Bill Scott here charts the attack on a restricted kind of social history, the Marxist interpretation of the French Revolution. Just as a new revisionist political history of the revolution was coming into being on the one hand, wider intellectual movements in the 1960s led to a rise of “cultural history” that was much broader than the political approach. Undoubtedly stimulating, opening up new perspectives, this new history is nevertheless akin to interpretations put forward as early as the revolution itself, and in the nineteenth century. Too-rigid lines of demarcation can create new blindnesses. Cultural history does not supersede previous approaches, but ideally should complement them. In some areas it has yet to fulfill its promise, notably by taking up the challenge of reintegrating the missing commercial bourgeoisie into revolutionary history.
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