French Revolution Essay

Book Review of “Reflections on the Revolution in France” by Edmund Burke

The book I decided to review is Reflections on the Revolution in France. London: Revised Apollo Press, 1814 by Edmund Burke. The book was first published in 1790; it is a primary source authored by an English politician and philosopher that criticizes the Revolution in French adversely and, at the same time, presents fundamental reasoning that supported it (Burke, 1814).

Choice of the Book

The main reason for selecting this book for review is that it is a primary source authored by an English politician, who personally witnessed the dynamics and occurrences of the French Revolution. As a result, the content of the book provides reliable information presented from the expert’s viewpoint on the exact events that took place during the French Revolution. Furthermore, I was able to access the whole content of the book together with the background information, circumstances, and context, in which it was written. This fact made it easy for me to explore the book in details.

Topical Summary of the Book

Reflections on the Revolution in France is a book whose main theme is the portrayal of the events in the then France and observations of the dynamic constitutional process. This book describes the role of revolutionary English groups responsible for various occurrences in France at the time. In addition to these reflections, the writer goes on to explain how this group was used in the misrepresentation of the monarch changes on the English land (Burke, 1814). I can conclude that this book is all about frivolous decisions during the Revolution.

From the writer’s point of view, England possessed an old and high tradition of respect to the kingdom, religion, social class, and a developed democratic system; therefore, policies and political destination of the country would have appeared aliened for France (Burke, 1814). Surprisingly, the author disapproves the whole idea even after researching a good number of the key issues.

Reflections on the Revolution in France reviews in details the activities of the French parliament at the time. Major organs of the government including the legislature, judiciary, and executive branches, and the armed forces are discussed precisely. Each of these organs is studied critically, and various flaws and shortcomings associated with each are pinpointed. Consequently, the complex appraisal of these issues led to the disapproval of the free government establishment in France.

The author reflects on the French government as an aristocratic institution where few people comprise the ruling class. The author, however, states that a system of ruthlessness was used to deal with the opponents of the regime. The Legislative Assembly employed the “Mob Rule,” which the author disapproved and criticized fairly. The revolutionaries followed the rightwing opinion, which was not only foreign, but also destructive to the French government and nation in general (Burke, 1814).

Instead of direct democracy as the main government system in France, the author advocated for implementation of equal representation. Burke (1814) suggested a governing system where organs would possess virtues of transparency, accountability, vigilant on checks and balances with defense mechanisms of basic rights provision and prevention of any government intrusion. In his arguments, Burke (1814) advocated for constitutional transformation in reforming and stabilizing the political and economic situation in the country, instead of the revolutionary overthrow.

Information about the Time when the Book Was Written

This book reflects on political and governmental dynamics during the French Revolution of the end of the 18th century. It states that this period was characterized by extreme political turmoil and mutiny from the revolution lists. Burke (1814) also shows that the period from 1789 to 1799 in the French Revolution had not only a major influence over France but also the European continent in general. After the fall of the monarchy, which had been in power for many centuries, there was a quick wave of transformation; at last, France enjoyed the supremacy of law, good governance, and protection of human rights.

This drastic change was a result of establishment of the reformist wing in political movements and street disturbances. Ultimately, this social tension led to overthrowing of the monarchy and establishment of the citizenship democracy and equality principles. The book also manifests the confidence of masses in the newly appointed powers during the period right after the Revolution (Burke, 1814). In this way, people could now enjoy freedom after years of suffering from the oppression regime.

Better Understanding of the Period

Burke (1814) characterizes the French government system effectively making me understand the situation and facts surrounding the events at the time. The Revolution indicated that human rights had been abused continuously on a daily basis for many years to a level that people could not tolerate it any longer. This oppression led to the emergence of group of citizens, who backed up revolutionaries, demanding the rights of equality and justice for the masses. However, the author helped me understand that the revolution leaders were characterized by reckless destruction and demolition of basic institutions established by the society. This insight made me understand that these revolutions were using revolt in boosting changes.

The Author’s Approach

Burke (1814) used a philosophical approach in writing Reflections on the Revolution in France. He is impartial to the Revolution, as well as to the French monarch. However, he evaluated them critically in accordance to their actions and intentions. To be precise, the author considers revolution as an unconstitutional, illegal, and dangerous to society occurrence. He is extremely skeptic about the approaches used by revolutionaries in demand for the changes. Burke (1814) is also of the opinion that the current system of the government should be respected and, to bring changes, the revolutionaries should alter reality through constitutional amendments. He believes that governmental institutions should be changed only when the projected changes guarantee benefits to every individual.

Evidence Used by the Author to Support His Points

The author uses a variety of evidence to support his arguments in the book. For example, he argues that the law and right of inheritance played a key role in the implementation of national continuity. With this argument, the author supported constitutional tool as an effective agent of change instead of revolution. Burke (1814) had seen how these rights were implemented in England successfully; among the examples are Magna Carta and Declaration of Right. Burke (1814) also insists that, if people are provided with social order, private property, and adherence to doctrine value, political doctrines cannot be a subject to abuse. Through all his evidence, Burke advocated for societal rights and liberties, which were essential tools for immunity against tyranny.

My Reflections on the Book

After going through the book, page by page, my view of the topic the book covered has not changed much. Instead, the book has enabled me to internalize the meaning and comprehend the result of the Revolution. This understanding is facilitated by the fact that the prophecy put forward by Burke (1814) came to pass. According to his prediction, a charismatic favorite with a good soldier command would eventually become the republic leader. The practical applicability of his points and passing of his prophecy helps me understand the topic in details.

Comparison of What I Have Learnt and the Approach Taken in the Book

The type of approach employed by the author conforms completely to the course subject I have learnt. This book covers the history of Europe of the time, as well as its influence on the rest of the world. It describes the events as they occurred, why they occurred, the time they occurred, and the consequent of their occurrences. In addition, the book focuses on the early life of the European people and the source of the government system present today in various nations.


Burke, E. (1814). Reflections on the revolution in France. London: Revised Apollo Press.