History and Historiography

Burke on the Inhumanity of the French Revolution

By Bradley Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

The grand Anglo-Irish statesman, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) spent much of his last eight years dwelling upon the French Revolution as well as trying to define its most important elements. If the British failed to understand the “armed doctrine” of the Revolutionaries as a religious sect, with the French looking for nothing less than a re-doing of the most violent aspects of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, they would fail miserably to understand the movement as a whole. They could not pretend it was merely a political party or a new way of thinking about government. They must understand that the Revolution would never rest without conquering the entire world. In this, Burke states with some shock value, they were superior to their enemies, as they knew what kind of war they waged.

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