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French Revolution
Exam Revision
• Unit 4
– Area of Study One
• Revolutionary ideas, leaders, movements and events.
– French Revolution 1781 to 4 August 1789
– Outcome One
• On completion of this unit the student should be able
to evaluate the role of ideas, leaders, movements and
events in the development of the revolution.
The Study Design
 Unit 4
◦ Area of Study Two
 Creating a New Society
◦ French Revolution 5 August 1789 to Year 111 (1795) (Declaration of the
Rights of Man and Citizen to the dissolution of the Convention Year
◦ Outcome Two
 On completion of this unit the student should be able to
analyse the challenges facing the emerging new order, and the
way in which attempts were made to create a new society, and
evaluate the nature of the society created by the revolution.
The Study Design
Here We Go...
• AOS1: Revolutionary ideas, leaders, movements
and events.
– French Revolution 1781 to 4 August 1789
The Royal Family
 Where does the royal authority come from?
 Theory
 Political authority- the theory of absolutism
 France did not have a constitution, the definition of royal power was
contained in assorted documents, eg. The Fundamental Laws of the
Kingdom and as an accepted practice.
 Religious authority- the rule by divine right
 The French monarch received his power directly from God.
 Dynasty
 The lineage of the royal family- the idea of a pure bloodlinethe ‘sacredness’ of the king
 Public perception
 Competence- the belief that the King can rule well.
 Benevolence- the belief that the King is a loving father of his
Question: By 1789, do these ideas still exist? Why/why not?
The Royal Family, cont.
 King Louis XVI
 Awkward and timid, no man appeared
less like a king than Louis XVI.
 20 years old when he came to the
throne in 1774.
 On his accession, France was povertystricken and burdened with debts, and
heavy taxation had resulted in
widespread misery among the French
 Greatest fault was that he was always
ready to listen to others and follow their
advice-when this advice was good,
everything was fine; but later in Louis
XVI's reign the advice was bad and it
cost the king his life.
 He was repeatedly under the influence
of the beautiful but frivolous and
extravagant queen, Marie Antoinette.
 He was also swayed by his selfish
courtiers, who opposed any financial
The Royal Family, cont.
 Queen Marie Antoinette
 Youngest daughter of the Austrian
Empress of the Holy Roman
Empire, Maria Theresa of Austria,
and the Holy Roman Emperor,
Francis I.
 Married Louis XVI on May 16,
 Often referred to as Madame
Deficit- due to her luxurious tastes.
 Yet the stories of her excesses are
 Rather than ignoring France's
growing financial crisis, she
reduced the royal household staff,
eliminating many unnecessary
positions that were based solely on
privilege. In the process she
offended the nobles, adding their
condemnation to the scandalous
stories spread by royal hopefuls.
The Social Structure under the Old Regime
•Corporate society
•Made up of powerful
groups, enjoying special
customs, laws and
•‘special deal’ worked
out between the King
and a certain group.
The First Estate- Clergy
•0.6% of the population
•Owned about 10% of the land
•Received tithe from the third estate- 8-10% of
people’s income or value of their crops and livestock.
The Second Estate- Aristocracy/Nobles
•0.4% of the population
•Owned 30% of the land
•Dominated the highest administration roles in France
•Enjoyed tax exemptions- although still paid some taxes
The Third Estate
•Largest group in French society
•Poor, peasants, urban workers, artisans, shopkeepers,
middle-class professionals, bourgeois landowners, and
financiers (millionaires of their age)
What issues exist within the social structure of France and
what impact will this have on future events?
The Enlightenment
• Throughout the 18th century, the thinkers of the Enlightenment criticised the
monarchy, the Catholic Church and the nobility.
• For many historians it was this criticism of the Old Regime, that ultimately resulted
in its demise.
• Found some of its most powerful expression in the works of Montesquieu, Voltaire,
Diderot and Rousseau.
• Their ideas were extremely varied, but generally emphasised using science,
progress and reason to create a more humane world.
The Impact of their Ideas
• The philosophes and other revolutionary leaders felt that their ideas challenged the
old regime.
• Historians argue that they crystallised people’s grievances.
• Yet enlightenment ideas did not reach the majority of people.
• Ideas of the Enlightenment were linked up with newer social movements during
the 1780s, most notable the increasing confidence and ambition of the bourgeoisie
and the growing doubt of some members of the privileged orders.
