The Best French Revolution Books For Adults And Kids:

Here are some of the best French revolution books for anyone curious about this tumultuous time in French history that brought down the French monarchy and sent shockwaves across the world.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  

The French revolution was an important historical event in European and French history that many historians and history buffs have tried to explain. Here are some of the best French revolution books for anyone curious about this tumultuous time in French history that brought down the French monarchy and sent shockwaves across the world.
Besides the storming of the Bastille, the execution of the King and his wife Marie Antoinette by guillotine, and what you’ve seen in the movies, how much do most of us know about this seismic event that radically transformed France, ended French aristocracy, and made Napoleon Bonaparte the emperor of France?

IMAGE of wealthy Marie Antoinette from movie

What do you want to know about the French Revolution?

In a nutshell, the decade-long revolution which started in 1789 and ended in 1799 was caused by widespread discontent with the French monarchy and the poor economic policies of King Louis XVI (the king during the french revolution).

Inspired by the American Revolution (another bourgeoisie revolution), France saw that America had created an independent and United country where the people had power instead of a king.

Those are the broad strokes but with 10 years of revolutionary history to learn about, there’s a lot more information to wade through.

The good thing is, there are a plethora of books written about the French revolution, but which one is right for you? 

The best French Revolution books are the ones that answer your burning questions in a format that you can digest. 

The Best French Revolution Book Should Cover some or all of the major historical events (that interest you).

Timeline of the French Revolution major events

Here’s a brief outline of some of the Major Historical Events of the French revolution. Not all books cover all the topics, so when searching for a book, make sure it covers the areas you’re interested in. 

  1. The royal treasury is empty, France is broke: August 8th, 1788
  2. Revolution Begins, Call of the Estate Generals: May 5, 1789
  3. Members of the third estate take the Tennis Court Oath demanding certain rights from the king:  June 20, 1789
  4. The revolution begins with the storming of the Bastille: July 14, 1789
  5. Abolition of Feudalism:  August 4, 1789
  6. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted:  August 26, 1789
  7. A large group of market women march from Paris to Versailles demanding lower bread prices:  October 5, 1789
  8. Civil Constitution of the clergy: July 12, 1790
  9. King Louis XVI and the Royal family attempts to flee Paris to Varennes but are captured: June 20, 1791
  10. Champ de mars massacre: July 17, 1791
  11. The first invasion of the Tuileries: June 20, 1792
  12. The overthrow of the monarchy: August 10, 1792
  13. The execution of King Louis XVI by guillotine: JANUARY 21, 1793
  14. 6 month Reign of Terror, 16k people were executed by guillotine due to Jacobin and Girondin conflict: September 5, 1793- July 28, 1794
  15. Execution of Queen Marie Antoinette by guillotine: October 16, 1793
  16. The coup of 18th Brumaire: November 9-10, 1799
  17. The French Revolutionary Wars: series of military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802.
  18. Leader of Jacobins, Robespierre arrested and executed: July 26 -28, 1794
  19. “La Marseillaise” is adopted as the national anthem of France: July 14, 1795
  20. End of the revolution, Napoleon overthrows the directory and becomes the leader of France: November 9th, 1799
  21. The Aftermath of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: May 18, 1803 – November 20, 1815.
  22. Louis XVIII was placed on the French throne, Napoleon exiled: July 8th, 1815

You mighe be interested in readingBastille Day: France’s Independence Day vs. American Fourth Of July Explained

Best Books on the French Revolution

Whether you want a narrative of the French Revolution, a comprehensive historical interpretation, or something along the lines of historical fiction, here are some of the best books about the French revolution for just about anyone’s reading style.

I’ve also included some children’s books on this list. 

**Disclaimer: Although I haven’t read all these books about the French revolution. I waded through a sea of book reviews and comments from people who read them and picked the best or most popular ones based on my findings.

Napoleon: A Life

An extremely well-written book, and a real page-turner. This is a great introduction to the life & times of Napoleon Bonaparte, exhaustively research. Roberts, the author is the first biographer to make full use of the 33,000 letters Napoleon wrote.

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02/19/2024 07:56 am GMT
Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution

For those of you looking for further insight into the Reign of Terror. It focuses mainly on the year when the Committee of Public Safety ruled and examines their actions and reasons behind them. It also delves into the lives of the 12 men who ran this committee and discusses the rise and fall of the committee of public safety extensively, leading up to the execution of Robespierre.

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02/20/2024 06:52 pm GMT

French Revolution Books For kids or young children

Who Was Marie Antoinette?

For grades 3-7 and ages 8 to 12 years old. 112 pages.

Often credited with the famous quote "Let them eat cake," this is an interesting mini-biography about Marie Antoinette, the Austrian teenager who married the King of France only to be executed by guillotine during the French revolution. She was also the last queen of France.

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02/18/2024 05:16 pm GMT
Who Was Napoleon?

For grades 3 - 7, ages 8 to 12 years old.

