Egger’s book of the month: Revolution Francaise

Matthew Egger, copy editor

As the yellow vest protests are coming to an end in France, there is perhaps no better time to read Revolution Francaise by Marie Pedder than the present. While French President Emmanuel Macron had an approval rating of just 23% in early December according to Reuters, his election in 2017 was nothing less than remarkable in French politics. Revolution Francaise, as Pedder states herself in the introduction, is neither an academic text nor a biography of Macron. Rather, it details elements of his life that played a role in his taking power in May of 2017.

When I first opened Revolution Francaise, my knowledge of Macron was limited to my hazy memory of discussions centered on the French election in AP European History during my sophomore year in 2017, and to occasional news articles centered around him. I did not know that his wife is 24 years older than he, and I did not know that his election was an enormous shakeup in French politics; hence the title Revolution Francaise.

As I delved into the book, I received a basic picture of Macron’s background. He was born into a humble middle-class family in Amiens, a city in northern France. He later attended prestigious Parisian universities and became an investment banker upon graduation and prior to the start of his political career.

More importantly, however, I learned how and why Macron took power. In the midst of populist movements taking place in the United States and Britain, Macron reckoned that he could tap into these sentiments and use them to his own benefit. He established his own political party, “En Marche!,” or On the Move!;  formed a sort of centrist platform that undermined both the far-left and the far-right; won the election; and started his tenure on May 14, 2017.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Pedder’s book lies in her ability to describe Macron’s mannerisms and personality. She writes that when conversing with Macron, most people, including herself, state that it feels as if the French president values no one more than who he is speaking within that very moment. Pedder also writes about Macron’s tendency to be a perfectionist and demanding of his subordinates. Macron is quoted as telling his campaign staff, “You can eat. You can drink. But the rest of the time, you have to be working.” Pedder’s writing goes beyond Macron’s political side in describing his interpersonal skills and expectations of those who work with him.

I would recommend Revolution Francaise to any person who is interested in understanding modern French politics or simply curious about a politician with quite a unique personality. Macron is undoubtedly one of the most central figures in European politics and it is important to understand him if one hopes to understand the continent’s political atmosphere. Perhaps more importantly, however, Revolution Francaise describes the traits required to become the leader of one of the world’s greatest icons of freedom and liberalism.