A People’s History of The French Revolution

Join French author and publisher Eric Hazan for a discussion about his most recent book, A People’s History of The French Revolution (Verso, 2014). Outside its borders, France is still often perceived not only as the country of human rights declarations, but also as the one that remorselessly beheaded its aristocracy, starting with its most eminent representatives. Although these bloody pages of French history have exercised a hold on the world’s imagination for more than 200 years, it remains difficult to find an account of the French revolution from the people’s viewpoint. That’s exactly the angle chosen by Eric Hazan, author of the superb The Invention of Paris, and the result is nothing short of splendid.

Looking at history from the bottom up, providing an account of working people and peasants, Hazan asks, how did they see their opportunities? What were they fighting for? What was the Terror and could it be justified? And how was the revolution stopped in its tracks? The People’s History of the French Revolution is a vivid retelling of events, bringing them to life with a multitude of voices. In the hands of Eric Hazan, the revolution becomes a rational and pure struggle for emancipation. In this new history, the first significant account of the French Revolution in over twenty years, Hazan maintains that it fundamentally changed the Western world – for the better. 

In English. Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary.


Eric Hazan is the founder of the French publishing house La Fabrique, as well as the author of several books, including Notes on the Occupation and the highly acclaimed The Invention of Paris. He has lived in Paris, France, all his life.

Ben Kafka teaches cultural history and critical theory at NYU. He is the author of The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (Zone Books, 2012) and co-editor of History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History.

Ted Widmer is a historian based at Brown University.  As Assistant to the President for Special Projects, he just completed a history of Brown University, due in May 2015.  From 2006 to 2012, he was the director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, one of America’s premier centers for research into early American history, including the history of the French presence in North and South America.  He majored in French and American history and literature at Harvard University, although he admits to far more experience on the American side.  Nevertheless, he has held several visiting appointments at French institutions.  In addition to his many books on American history, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and the Boston Globe, where he has a monthly column.