“Marie-Antoinette and the French Revolution” on PBS: history lite

Marie Antoinette PBS

Marie Antoinette french revolution PBS

I have not seen the PBS film, and can’t comment on it, but the site is worth a visit. It is lavishly illustrated, and I found the parts on Versailles particularly interesting.

The site also includes interviews of British historians Simon Schama and Lady Antonia Fraser. No French scholars? Not even Simone Bertiere, who is, in my opinion, THE biographer of Marie-Antoinette? Chantal Thomas? Sorry, apparently not.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t deny Britons, or people of any other nationality, the right to study and discuss that era and its characters, but it is called the French Revolution for a reason. What if PBS featured the American Revolution without interviewing a single American historian?

Now that I got my French peeve out of the way, let’s talk about the tone used to describe the “famous faces” of the Revolution. Marie-Antoinette is The Teen Queen. For the record, she was 33 at the beginning of the Revolution. But wait, there is more: Necker, the Comptroller General of Finances, as Monsieur Moneybags? Robespierre as Mad Max? Is this appropriate for what purports to be a serious work?

In addition, be warned that the same Famous Faces part contains significant errors, in particular with regard to the crucial issue of the drive to war. I haven’t combed through the entire site for similar inaccuracies, but they may be found elsewhere.

So enjoy the pictures, they are gorgeous, and take the rest with a grain of salt.

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