Fatal Purity

Robespierre and the French Revolution

Ruth Scurr

A Metropolitan/Holt Paperbacks Book

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“Judicious, balanced, and admirably clear at every point. This is quite the calmest and least abusive history of the Revolution you will ever read.”
—Hilary Mantel, London Review of Books

Since his execution by guillotine in July 1794, Maximilien Robespierre has been contested terrain for historians. Was he a bloodthirsty charlatan or the only true defender of revolutionary ideals? The first modern dictator or the earliest democrat? Was his extreme moralism a heroic virtue or a ruinous flaw?

Against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution, historian Ruth Scurr tracks Robespierre’s evolution from provincial lawyer to devastatingly efficient revolutionary leader, righteous and paranoid in equal measure. She explores his reformist zeal, his role in the fall of the monarchy, his passionate attempts to design a modern republic, even his extraordinary effort to found a perfect religion. And she follows him into the Terror, as the former death- penalty opponent makes summary execution the order of the day, himself falling victim to the violence at the age of thirty-six.

Written with epic sweep, full of nuance and insight, Fatal Purity is a fascinating portrait of a man who identified with the Revolution to the point of madness, and in so doing changed the course of history.

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Book Excerpts

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Preface 
My dear Croker,
 
I wish you would think seriously of the History of the Reign of Terror. I do not mean a pompous, philosophical history, but a mixture of biography, facts and gossip: a diary of what really took place with the best authenticated likenesses of the actors.
 
Ever yours,
 
Robert Peel1
 
Soon after he received this letter from his friend Sir Robert Peel, the once and future Tory prime minister, John Wilson Croker packed his bags for a seaside holiday. Although he was a prominent literary and political journalist and was

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Praise for Fatal Purity

"Ruth Scurr does for Robespierre and the French Revolution what Quentin Bell did for Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury: she apprehends the complete personality of the man, the moment, and the movement. A work of genuine scholarship and political literature, Fatal Purity is an electrifying biography of an epoch's vaulting ambitions and wounded pride, radical vision and terrifying uncertainty, bracing heroism and decimating energies." -- Corey Robin, author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea


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About the Author

Ruth Scurr

Born in 1971, Ruth Scurr studied at Oxford and Cambridge, where she currently teaches politics and history. A prominent literary critic, she has written for The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement. Fatal Purity is her first book.

Ruth Scurr

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Available Formats and Book Details

Fatal Purity
Robespierre and the French Revolution
Ruth Scurr

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Henry Holt and Co.
A Metropolitan/Holt Paperbacks Book
April 2007
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780805082616
ISBN10: 0805082611
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 448 pages, Includes sixteen pages of black-and-white pictures
$20.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Metropolitan Books
April 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466805781
ISBN10: 1466805781
432 pages, 2 8-pg b&w inserts
$7.99
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Holt Paperbacks

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