On the Spot: Ruth Scurr

‘Timing is everything.’

Coronation of Napoleon in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804. Louvre/Wiki Commons.

Why are you a historian of the early modern period?

I am an early modernist when the French Revolution is included in that period.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you? 

That timing is everything. 

Which history book has had greatest influence on you?

Robert Roswell Palmer’s Twelve Who Ruled: the Year of Terror in the French Revolution (1941). 

What book in your field should everyone read?

Rebecca Spang’s Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution (2015).

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

Napoleon’s coronation as emperor at Notre-Dame de Paris, 2 December 1804.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Plutarch, because he was also a biographer.

Which person in history would you most like to have met? 

Napoleon Bonaparte, of course.

How many languages do you have?

Too few.

What historical topic have you changed your mind on?

The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815. 

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