Robert R. Palmer exemplified the best that historians have to offer. He wrote with conviction, empathy, and at times passion, yet he always managed to maintain balance and portray both the good and the bad in the people and events he brought to life for his readers. Because he wrote with conviction, he also wrote with exceptional clarity. He never displayed the impulse to hide behind highfalutin language, contorted prose, or excessively specialized topics. He believed that democracy was an absolute good, that it had its origins in European history, and that its rise provided one of, or even perhaps the principal theme of all of modern history. As a consequence, he never lost his sympathy for the French revolutionaries of 1789–1794, however terrible their actions, however much they fell short of living up to their ideals.

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