Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vendee by Charles Tilly - Guest Review by Ben

*** Periodically I will feature guest reviews on this blog.  This is Ben's first and is an insightful and concise review of a real historical tome.***

Book: Vendée

Author: Professor Charles Tilly 

Grade:  B+ 

Recommended To:    Any European Historian Worth His or Her Salt 

Charles Tilly is the kind of historian that makes you want to quit trying to be a historian and just sit back and read history.  He constantly challenges accepted historical thoughts, but he is never revisionist (I am not a fan of revisionist historians, I'm looking at you, Goldstein).  His treatise on the Counter-Revolution of the Vendee is no exception.

Professor Tilly's Vendée is a fairly dry read by historical standards, he first examines the accepted historical rubric for the Counter-Revolution in the Vendée (CR in the V, from here on out).  He rules out the standards of French history text; the Peasants were not all that Rural! He Yells!  The Vedeans were not all that good Catholics, He shouts! and lastly, Everyone hated the Draft Laws!

If all of this is lost on you, no worries, as herein lays the problem for the reader.  The book is not incredibly user-friendly.  The reading is dry, the writing is addressed to students of French history.  To be honest though, it ought to be a little dry,  Tilly spent months pouring over the last will and testaments of many Western French nobles, as well as the tax records of the 1st Republic.  It's dry stuff, and I personally am very glad that I did not have to sit in a moldy French cellar with a glass of wine to learn about why the accepted facts of the CR in the V were wrong.  Tilly does the work for us.

When Professor Tilly does finally make his point, it's a bombshell.  He claims that geographical determinism - in this case, the market and economic forces of barley farming vs. winegrowing - is the REAL culprit of the CR in the V.  Again, dry but excellent (similar to a good Bordeaux). 

The CR in the V is an incredibly historical event, that deserves attention.  It holds key historical events, like the first targeted genocide in western culture, as well as dashing heroes and triumph and tragedy.  Charles Tilly's book is not the best way to learn about it for the first time, but it compliments historical knowledge in this area incredibly well (I think I'm out of wine lines). 

Lastly, read in concert with Fernand Braudel's A History of Civilization, to really rock your world. 

Happy Reading!



  1. This is a very well thought out review. It would be interesting to read additional guest reviews from Ben and others.

  2. Nice! I love real history!! =)