The Rise of Napoleon in the Coup of 18 Brumaire

On the morning of 18 Brumaire, Lucien Bonaparte falsely persuaded the Councils that a Jacobin coup was at hand in Paris. Introduction The Coup of 18 Brumaire brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul of France and in the view of most historians ended the French Revolution. This bloodless coup d’état overthrew the[…]

The Organizational Chaos of the French Revolution

Some citizens were more equal than others. Introduction Throughout the 18th century, France faced a mounting economic crisis. A rapidly growing population had outpaced the food supply. A severe winter in 1788 resulted in famine and widespread starvation in the countryside. Rising prices in Paris brought bread riots. By 1789 France was broke. The nobility[…]

Subject to Citizen, Kingdom to Nation: Changing Notions of Identity in the Age of the French Revolution

What did it mean to become a citizen of the new nation? Introduction In 1789 the people of France began a revolution that would bring profound changes to their country’s political and social order. These changes came especially fast during the first six years: The Revolution started with the establishment of the National Assembly and[…]

“Courtesans of the King”: Diplomats and the French Revolution

French revolutionaries aimed to jettison the old order and everything associated with it. During the Revolution, the committed often targeted nobles for opprobrium – or death. The diplomatic corps[1] was particularly vulnerable because, like the officer corps of the army, it was dominated by aristocrats. Studying the careers and fate of such men who often[…]

Between Two Republics: American Military Volunteers in Revolutionary France

Most of these Americans left behind little evidence explaining why they took up arms for the French at a time when the official policy of the United States was one of neutrality. Introduction Historians have long recognized the vital contributions of French soldiers and officers to the American colonists during the American Revolution. Without the[…]

Politics and Class, 1790-1794: Radicalism, Terror, and Repression in Southern France

Popular uprisings and resistance to taxation played havoc with the nine departments into which the National Assembly divided Languedoc. Between 1789 and 1793, popular uprisings and resistance to taxation played havoc with the nine departments into which the National Assembly divided Languedoc. Counterrevolutionaries organized a series of military assemblies between 1790 and the spring of[…]

Robespierre, the Duke of York, and Peisistratus during the French Revolutionary Terror

Pisistratus’s story as a tyrant of Athens offered a powerful script for interpreting Robespierre’s actions, and a cue for resistance. Dr. Simon MacdonaldFellowInstitut d’études avancées de Paris Abstract Maximilien Robespierre was deposed on 27 July 1794/9 Thermidor Year II when the charge that he was a tyrant burst spectacularly into open political discussion in France.[…]

Memories of Fear in the Early French Revolution

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” These words could have been reasonably spoken at almost any time during the French Revolution, as actual and imagined threats seemed both constant and ubiquitous.[1] This was certainly true of the days surrounding the storming of the Bastille. In the evening of Sunday, July 12, 1789,[…]

Maximilien Robespierre, a Violent Flash in the Populist Pan

His name is associated with the Reign of Terror which claimed thousands of lives of “enemies of the Revolution.” Introduction Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (May 6, 1758 – July 28, 1794) was one of the primary leaders of the French Revolution. His supporters knew him as “the Incorruptible” because of his austere moral[…]

On 1793 and the Aftermath of the French Revolution

Many British radicals interpreted the early events of the French Revolution in mythic terms – akin to the Christian apocalypse. In 1789, many British radicals interpreted the early events of the French Revolution in mythic terms, as signs that a cataclysmic event, akin to the Christian apocalypse (entailing the renovation of the fallen world), was at hand—and that, paradoxically, human beings[…]