Early Radicalism in England, France, and Vietnam

Two book reviews (in German and English)

Burgess, Glenn; Festenstein, Matthew (Hrsg.): English Radicalism, 1550-1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007. ISBN 052180017X; 381 S.; EUR 84,00.

Rezensiert für H-Soz-u-Kult von:
Robert Friedeburg, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Erasmus University Rotterdam
E-Mail: [mailto]vonfriedeburg@fhk.eur.nl[/mailto]

Sollten Begriffe, die zu einem bestimmten Zeitpunkt eine bestimmte bis heute gültige Bedeutung in der politisch-sozialen Sprache erhalten haben, ohne weiteres zur Beschreibung von Zeiten genutzt werden, in denen ihre Bedeutung gänzlich anders war, oder in denen sie gar nicht bestanden? Alexander Grays "The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin" aus dem Jahre 1946 ist nur ein Beispiel in Jonathan C. D. Clarks Beitrag, wie unbefangen die englischsprachige Geschichtswissenschaft mit diesem Problem bis in die Gegenwart umgegangen ist und teils bis heute umgeht.
Zwar sind im deutschsprachigen Raum die Veröffentlichungen von Reinhard Koselleck rund um die Geschichtlichen Grundbegriffe ein unerhörter Fortschritt auf dem Wege, sich Rechenschaft über die historische Entwicklung wichtiger Begriffe der historisch-politischen Sprache zu geben. Aber die teils breite Rezeption der englischen Debatte um einen "Republikanismus" in der Frühen Neuzeit etwa hat keineswegs immer die Bedeutung schon des Begriffs ‚res publica' mitreflektiert. Und der Autor erinnert noch recht gut, wie sich Rainer Wohlfeil im Hamburger Hauptseminar zur Reformation auch mit der These einer ‚frühbürgerlichen Revolution' auseinandersetzen musste.

Heller, Henry: The Bourgeois Revolution in France, 1789-1815 (= Berghahn Monographs in French Studies 5). New York: Berghahn Books 2006. ISBN 1-84545-169-4; 184 S.; $ 36.50.

Rezensiert für H-Soz-u-Kult von:
Bertel Nygaard, University of Aarhus, Denmark
E-Mail: [mailto]bertel.nygaard@hum.au.dk[/mailto]

This new book by Henry Heller, Professor in History at the University of Manitoba, is a Marxist defence of the traditional social interpretation of the French Revolution as bourgeois and capitalist. It is thus an attack on the widely-debated wave of 'revisionism' that has gained a strong position within historical studies of the French Revolution since the 1960's, denying any significant connections between the French Revolution and the transition to capitalism and generally opting for political, cultural, ideological or discursive modes of interpretation rather than social ones.

In this respect Heller continues the older tradition of 'the social interpretation' of the Revolution, associated particularly with Georges Lefebvre and Albert Soboul. These older Marxists, however, studied history 'from below', focussing mainly on the lower classes. In their accounts, the capitalist bourgeoisie was not the main agent of revolutionary change, but was rather reaping a capitalist harvest sown by sans-culottes and the poorer peasants as an unintended consequence of their anti-feudal, and often anti-capitalist, actions. Heller instead stresses the class agency of the bourgeoisie and its class consciousness rapidly emerging through the revolutionary process. In doing so, his analysis of the Revolution is radically different from those of other contemporary Marxists who have accepted core elements of revisionist critiques while retaining an insistence on heterodox social modes of interpretation - say George Comninel or Florence Gauthier.


Published by [mailto]H-War@h-net.msu.edu[/mailto] (November, 2007)

George Edson Dutton. The Tay Son Uprising: Society and Rebellion in Eighteenth-Century Vietnam. Southeast Asia Series. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006. ix + 293 pp. Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $52.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8248-2984-1.

Reviewed for H-War by Eva Goldschmidt, Department of Chinese Studies, University of Heidelberg

Overrated Rebels
The present study explores the dynamics of the Tay Son era, 1773 to 1802, by analyzing and focusing on the relationship between the Tay Son leaders and the multiple social, ethnic, and economic groups that constituted eighteenth-century Vietnamese society. George Edson Dutton challenges the popular interpretations by Vietnamese Communist historians that the Tay Son uprising was an expression of collective peasant will and that it was a prelude to the establishment of modern Vietnamese society. By employing a great variety of Vietnamese and European primary and secondary sources, he develops a new picture of the Tay Son uprising: the cause of the uprising was economic hardship, not political discontent. The Tay Son brothers' rule did not improve the lot of the Vietnamese peasants, and while they did help to shape the borders of modern Vietnam, they never reunified the country under their rule.The four chapters of the book are organized around the three Tay Son brothers, the protagonists of this era, and the different social groups that supported them and shaped the Tay Son period.

In his first chapter, Dutton outlines the geographical, economic, and political landscape of Dai Viet prior to the Tay Son uprising, underscoring the factors that led to the uprising and giving a brief summary of the Tay Son era. Dai Viet, under the nominal rule of the Le dynasty, was actually ruled by two powerful clans, the Trinh clan in the north and the Nguyen nobility in modern central-southern Vietnam. The sharp decline in overseas trade and exorbitant tax burdens under Nguyen rule prepared the setting for the uprising. This originated in the Western Mountains or Tay Son in central Vietnam and was led by a discontented betel nut trader and tax collector named Nguyen Nhac.Nguyen Nhac, his younger brother Nguyen Hue, and to a far lesser degree Nguyen Lu became actors on a crowded political and military scene and were more driven by the events than in control of them.