The Financial Crisis
Actual Cause
•France’s involvement in four
foreign wars
Perceived Cause
•Royal Wastefulness
Institutional Causes
•Wasteful, inefficient tax
Attempts to resolve the Financial Crisis
Tax (fiscal) reforms proposed by Turgot (1774-1776), Necker (1776-1781),
Calonne (1783-1787), Brienne (1787-1788)
Calling of the Estates General 1788
The Impact of the Financial Crisis
Public perception of the King’s competence- declined
Resentment of Marie Antoinette
Resistance by traditional bodies: the Assembly of Notables and the
parlements (the Aristocratic revolt)
Popular agitation
Repression by the King
Marxist Interpretation
• For much of the 20th century the dominant
interpretation of the French Revolution has been
the Marxist interpretation.
• Marxist historians such as George Lefebvre and
Albert Soboul see the Revolution as
predominantly a Bourgeois revolution.
• Yet they see the revolution as going through four
clear stages.
The Aristocratic Revolt- 1787-1789
The Bourgeois Revolt- 1788-1789
The Popular Revolt- July 1789
The Peasant Revolt- July-August 1789
The First Phase- The Aristocratic
Revolt, 1787-1788
• Privileged orders resisted the government’s
attempts to make fiscal reforms.
– The Assembly of Notables (22 February 1787- 25 May
1787, then November- 12 December 1788)
– The Parlements (July 1787)
• Their resistance was crucial, as it prevented the
government from attaining international loans.
• The Monarchy was forced to retreat back into
• This is seen as a ‘trigger’ of the French Revolutionas it progressively drew in the bourgeoisie, urban
working-classes and peasants into the rebellion.
The calling of the Estates General
• As a result of the Aristocratic revolt- popular
resistance began to gathered pace across France
between May and June in 1788.
• By August 1788, the French nation had slid into
• Brienne had no option but the call the Estates
General for 1 May 1789.
Cahiers de Doleances (the Books of Grievances)
• Drawing up of lists of grievances to be presented to
the Estates General
• Nearly everyone in France contributed in some way
to drawing up the books.
• The process created new expectations among all
social groups.
• The process for each estate appears open and fair.
• Yet for the Third Estate a problem arose;
– Majority of peasants were illiterate and had to rely on
local bourgeois to write the document for them- the
process was dominated by the educated middle-class.
– The final ‘general cahiers’ were not a representation of
the Third Estate as a whole.
The Working People- 1788-1789
• The calling of the Estates General led to a surge of
• Yet the situation for the working was about to get
suddenly worse:
– Food crisis- a savage storm in July 1788 devastated
crops around Paris- the result was increasing bread
prices- with some families spending 65%-90% of their
income on basic foods.
– Working people began to link these problems with
current political issues- including the rebelling
– This culminated in the Reveillon Riots of April 1789the beginning of a conflict between rich and poor.
The Second Phase- the Bourgeois
Revolt, 1788-1789
• This was the result of conflict over the Estates
• At the last meeting in 1614- each estate was made
up of roughly equal number of representativesmeaning that the two privileged minority orders
were over represented compared with the large
Third Estate- worse they voted by order- therefore
the First and Second Estate would always outvote
the Third Estate.
The Second Phase- the Bourgeois
Revolt, 1788-1789- cont.
• The provincial assembly of Vizille- proposed a
different system of voting
– Doubling the Third Estate- giving the Third Estate twice
as many representatives as the other two estates.
– And instead of voting by order they vote by head
• Radical pamphleteers (eg. Sieyes) began churning
out pamphlets which suggested this form of
• In December 1788 Necker made half a decision, by
doubling the Third Estate- yet trying to please the
privileged he refused voting by head.
The meeting of the Estates General
• When the Estates General met (5 May 1789) it still
reflected the hierarchies of the Old Regime.
• The matter of voting had still not been settled.
• The Third Estate invited other estates to join it in a
common assembly- they elected Bailly (Mayor of
Paris) as their president (10 June)- members of
the the clergy began to join them (13-16 June)- a
vast majority voted to call themselves the
National Assembly (17 June).
The Tennis Court Oath, June 1789
• 20 June- the deputies of the new National
Assembly- arrived at the Estates General to find
that they had been locked out .
• They marched out of the Palace of Versailles and
to a local tennis court, big enough to hold them
• It was there that the deputies swore the Tennis
Court Oath- under Bailly’s leadership.
– Remain until the nation is given a constitution
• Meanwhile the clergy had voted to join
the national assembly and did so two
days later.
The Third Phase- the Popular Rising,
July 1789
• As a result of all the points above by July 1789 Paris
was ready to explode.
• The King called for military intervention to put an
end to the popular agitation.
• The radical bourgeoisie were challenging royal
authority- they knew that the popular rising could
aid their cause.
