The French Revolution and Historical Materialism

Selected Essays


This text reasserts the Marxist view of the French Revolution as a bourgeois and capitalist revolution. Based mainly on articles published in the journal Historical Materialism it challenges the still dominant revisionist view of the French Revolution. It serves to restore the close tie between the history of the Old Regime and the Revolution. It demonstrates that the rise of a bourgeois capitalist class has a long history dating back to the sixteenth century. Moreover, it shows that the Revolution itself played a large role in strengthening the bourgeoisie politically and economically while bringing about the unification of financial and productive capital. Indeed, it shows that the rising of the masses during the Revolution, viewed by revisionism as economically regressive, in fact helped to bring about the consolidation of capitalism.

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Henry Heller is Professor of History at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of The Bourgeois Revolution in France 1789-1815 (Berghahn Books, 2006) and The Capitalist University: The Transformation of Higher Education in the United States: 1945-2016 (Pluto Press, 2016).
"The French Revolution, a collection of articles and (review) essays previously published in Historical Materialism, is a must read. In it, Heller sets out to challenge the revisionist history associated with this historical event... [The book] gives credence to the usefulness of historical materialism, and in a significant way settles the score, to date, between liberal and radical interpretations. In this reviewer's opinion The French Revolution has set the standard for Marxist interpretations for years to come. For this reason alone, it should be read." - Jean-Pierre Reed, Southern Illinois University in: Marx & Philosophy Review of Books [Full review]
Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Introduction: French Revolution and Historical Materialism
Chapter 2 Jaurès
Chapter 3 Review of Paysans et seigneurs en Europe: une histoire comparée, XVIe–XIXe siècle, Guy Lemarchand, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2011
Chapter 4 The Longue Durée of the French Bourgeoisie
Chapter 5 Response to Henry Heller’s ‘The Longue Durée of the French Bourgeoisie’
by William Beik
Chapter 6 Henry Heller and the ‘Longue Durée of the French Bourgeoisie’
by David Parker
Chapter 7 Response to William Beik and David Parker
Chapter 8 French Absolutism and Agricultural Capitalism: A Comment on Henry Heller’s Essays
by Stephen Miller
Chapter 9 Stephen Miller on Capitalism and the Old Regime: A Response
Chapter 10 Marx, the French Revolution, and the Spectre of the Bourgeoisie
Chapter 11 Review of Jeff Horn, The Path Not Taken: French Industrialization in the Age of Revolution, 1750–1830
Chapter 12 Bankers, Finance Capital And The French Revolutionary Terror, 1791–4


This work will be of interest to historians, political economists, graduate and upper-level undergraduate students.
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