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French Revolution Notes

History Notes > General History X: Europe 1715-99 Notes

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Contents

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The Terror Tutorial
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Presentation -- W. Doyle
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'Revolution' -- K. M. Baker
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The Sovereignty of the Nation -- M. Cranston
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Presentation -- P. Jones
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Presentation -- G. Lewis
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Federalism -- A. Forrest
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Presentation -- D. D. Bien
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The French Revolution 1770--1814 -- F. Furet
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Introduction -- K. M. Baker
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The Terror after the Terror: An Immediate History -- M. Ozouf
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The Terror before the Terror? Conditions of Possibility, Logic of Realisation -- B.
Baczko

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Revolutionary Violence, the People and the Terror -- C. Lucas
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The Local Politics of Repression -- A. Forrest
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The Oxford History of the French Revolution -- William Doyle
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France 1789--1815 Revolution and Counterrevolution -- D. M. G. Sutherland

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The Terror Tutorial

Historiography
! Does the Terror have its root in 1789?

~ Logical consequence?
Or did something happen after 1789?
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! Comparison to the 'bloodless revolution' in England

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Furet -- the Terror used the rhetoric of weakness => governmental strength
~ More of a political analysis
~ Rejection of Marxist historiography
! Most French historians until the late 1960s were Marxists
! Late 60s -- backlash against communism in Europe

~ Furet was one of the first to speak out against this atmosphere in France --
provocative to link it to the French Revolution

~ Foundation in France -- yet Furet said they were no better than Stalinists

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Furet -- Terror is a necessary part of revolutionary ideology
~ Role of Rousseau => general will -- revolutionary government embodies this

~ Robespierre -- virtue is the defining quality for participating in the state

~ Rousseau -- sovereignty in the people
Baker -- sovereignty from elector to elected
Rousseau -- The Social Contract
~ Geneva -- republican city--state
~ Very different context
~ Interpreted differently
~ Militarism is a civic virtue -- ancient republicanism
Shift from the lower middle class to the upper middle class being terrorised
~ Upper bourgeoisie and clergy executed doubled 1793--4
Lower down -- less clear that it was ideologically motivated
Furet can be seen to only be referring to referring to revolutionary Paris -- not
generalised
~ Yet would see it as the course of the Revolution
Lyon -- rich centre of France
~ Bourgeoisie were targeted
Economic rioting in Paris used by Hebert
Conspiracies
~ Defeats due to royalism
~ Food shortages due to an aristocratic plot
Utilisation of popular violence -- used to advance an ideological vision
The Terror cannot be distinguished from revolutionary government
Robespierre is trying to cut the links from popular, crowd violence
~ 14 frimaire -- Terror diverges from government => impossible to restrain?

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Furet -- each revolutionary government tries to advance revolutionary discourse and
then claim it back and end the Revolution
1789 -- complete change in where power is located in society?
1789 v. 1793
~ When is the bigger break?
~ 1789 -- continuity with demand for reform
American Revolution -- major input in France
Third Estate in France did not want a split in legislative and governing powers as in
America and England

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Furet -- Revolution in its purest form ends in Thermidor
When did the Revolution end?
~ Napoleon? -- can still be seen as part of it

~ Similar to Robespierre and virtue
Most traditional say it ends around Napoleon

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Terror starts after the September Massacres -- popular movement
Furet etc. -- roots in 1789
Execution of Louis XVI is another starting point


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Ends in Thermidor -- interesting that it ends so easily
Before 14 frimaire the majority of executions were in the provinces
~ 1794 -- most executions are in Paris
Before 1794 the major issue was war -- the root cause of the Terror is external to Paris
Robespierre -- no longer seen as expressing the popular voice
~ Sans--culottes National Guard would not assemble for him
Terror was seen as necessary in times of war
Issue of communications
The Terror destroys French revolutionary government in the form of Robespierre but it
shows its strength at the time
Consistent weakness and political instability
Is the Terror a conscious decision?
~ Develops erratically -- used for own ends
Able to defend itself -- if there was no Terror would France have won the revolutionary
wars?
~ Enforced conscription and cooperation
Link between the Terror and war -- most important outcome of the Revolution
Link between the Terror and the bureaucratic state?
Armies were localised -- not one bureaucratic state

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How much was it a conscious decision of government to start this new popular army?
~ General conscription
~ Did take some innovative central decisions
Must recognise that you are taking a specific historiographical approach
~ Particular ideological approach to the French Revolution
~ Historiography is a topic in itself

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Presentation -- W. Doyle
(The Political Culture of the French Revolution -- C. Lucas (ed.))
(Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1988)
pp. 1--10

Conviction that they could start again from the beginning

~ Lockean tabulae rasae -- did not have empty minds

~Particularly in the first stage of the Revolution
When did people begin to talk of 'revolution'?
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~ Did it take up until the fall of the Bastille?
! Meaning of the Revolution emerged piecemeal

~ As did that of the Ancien Regime
Up until 1789, most believed that France had no constitution -- fundamental purpose of
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the National Assembly was to give it one

~ Model must have been America -- British Constitution was a mere body of
customs with a corruptible parliament
! True constitution had to be written

