During 1777, the Americans had a chicken-and-egg problem with the French. They needed a big victory over the British to secure French support, but they needed French support in order to score a big victory over the British. They got it, in the form of clandestine infusions of money and guns from the French, crucial for the victory at Saratoga in October. After the winter supply crisis at Valley Forge had passed, other problems remained. Upwards of 300 officers departed from Valley Forge, some in anger, frustration, or despair, others implored to come home by their spouses. Discontent with Washington's leadership of the army was fueled by Washington's failures at Brandywine and Germantown, followed by his inability to resist Howe's final drive into Philadelphia, and the misery of Valley Forge. To the rescue came Benjamin Franklin, America's chief emissary in France, who negotiated the alliance that kept the Americans in the war and spelled Britain's ultimate defeat in a war of attrition. How did Franklin do it?

The most important book by an Englishman watching the French Revolution comes from the pen of Edmund Burke.

Edmund Burke,

Reflections on the Revolution in France,

Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (June 15, 2009),

ISBN 0199539022


Alexis de Tocqueville ,

The Old Regime and the French Revolution,

Anchor; First Thus edition (October 1, 1955),

ISBN 0385092601

About the Author:

From Wikipedia: Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (born July 29, 1805, Paris, died April 16, 1859, Cannes) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution(1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies. Democracy in America (1835), his major work, published after his travels in the United States, is today considered an early work of sociology and political science. An eminent representative of the classical liberal political tradition, Tocqueville was an active participant in French politics, first under the July monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I.

Amazon Reviews:

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) wrote many books, but his best-known one is probably "Democracy in America". Despite that, reading "The Old Regime and the Revolution" (1856) is essential in order to understand how much Tocqueville contributed to an accurate analysis of the present and past of his society, and to Political Science.

Why is "The Old Regime and the Revolution" a classic?. Why do teachers keep recommending it to their students?. In my opinion, the answer to both those questions is that this book is an example of the kind of work a political scientist is capable of producing, if inclined to do so. Here, Tocqueville doesn't pay attention to the conventionally accepted truth, but looks beyond it, in order to form his own opinion. And when the result of that process is shocking, he doesn't back down bounded by conventions: he simply states his conclusions.

In "The Old Regime and the Revolution" Alexis de Tocqueville does what at his time was considered more or less unthinkable: to put into question the revolutionary character of...the French Revolution. He said that the only way to understand what happened in 1789 was to study the previous social processes, and to find what they have in com Thurs. with what came about later. This change of perspective was radical, but effective. It didn't presuppose anything, and so it helped the author to arrive to a seemingly strange conclusion: that the French Revolution had not only continued with the social processes that were taking place in France, but accentuated them. For example, the governmental centralization was much worse after 1789. In a way, then, the French Revolution only carried forward with what the Old Regime had already started.

On the whole, I recommend this book mainly to those interested in French History and Political Science. It isn't overly easy to read, but you will realize that it is full of interesting information, and permeated by a painstakingly careful analysis regarding social processes that is remarkable. In my opinion, "The Old Regime and the Revolution" is a book that you won't regret buying :)


Gordon S. Wood,

The American Revolution: A History,

Modern Library,

ISBN 0812970411


Here is a PDF document you can download and print with Prof. Thompson's reading for the whole quarter.

AmRevRec Reading