

3.82 (213 ratings by Goodreads)
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The Paris Commune lasted for only 64 days in 1871, but during that short time it gave rise to some of the grandest political dreams of the nineteenth century-before culminating in horrific violence.Following the disastrous French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, hungry and politically disenchanted Parisians took up arms against their government in the name of a more just society. They expelled loyalists and soldiers and erected barricades in the streets. In Massacre , John Merriman introduces a cast of inimitable Communards-from les petroleuses (female incendiaries) to the painter Gustave Courbet-whose idealism fueled a revolution. And he vividly recreates the Commune's chaotic and bloody end when 30,000 troops stormed the city, burning half of Paris and executing captured Communards en masse.A stirring evocation of the spring when Paris was ablaze with cannon fire and its citizens were their own masters, Massacre reveals how the indomitable spirit of the Commune shook the very foundations of Europe.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 360 pages
  • 167 x 239 x 31mm | 584g
  • Washington, United States
  • English
  • 0465020178
  • 9780465020171
  • 512,944

Table of contents

1. War and the Collapse of the Empire 2. The Birth of the Commune 3. Masters of Their Own Lives 4. The Commune Versus the Cross 5. The Battle Turns Against the Communards 6. Bloody Week Begins 7. Death Comes for the Archbishop 8. The Courts-Martial at Work 9. Massacre 10. Prisoners of Versailles 11. Remembering
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Review quote

Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week Wall Street Journal "Excellent... Riveting." Economist "In Massacre, John Merriman...combines two narrative tasks with considerable art: an overview of the tangled background and vivid close shots from the street... The great merit of Massacre is to focus attention on the enormity of the moral outrage perpetrated by a modern state and a supposedly civilized society against its own citizens. In Mr. Merriman's retelling, the Paris Commune is a reminder that the worst villainies are possible once you have dehumanized your opponent." Robert O. Paxton, New York Review of Books "John Merriman's vivid account of the Commune follows a life's work of richly detailed studies of nineteenth-century French social conditions and movements... Using eyewitness accounts he makes palpable the passions of this tragedy. He is unmatched on how the conservatives stigmatized the Paris poor, and on the role of Communard women in both fact and imagery." Los Angeles Times "Merriman's nearly blow-by-blow account of the street fighting is vivid... [His] sobering chronicle of just how far an allegedly democratic state was prepared to go to protect itself against its own people has grim resonance today." Maya Jasanoff, author of Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World "A story of incandescent ideals, stunning violence, and extraordinary people. In Massacre, John Merriman brings his prodigious understanding of France and masterful narrative gifts to describe the ten weeks that changed Paris and prefigured the upheavals of our times. Read against the headlines from Cairo or Kiev, this book could not be more timely, or better told." Steven Englund, author of Napoleon: A Political Life "Massacre is an absorbing and very moving read. John Merriman has found exactly the right unemotional tone and mastery of detail--including many new stories heretofore unpublished--to produce the best popular history of the Commune, in English or French, in a generation." Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Swan Thieves and The Historian "A rigorous, vivid book that brings to life the idealism, the horror, and--particularly--the people of the Paris Commune. Massacre fills a gap and will draw new readers to this timely topic." New Yorker "Its greatest virtue is the way Merriman particularizes the people of the Commune. For almost the first time in the vast scholarly literature on the topic, they are complicated individuals who come alive, rather than set-piece proletarian heroes or mere faces in the 'mob' or 'rabble' of right-wing imagination... Merriman relates the story of the Commune's brief rise and brutal fall in tight detail, with hour-by-hour intensity, and draws all the drama out of the tale." Maclean's (CAN) "The author handles a dramatic story with verve and moral outrage, weaving together a blow-by-blow account of the Commune's demise with its larger backstory." Washington Post "[A] devastating account of the Commune uprising." Winnipeg Free Press (CAN) "Well-written... Fans of Les Mis will love this book. Granted, it's less tuneful, but there is no shortage of exploited masses, disputed barricades, inspiring heroes and evil villains. Better yet, it's true." History News Network "[A] powerful narrative history of the Paris Commune... [A]n engaging history...which poses important questions regarding working-class autonomy, class conflict, and state-sponsored terrorism which resonate in the contemporary world." Publishers Weekly "A harrowing account... Merriman's writing is straightforward and unsentimental, and he captures just how fast events transpired in Paris for the Commune up to the Bloody Week, when the Army of Versailles overran Paris and executed between 12,000 and 15,000 Communards." Library Journal "Using an array of primary source documents, Merriman expertly tells the story of violent class warfare through the eyes of participants and observers of the struggle... Although short lived, the commune had significant implications, influencing politicians and theorists alike, Karl Marx included. It symbolized the last of the 19th-century revolutions that tore across Europe and foreshadowed the brutal, systematic repression of the 20th century. Recommended for readers of modern political, economic, French, and European history." Booklist "[A]n eloquent, frequently moving and disturbing account... [A] fine recounting of an episode that hung over and haunted Europe for subsequent decades." The American Scholar "Merriman, a distinguished scholar of France at Yale, does not preach or fulminate about this regressive episode. The facts are powerful enough. But neither does he mince words about what the Commune meant for the French republic that succeeded it." America "Merriman's account forces the reader to ponder which is bloodier, violence in the name of the state or violence in the name of the people... [Merriman] is a rare academic, informing general readers without sacrificing his scholarship. His book is a good combatant against today's prevalent historical amnesia and, particularly, American ignorance of French history." Open Letters Monthly "[A] compactly-detailed and immensely readable new history, and it's damningly impossible to read the story without mentally drawing 21st-Century parallels... Merriman tells the story with a narrative zeal that grabs and holds the reading imagination... Merriman has written a superbly comprehensive history of those fateful weeks in 1871 -- but he's written a torn-from-the-headlines work of current affairs as well."
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About John Merriman

John Merriman is the Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale University and the author of several books, including Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune, The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siecle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror, and the classic History of Modern Europe. He is the recipient of Yale's Byrnes/Sewell Teaching Prize, a French Docteur Honoris Causa, and speaks frequently at universities across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
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Rating details

213 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 20% (43)
4 46% (99)
3 30% (63)
2 3% (6)
1 1% (2)
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