~ Must embody certain principles -- must recognise the sovereignty of the Nation

~ Guarantee human rights and ensure the separation of powers


~ The British were ruled out


~ Still issues with the democracy of the American constitution and vetoes
! Ancien Regime -- Revolution's first brand new creation => particular phenomenon
referred to

~ Only meant certain aspects of the past

~ Until 1792 it does not appear to have included the idea of monarchy


~ Only when the Revolution became antimonarchical did monarchy come to


be seen as a feature of the Ancien Regime
! Deputies of the Third Estate, without consent of majority in either of the other 2 orders,
assumed national sovereignty in June => from then on the Estates--General became a
National Constituent Assembly representing and speaking for the French Nation

~ Further ambiguities of representation
! Remained the uneasy feeling that deputies ought to be guided by what their electors,
the Nation's citizens, thought

~ Further idea that wherever possible or practical the Nation should be able to

pronounce on matters not through representatives at all but directly

~ Would haunt the whole Revolution
'The French insisted on locating sovereignty explicitly in the Nation and the effect of
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that was to bequeath endless problems about identifying a true expression of the
national will' (p. 8)

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'Revolution' -- K. M. Baker
(The Political Culture of the French Revolution -- C. Lucas (ed.))
(Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1988)
pp. 41--62
Growth in the popularity of the term
18th century -- 'revolution' was associated with change and disorder => frequently but
not exclusively political
~ Plural meaning -- order was thought of as unitary while change and disorder were
understood as having many different manifestations
~ Past understanding -- something that had already occurred
~ Outcome of events rather than a project of human action

~ Revolution therefore had no internal chronology or dynamic of its own
Notable exception in relation to the Glorious Revolution of William III
~ This 'Revolution' was a true return to the fundamental laws of an earlier state
that had been subverted by a succession of 'revolutions' in the course of earlier
reigns

~ Equation with 'return' or 'restoration'

~ Atypical of 18th century usage
Much writing on revolutions against the Huguenot appreciation of England -- implicit
point of reference in the political continuity and order to which French absolutism
aspired

Mably
! 'Reversing the perspective of absolutist historiography, Mably saw English history as the
achievement of a sustained political order through the constant assertion of national
political will, French history as a collapse into disorder and discontinuity' (p. 45)

~ Constant recurse of the English to Magna Carta

~ French were unable to establish any such fundamental law as the basis for a
settled constitutional order
! 'In equating the growth of monarchy in France with failure to achieve an established
political order on the basis of a sustained national will, Mably was also denying the
vision of the French monarchy as a settled constitutional order in which royal power was
limited by fundamental laws' (p. 46)

~ Monarchical despotism -- French inability to assert a sustained political will
! Mably was chiefly concerned to overcome the profound French fear of political conflict --
absolute monarchy depended on this fear for its legitimacy
! Enlightened monarchy would seek to advance the cause of monarchy -- could use an act
of revolution to improve the situation
! Mably outlined a revolution where the Estates General would insist upon a regular
system of national representation before proceeding to a series of reforms that would
eliminate abscess and institutionalise the rights of the nation
! Mably bitterly attacked the refusal of the parlement of Paris to subordinate institutional
self--interest to the common good -- if the parlements had effectively sustained the
principle of the 'union des classes' then it would have been impossible for Maupeou to
destroy them

~ The Maupeou coup and the manner in which the French accepted it confirmed

Mably's fears

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'The displacement from the political to the social, from the vicissitudes of thrones and
governments to the progress of civil society, lay at the heart of Enlightenment
thinking' (p. 50)
! Enlightenment philosophy discerned other revolutions apart from the political

~ Longer--term social and cultural transformations

~ Revolution in the human mind

~ Linked this cultural transformation to a profound and irreversible change in civil

society

~ Universal implications -- fundamental to the mechanism of human progress

~ No longer merely applied to past events -- constituted a domain of lived
experience => new expectations
! 'In this sense, the Enlightenment itself was a profound revolution already underway:
lived as a process of cultural transformation, it was already separating past from present
and reorienting expectations toward the future' (p. 51)

~ Fundamental claim of the Enlightenment that is represented a process of
universal transformation -- world--historical revolution in human affairs
! New culture of intellectual expectation -- political events began to have new meaning

~ Profound and universal implications of the American assertion of independence

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Languor's Annales politiques -- perhaps the most compelling journal of the
prerevolutionary period

~ Warning of approaching revolution -- as crisis, as the decisive point in which a

society will live or die

~ Lamented abolition of serfdom as a poisoned liberty freeing the masses only for

the exploitation upon which European prosperity now depended ~ Either the
oppressed, contained by military force, would expire in silent misery, or they would rise
up in favour of liberty

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Most widely--read revolutionary journal in Paris and throughout France -- the Revolutions
de Paris

~ Evolution in the course of 1789

~ Was originally just one publication => periodical

~ Philosophy was now becoming important due to the misery of the populace

~ 'This juxtaposition of misery and enlightenment is a constant feature of the
account of the genesis of the revolution offered by the Revolutions de Paris' (p. 57)


~ Emphasis constantly shifts
Transformation from historical fact to (as Mably had hoped) political act -- will of a
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nation reclaiming its history
! Could no longer think of it as a historical outcome -- insuperable problem of bringing the
Revolution to a close

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