The year of terror is one of the most complex and misunderstood periods in the French Revolution. Palmer, in his book, Twelve Who Ruled, however, takes this period and skillfully turns it into a written masterpiece. The book is narrated from the point of view of someone with an omniscient knowledge of the subject matter, who is reflecting back on the period from the outside.
The book tells the story of a brief moment in history when twelve men (Robespierre, Barere, Saint Just, Couthon, Lindet, Carnot, Saint-Andre, Prieur, Varenne, Herbois, Scholles, and Duvernois) ruled France; even though they were technically under the control of the Convention. Palmer begins by giving the reader an overview of who the twelve men were before they became rulers of a nation. He then goes on to discuss the purpose of the Committee of Public Safety, and the organizational structure of the terror. Palmer then smoothly moves on to discuss the "foreign plot" and how the committee dealt with it. He goes on to explain the "Doom at Lyons" by giving a very detailed description of the events that went on there. Palmer then proceeds to depict the missions at Alsace and Brittany. In the last few chapters of the book, he slowly and carefully shows the winding down and eventual collapse of the Committee of Public Safety's power.
Throughout this book, Palmer does an exquisite job painting the collage of the twelve men's ride to the top upon the horse of the committee of Public Safety. He wonderfully combines each man's individual actions with the more general problems that the Committee of Public Safety confronted. He discusses in detail the policies adopted to defend the Revolution, as well as how and why they were put into effect.
The layout of the chapters in the book is extremely logical; they are basically put in chronological order. The fact that Palmer takes the time to give a full historical background of the twelve men shows...