Revolutionary Sources You Must Read
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Politics and Activism

Revolutionary Sources You Must Read

For a better understanding of the Atlantic World Revolutions

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Revolutionary Sources You Must Read
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Bonjour Citoyens!

Many people have asked me for good books to read to better understand my favorite historical topic- revolutions!

The Atlantic World Revolutions refer to the revolutions in Europe and the Americas (both North and South America) during the end of the 18th century. These revolutions encompassed all of the "coffee drinking" countries.

What do I mean by coffee drinking?

In the US, Canada, all of Latin America, most of Europe (minus the British Isles, Ukraine and Russia) coffee dominates the culture.

Interestingly all of these "coffee countries" are also countries that had revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Are the two connected? Yes, they are. Revolutionaries were prone to gather in coffeehouses and discuss the rights of man. Coffeehouses to this day remain centers of political discussion in countries like the United States, France, Poland, Czech Republic, and others.

I'm mainly touching on the June Rebellion, French Revolution and American Revolution in this article. There are many Atlantic World Revolutions that I haven't read as much about but would love to delve into further.

So without further adieu, here we go!


Les Miserables

*this is not the French Revolution, this is the June Rebellion many years later*

Watching the musical is awesome, but reading the book is even better. Long? Yes, it's very long, but worth it. This epic is an allegory about law vs grace, society's injustices, truth, justice, and freedom. It is full of relatable and very well-written characters. Trust me- you won't regret reading it!


A Cinq Heures Nous Serons Touts Morts

"May liberty crush beneath her heel the worm-eaten throne of despotism!" - Charles Jeanne

There is an English translation online as well. The gripping account of the actual June Rebellion from Les Miserables, and all the dramatic events surrounding it. Charles Jeanne, the actual barricade leader wrote in a way that makes you feel the indignation of the people and with your fist raised in rage, you feel like marching to the king's palace! Alas!! May liberty triumph supreme! Charles Jeanne was a fascinating figure- active in the 1830 Revolution, he was enraged that another Bourbon king took the throne of France and took to the barricades again in 1832. A very animated figure, with words that leap off the page- Charles Jeanne will keep even the most uninterested reader charmed and entertained.

Lech Wałęsa's autobiographies

This is not the Atlantic World Revolutions, but nonetheless it is a cool revolutionary account.

A really interesting firsthand account of one of the most important anti-communist leaders. His actions led to the fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. His autobiographies offer an interesting and important glimpse into him as an ordinary person before he changed history.

The Social Contract

"Man is born free but everywhere is in chains." In order to understand modern history and democratic movements, I highly recommend this book! This was read by the American Founding Fathers, the French Revolutionaries. Robespierre actually slept with a copy by his bed! Also, the Latin American Revolutionaries, especially Simon Bolivar (who is apparently depicted in the GIF above) loved it.

Locke's Second Treatise on Government

in the same light, this will make you better understand the early history of republicanism. While the Social Contract was more influential in France, this one was more influential in the US. Actually, the American and French Revolutionaries read both! People love to separate the American and French Revolutions as being completely different, and while cultural context does differ- people also tend to forget the similarities in what they both read.


Robespierre's Writings

Yes, this is one primary source that sadly is overlooked. People tend to believe the myth that Robespierre was the dictator of France and sent everybody to the guillotine. This isn't true, and much of it was created in the aftermath of Thermidor and the counterrevolution against the republic. Read Robespierre and understand the French Rev. better!

Please also read some Saint-Just, Mirabeau, Danton, and Desmoulins while you are at it!

For the monarchist side- read them as well, also Edmund Burke for a monarchist British perspective.


Le Veux Cordillier

Read French Revolutionary radical pamphlets by Camille Desmoulins? YESS!!! This stuff is good and actually not very radical. Desmoulins was great at explaining complex topics for the common citizen. Keep in mind that the French (and American) Revolutions were both largely run by the bourgeous class, which would be people born into privilege (not very wealthy, but not dirt poor) and unable to advance.

Are you college educated, well-versed in the ideals of the Enlightenment but underemployed or unable to find work in your field? Congratulations you are in the same social class as Robespierre and Desmoulins!

The proletariate or the angry working class would not have had a college degree but were master tradespeople. The sans-culottes, many of the Boston Tea Party participants (possibly even my own Boston Tea Party ancestor) would have been considered the Sans-Culottes class.


John Adams', Thomas Jefferson's, Alexander Hamilton's and James Madison's writings

Grouped these together, but please read all of the American Founding Fathers' writings. They all offered different takes on republicanism and resolving the controversies of the governing system.

John Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, Lee, Rutledge, Washington-- I'm not kidding, read them all! Just like I'd advise for the French Revolutionaries, they all have their own perspective and words that are very important and were influential to future revolutions.

The Peasant Prince

A very engaging biography on Kosciuszko, who was involved in the American Revolution, had many opinions on the French Revolution and was involved in his own rebellion in Poland. A Pole who came to help in the American Revolution returned to Poland and helped the democratic struggle against the empires who were planning on conquering Poland (which was a superpower at one point)

Kosciuszko was also strongly against slavery, and overall a very strong supporter of human rights.

Do you know of any more books that do a wonderful job of explaining this era of history?

I have not read enough about the Haitian Revolution, or the Latin American Revolutions to know which sources to recommend. My main word of advice is to go to the primary sources of the revolutionary leaders and see their words for yourself.

It is interesting to note how many of these writings were connected, Simon Bolivar was known to enjoy both the American Founding Fathers' writings and the French Revolutionary writings (wow, the guy had excellent book taste!)

Toussaint L'Ouverture as well was very interested in many of these writings especially for equal rights as he saw the double standards on the slavery question. He led the Haitian Revolution.

As I mentioned before, both the American and French Revolutionaries were all very well educated on a number of sources and philosophies. I feel that a key to understanding the Atlantic World Revolutions is to read as many perspectives and angles as possible and to see the connection of it.

Each of these revolutions had their strengths and flaws, just as each of their leaders had their strengths and faults. It was a very exciting time full of great changes, and the power of the people to overthrow despotic regimes that have been in power for hundreds of years.

History is a very dramatic subject with no dull moments, and this is one of the most dramatic parts of it.

Due to the drama and heated moments, this part of history also is infamously oversimplified. Reading some of these primary sources will enrich your knowledge of this period.

Good luck citizen!




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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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