• The Parisian crowd was spoiling for a fight- bourgeois
such as Desmoulins and Danton, began calling for the
people to arm themselves and rebel.
• But worse of all the army was beginning to defect.
The Storming of the Bastille
• 14 July, 1789
• 30,000 people attacked Les Invalides, a military hospital- the crowd
looted the hospital and seized a battery of 12 cannons and 40,000
muskets and dragged them across town.
• Their target was the royal prison of the Bastille- believed to be an
emotive symbol of the Old Regime- in search of gunpowder and
– The crowd attempted first to negotiate a handover
– When that failed they broke into the courtyard- the
guards opened fire, killing approx. 98 people
– The crowd was reinforced when approx. 60 French
guard arrived.
– The governor of the Bastille de Launay was forced to
The Fourth Phase- the Peasant Revolt
(The Great Fear), July- August 1789
• News of events in Paris spread to the provincial cities
and countryside- where revolutionary outbreaks also
began to occur.
• This rebellion sprang from the long-term anger over
feudal dues, hunting rights, tithes, royal taxes and
bread prices.
• The bad harvest of 1788 also greatly affected peasant
• A whole village population, led by their officials,
would systematically go from one castle to another,
breaking into the strongroom which contained the
feudal documents and burning them.
The August Decrees- 4 August 1789
• The reports of the peasant revolts terrified the deputies of the National
Assembly- as many bourgeois deputies were themselves landowners.
• This led to the night of ‘Patriotic Delirium’- where attention was paid to the
rebellion in the countryside.
• Nearly 100 deputies (the Breton Club)- asked that the assembly recognise the
grievances of the peasants and relieve them of the feudal dues.
• The debate was chaotic and emotional- some nobles gave up their privilege- this
led to the stirring introduction of the August Decrees- abolishing feudalism
Abolish privilege
Establish equal responsibility for taxation
Abolish venal offices
End of feudal dues.
• Yet this took time as deputies felt financially they could not abolish feudalism
altogether, or cancel feudal dues.
• It was not until 1792 and 1793- that the assembly finally abolished feudal duesas the peasants had simply stopped paying them.
• Summarise the four stages which according to
Marxist historians makes up the French
• By August 1789, who held power in France?
• What were the key revolutionary ideals of
And they all lived happily ever after...
• Remember this Area of Study is about analysing
the impact of ideas, leaders, movements and
events on creating a revolutionary situation in
• So lets think about that now.
• Think about the ideas that came out of the
Enlightenment- ideas relating to Liberty, Equality
and Property- how influential were these?
• Think about the documents we read by Sieyes and
Mirabeau- what were their ideas and how
influential were they?
• What about merit and utility?
• Think about the Declaration of the Rights of Man
and Citizen- this is where many of these ideas were
put into practice.
What were the most significant revolutionary ideals?
Royal Leaders
Think about Louis XVI, Necker, Calonne and
What mistakes did these leaders make, which
ultimately resulted in the revolution?
Think about their response to:
The financial crisis
The calling of the Estates General
The popular rising
Leaders- cont.
Revolutionary Leaders
• Think about leaders such as Mirabeau, Desmoulins, Bailly, and
• These leaders moved quickly and acted decisively as the
events of the revolution where developing and were able to
push the revolution into dramatic new directions.
• Yet many mistakenly believe that these leaders led and
encouraged the popular movement- yet it important to be
aware that the popular movement was very powerful and
radical and needed no encouragement from leaderstherefore they spent a lot of time trying to channel the
energies of the popular movement to serve their purpose.
What was the role of leaders in the revolution, were they the
driving force or did they simply guide the revolution?
• Think about the popular movement, peasant movement, bourgeoisie
movement, aristocratic movement- all very different, yet influential in their
own way.
• Most important was the mass movement or crowd.
• What was its impact?
– The role of the crowd was not new- working people in France
had a long tradition of action or protest and the use of
– The crisis of the French Revolution revealed how strong the
crowd could be.
– Also revealed that working people were not only concerned
with material grievances but also national political issues.
– Through 1789- the popular movement revealed that they
could act independently of the middle-class political leaders.
By August 1789, what was the most significant movement in
the French Revolution?
• Think about the impact of the following events and
think- what would have happened if these did not
• The Assembly of Notables, the battle over the
Parlements, the calling of the Estates General,
drafting the Books of Grievances, doubling the Third
Estate, the Reveillon revolts, the declaration of the
National Assembly, the Tennis Court Oath, the King
orders troops to Paris, the capture of the Bastille,
the Peasant revolt, the ‘August Decrees’
Which events were most significant in
causing the revolution?
