Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Popular history is perceived as inferior work by most academics, but Furtado – a master of this genre – persuaded 25 professional historians to contribute footnote-free essays for this noteworthy volume. He limited his own role to writing short introductions to each case but challenged the authors to examine how the dramatic political upheavals, easily recognized as revolutions (not bothering with a definition), some in the distant past and others more recent, are impacting on the present-day national identities and discourses. There are, inevitably, disappointing lacunae in this chronologically organized collection: The uprising in South America led by Simon Bolivar is omitted, as is the sequence of French revolutions in the XIX century. In China, only the Communist revolution is included, so Sun Yat-sen does not even make it to the index. Researchers investigating the waves of 'color revolutions' would be upset finding only the case of Ukraine (which puts together its two 'Maidans'), and scholars dealing with the turmoil in the Arab world can examine only the 2011 uprising in Egypt in the last chapter of the book. Yet, those who work on extrapolating current revolutionary trends as well as those who tend to treat every revolution as sui generis may benefit from revisiting the protests of 1968 (described as 'Student revolution') and comparing them with events of the 1848 'Year of Revolutions'. The legacies of some seemingly epochal breakthrough, like the 1917 Russian revolution, have faded away, while others – like the 1979 Iranian revolution – are still generating severe international repercussions. It is the 1776–88 American revolution that remains unique in the scale of philosophic and political output that continues to be reinterpreted.