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Ruth Scurr offers a substantial introduction to Carlyle and his masterwork, followed by a series of carefully selected extracts. In 1837 Thomas Carlyle published his two-volume work The French Revolution: A History and overnight became a celebrity. The work was filled with a passionate intensity, hitherto unknown in historical writing. In a politically charged Europe, filled with fears and hopes of revolution, Carlyle's account of the motivations and urges that inspired the events in France, became powerfully relevant. Carlyle's style emphasised this, continually pointing to the urgency of action - often using the present tense. For him, chaotic events demanded 'heroes' to take control over the competing forces erupting within society. In Carlyle's view only dynamic individuals could master events and direct these energies effectively. As soon as ideological formulas replaced heroes and human action society became dehumanised. As Dr Scurr shows in her masterly introduction and through the texts she has selected from Carlyle's masterpiece of historical writing, The French Revolution needs still to be read for its relevance and as one of the finest examples of English prose writing ever. Continuum Histories will attract a new generation of readers to some of the greatest narrative history ever written. Each volume includes a dramatic episode from a major work of history, prefaced with an introduction by a leading modern authority.
Dr Ruth Scurr is Director of Studies for Politics and International Affairs at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. She is also a Lecturer in Politics in The University of Cambridge. Her most celebrated book Fatal Purity - Robespierre and the French Revolution was published by Chatto and Windus in 2006. Dr Scurr writes regularly for The Times, TLS, Telegraph, Observer, The New York Review of Books and The New York Observer.