So do you know, what you need
to know?
Key Knowledge
This knowledge includes
 the chronology of key events and factors which contributed to the
 the causes of tensions and conflicts generated in the old regime
that many historians see as contributing to the revolution; for
example, rising and unfulfilled class expectations; fluctuations in
economic activity; failed attempts at economic, social or political
reform; perceived social or economic inequality or lack of political
voice; the impact of war or economic crisis that contributed to
revolution such as the harvest crisis and state bankruptcy in the
French economy.
 the ideas and ideologies utilised in revolutionary struggle; for
example, ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity.
 the role of revolutionary individuals and groups in bringing about
change; for example, in France, Sièyes, Lafayette, Mirabeau.
And then...
AOS2: Creating a New Society
◦ French Revolution 5 August 1789 to Year 111 (1795) (Declaration of
the Rights of Man and Citizen to the dissolution of the Convention
Year 111)
Declaration of Rights of Man & Citizen,
(26 August, 1789)
• Its various articles constitute the main
themes of Enlightenment political
thinking, and it espoused ideals of equality
before the law, due process, natural rights,
freedom of religion, free speech, and the
separation of powers
• At the time it was printed in 1000s of
leaflets and distributed around France to
provide propaganda for the Revolution.
• Still forms the prologue of French
What was the purpose of the Declaration of
Rights of Man and Citizen?
Key Individuals
• Lafayette
– Liberal noble
– Appointed
Commander of the
National Guard
• Bailly
– Mayor of Paris
March to Versailles (October 5-6, 1789)
• March by the "Poor Women of Paris" to
Versailles to insist that the King and
Government move to Paris, which they did.
• From now on the government functioned
under threat of mob violence.
The Church (late 1789-1790)
• This period brought massive a shift in power from the Church to the
• On 2 December 1789- The Assembly addressed the financial crisis
by having the nation take over the property of the Church
• In order to rapidly monetize this enormous amount of property, the
government introduced a new paper currency, assignats.
• Legislation enacted in 1790 abolished;
– the Church's authority to levy a tax on crops
– cancelled special privileges for the clergy,
– confiscated Church property.
• The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, passed on 12 July 1790, turned
the remaining clergy into employees of the State and required that
they take an oath of loyalty to the constitution.
What impact did the Civil Constitution of the Clergy have on the new
society in France?
Flight to Varennes (June 20, 1791)
• By mid 1791 the National Constituent Assembly had
begun drawing up a constitution.
• This was a politically moderate document that
attempted to establish a Constitutional Monarchy.
• King Louis XVI, finding himself with less political
power tried to flee France.
• He was stopped at Varennes and brought back on
June 24 a virtual prisoner.
What was the significance of the Flight to Varennes in
terms of the development of
republicanism in France?
Champ de Mars Massacre, 17 July 1791
• Crowd of 50,000 flowed to the Champ de Mars to sign a
petition demanding the deposition of the King.
• Debates exist concerning the events that followed, yet it is
believed that the crowd turned on two suspicious individuals,
preparing to murder them. Bailly called in the national guard,
led by Lafayette, to restore order. Stones were thrown, shots
were fired and suddenly the guards opened fire on the closely
packed crown, about 50 people were killed and many more
• This was a crucial turning point because it was the first time
that revolutionaries had fired upon fellow revolutionaries.
What impact did this event have on the reputation of Lafayette?
Declaration of Pillnitz (August 27, 1791)
• Statement issued by the Habsburg Holy
Roman Emperor Leopold II (Marie Antoinette’s
brother) and Frederick William II of Prussia.
• Called European powers to intervene if Louis
XVI of France was threatened.
• The declaration stated that Austria would go
to war if and only if all the other major
European powers would also go to war with
The Constitution of 1791 (Sept. 3, 1791)
The first constitution of France
The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen became it preamble
It created a French constitutional monarchy
There was much controversy over the level of power granted to the
• After long negotiations, the constitution was reluctantly accepted
by King Louis XVI in September 1791.
• Unicameralism (the practice of having only one legislative or
parliamentary chamber) was adopted as per the proposal of Sieyès,
in order to disable the possibilities of the nobility's overpowering in
the assembly.
• Gilbert's idea of the king's veto also passed.
• Sovereignty, though, was clearly defined as belonging to the
What was the system of government outlined in this constitution?
Legislative Assembly (October, 1791)
• The Legislative Assembly took over
government on October 1 1791.
• With the King unwilling to cooperate, it
proved ineffective, and party conflict
dominated its proceedings.
