Bastille Day

by David Frum

In honor of the French national day, a link to Francois Furet's classic essay, "The French Revolution is Over." It opens (my bad typing, please excuse):

Historians engaged in the study of the Merovingian kings or the Hundred Years War are not asked at every turn to present their research permits. So long as they can give proof of having learned the techniques of the trade, society and the profession assume that they possess the virtues of patience and objectivity. The discussion of their findings is a matter for scholars and scholarship only.

The historian of the French Revolution, on the other hand, must produce more than a proof of competence. He must show his colours. He must state from the outset where he comes from, what he thinks, and what he is looking for; what he writes about the French Revolution is assigned a meaning and label even before he starts working: the writing is taken as his opinion ... As soon as that historian states that opinion, the matter is settled; he is labeled a royalist, a liberal or Jacobin.

Then this:

The Revolution does not simply 'explain' our contemporary history; it is our contemporary history. ... For the same reasons that the Ancien Regime is thought to have an end but no beginning, the Revolution has a birth but no end.