A fascinating biography about Napoleon Bonaparte. Born in Corsica, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, his family was more Italian than French. This is a quick well-written book full of facts about how this boy found his life calling after graduating from military school in France and went on to become the emperor of France after the French Revolution.

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02/19/2024 01:16 am GMT

Beginners or introduction to the French revolution: easy reads

French Revolutions For Beginners

This 197-page book takes a difficult subject and gives the reader a high-level look at the French revolution. Perfect for anyone curious but who doesn't want an in-depth long winded historical book.

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02/20/2024 12:43 pm GMT

This 188-page book is a good introduction to the French revolution. It's written in straightforward language for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the issues.

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02/22/2024 12:42 pm GMT
Louis XVI and the French Revolution
$29.95 $26.95

An excellent and vivid historical description of the life and times of King Louis XVI of France. This biography focuses primarily on the parts of his life that help the reader understand this private, unassuming man who never wanted to be king while learning more about the French revolution.

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02/18/2024 01:16 pm GMT
The Days of the French Revolution
$18.99 $13.86

This is a narrative history of the French Revolution, from the Estates-General's meeting at Versailles to the coup d'état of Brumaire, which brought Napoleon to power. 

The author presents complex ideas in a readable format with plenty of historical background and detail without sacrificing clarity or narrative flow: perfect for the general reader unfamiliar with Revolution history.

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02/18/2024 05:46 pm GMT

All-Encompassing Books about the French revolution

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

First published in 1989, this 500+ page book usually makes it to everyone's list of best French revolution books. It's an authoritative and comprehensive one-volume history from the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, through revolution, terror, and counter-revolution to the final triumph of Napoleon in 1802.

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02/19/2024 05:56 am GMT
A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

Extremely well-written and documented, an all-encompassing book about the French revolution. Jeremy Popkin takes nearly half a century of research and teachings and somehow turns dry history into a page-turner. It's a reflective, fascinating study that takes its time with each major event.

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02/19/2024 12:31 pm GMT
Reflections on the Revolution in France

Written by EDMUND BURKE (1729-1797) Considered one of his most important works, this is an informative book by one of history’s great political thinkers. However, styles of writing and speaking have changed in the two and a half centuries since Burke wrote this book. You need to be willing to plow through flowery prose to find the essential truths about the French revolution buried within.

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02/19/2024 11:41 am GMT
The Old Regime and the French Revolution (Illustrated)

If you need a deeper understanding of the root causes that led to the french revolution, this book by Tocqueville is for you. First published in 1941, it's remained in print ever since and is a crucial part of the study of the French Revolution to this day. His book explores 18th-century society and its political system. He provides an in-depth explanation of the causes of the revolution, how it was inevitable, discusses the political theories and explores the themes of democracy, social inequality, and freedom and how they're connected.

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02/20/2024 06:58 pm GMT

Historical Fiction Books About The French Revolution

I’m a big historical fiction fan and Phillipa Gregory fan also. Here are some historical fiction books about the French revolution that’ll make you feel as if you’re actually there. 

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

Historical fiction: Most of the world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax sculpture artist. Beginning in 1788, this is her amazing story from the beginning of the revolution to the Reign of Terror, where an estimated 40,000 people, most of whom were guilty of nothing, were put to death by the guillotine. Madame Tussaud brings us into the world whose talent for wax modelling saved her life. More or less forced to create wax images of the severed heads in the guillotine basket, she preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

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02/19/2024 12:16 pm GMT
A Tale of Two Cities

Written in 1859, this is Charles Dickens's second historical novel. Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, French Doctor Manette is imprisoned in the Bastille in Paris for 18 years and released to live in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met. The story is set against the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

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02/21/2024 12:53 pm GMT

Odd and unusual 

Where Did They Put the Guillotine?-Versailles to the Faubourgs Volume 1 A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris

Ross, the author, brings the streets of Paris to life. He takes you to the actual buildings, places, and sites, making it possible to stand in the very spots where the French Revolution's tragic events took place. All the while learning about actual events.

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02/19/2024 10:16 am GMT
Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped
$14.99 $11.99

Whenever someone implies that history is boring, the author likes to mention Napoleon's penis. Apparently, it was sliced off during the autopsy and stolen by his sleazy physician. A urologist living in New Jersey purchased the modern-day relic for $3,000 and stored it under his bed until he died 30 years later. His daughter inherited Napoleon's penis and had offers of at least $100,000, YUCK!. This book details this and other scandalous private lives and intimate details of famous people in history.

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02/26/2024 07:43 pm GMT

Tip on finding the best book for you

Before purchasing any book, if possible, read a snippet of the book first to see if you like the writing style.  This is a feature that many online booksellers allow you to do before purchasing a book. I’ve found a few books that I thought looked interesting to me but then when I read the first chapter, I found that the writing style was too dry, or written in a style that was too flowery for my taste. 

Another tip is to listen to the sample chapter of an audible book. 

Good luck and happy reading. 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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