Sunday, February 28, 2010

The French Revolution by Nesta H. Webster

February 2002

An English lady, "Mrs. Arthur Webster," writes in 1919 a book about the French Revolution which depicts everything as a German-inspired criminal conspiracy. This is the first book I have ever encountered which has no publication information except the date. It must have been "privately printed."

It's an extraordinary book. Because she tells the story as a conspiracy led by, and against, people, it hangs together as a narrative as books driven by analysis of economics do not. She also quotes sources which look very solid, very primary: Desmoulins on Mirabeau, Prussian emissaries on Frederick himself. Yet every conspiracy theory is supposed to have a leap of illogic at its heart, which it is the historian's duty to find. I am too ignorant to yet find Mrs. Webster's -- except that -- who on earth was Nesta Webster?

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