The French Revolution— Volume 2

Author: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine


In this volume, as in those preceding it and in those to come, there will be found only the history of Public Authorities. Others will write that of diplomacy, of war, of the finances, of the Church; my subject is a limited one. To my great regret, however, this new part fills an entire volume; and the last part, on the revolutionary government, will be as long.

I have again to regret the dissatisfaction I foresee this work will cause to many of my countrymen. My excuse is, that almost all of them, more fortunate than myself, have political principles which serve them in forming their judgments of the past. I had none; if indeed, I had any motive in undertaking this work, it was to seek for political principles. Thus far I have attained to scarcely more than one; and this is so simple that will seem puerile, and that I hardly dare express it. Nevertheless I have adhered to it, and in what the reader is about to peruse my judgments are all derived from that; its truth is the measure of theirs. It consists wholly in this observation: that


Hence the difficulty in knowing and comprehending it. For the same reason it is not easy to handle the subject well. It follows that a cultivated mind is much better able to do this than an uncultivated mind, and a man specially qualified than one who is not. From these two last truths flow many other consequences, which, if the reader deigns to reflect on them, he will have no trouble in defining.

H. A. Taine, Paris 1881. ----------------------------------------------------------------------


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Chicago: Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, "Preface," The French Revolution— Volume 2, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The French Revolution—Volume 2 (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2022,

MLA: Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe. "Preface." The French Revolution— Volume 2, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The French Revolution—Volume 2, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: Taine, HA, 'Preface' in The French Revolution— Volume 2, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The French Revolution—Volume 2, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2022, from