• This eventually led to a radicalization of the
Political Clubs
• From February 1790 onwards, the revolutionary movement worked
mainly through political clubs. This enabled ordinary citizens to feel that
they could become involved in national politics on this popular level. The
club movement therefore linked up with the popular movement.
– Sans-culottes: (not a club- a social group) literally means ‘without kneebreeches’ and refers to a broad group of urban, working class radicals.
– Jacobins: Founded December 1789. A group of radical democratic republican
deputies elected to the National Constituent Assembly after 1791.
– Feuillants: Founded in 1791 by the constitutional monarchists, which split
from the Jacobins.
– Cordeliers: Founded in 1790 and formed to promote the Rights of Man and
Citizen. Considered to be more radical than the Jacobins. Included many
– Girondans: group of moderate republican deputies elected to the National
Constituent Assembly after 1791. Had a large following amongst the wealthy
– Montagnards (the Mountain): the Jacobin deputies in the Convention.
Supported by the sans-culottes. Made up the majority of the Committee of
Public Safety.
International War
• War breaks out (April, 1792) The beginning of
the French Revolutionary Wars.
• Following the Declaration of Pillnitz, the
Girondins pushed the Legislative Assembly to
declare war against the Austrians.
• The French armies were soon retreating,
which caused radicalization at home.
How did the experience of war in France, add to
the radicalisation of the revolution?
Responses to International War
Panic, paranoia and repressive measures:
– Reports of defeats in the war created panic and then accusations
– Brissotans and Girondins were condemned for starting the war
– Foreigners in Paris were placed under police surveillance
The King
– Fear that he would lead a coup d’etat- radicals began demanding the deposition of the King
– Louis began dismissing radical Girondins from the convention
The Popular Movement (journee 20 June 1792)
– Began demonstrating its power
– Led an attack against the Tuileries, where they forced Louis to wear the red bonnet and toast the
revolution- they demanded an end to Louis’ veto and the recall of the Girondin minsters- Louis refusedthe crowd withdrew.
– The near insurrection made the Girondins more conservative and the Jacobins more radical.
Opening up the National Guard- anyone
The Duke of Brunswick’s Manifesto (25 July 1792)
– Commander of the Austrian-Prussian army, declared the Paris population personally responsible for the
safety of the royal family- if the family were harmed, Austrian troops would subject the entire city to
‘militray execution’ (destruction)
The formation of the Revolutionary Commune
– The original 48 administrative sections of France were transformed into one virtual ‘parliament’- working
people were excluded.
– They were radical- 47 of the 48 units demanded the deposition of the King
The first measures of Terror
Key Individuals
• Danton
– Popular leader and
member of the
– Very influential in
organising the war
– Powerful speaker
Storming of the Tuileries (10 August, 1792)
• Insurgents assailed the Tuileries were the King and Queen had been held.
 At the Tuilleries Palace Louis has only 900 mercenary Swiss guards, another
700 royalist volunteers and 2000 National Guards whose loyalty was doubtful.
 The King fled with his family to the National Assembly
 At the palace the National Guards joined the demonstrators and they asked
the Swiss troops to surrender- they refused and began firing on the crowd.
 The crowd surged the palace, murdering servants and Swiss guards.
 Some were decapitated and their heads impaled on pikes, others thrown from
windows while still dying, and naked bodies of Swiss guards were dragged
away for further desecration.
 About 300 defenders were killed in the
actual fighting, while another 500 Swiss
guard were slaughtered in cold blood.
• The King and queen ended up prisoners
and the Legislative Assembly
suspended the monarchy.
France Declared a Republic
(September, 1792)
• In August and September, 1792, there were mass riots in Paris
(as a result of failures in the war), and the Legislative
Assembly was forced to call for new elections to a National
• The newly formed National Convention first met September
21 1792 and declared France a Republic as its first act.
• This date was later retroactively adopted as the beginning of
Year One of the French Revolutionary Calendar.
French Revolutionary Calendar
• Started from 22 September 1792.
• Note that the Republican calendar was not, in fact, introduced until 24
November 1793.
• It was abolished on 31 December 1805 by the new Emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte, but was used again during the Paris Commune in 1871.
• How the republican calendar worked
– Each year, there were twelve months of 30 days.
– A month was divided into three décades of ten days, with the décade’s last day being a rest day.
It was a criminal offence to close a shop on what before had been a Sunday. That there were
only three rest days a month, instead of four, was unpopular amongst the population.
• The months were called:
Vendémiaire- (22 Sep ~ 21 Oct) wine-harvesting
Brumiare- (22 Oct ~ 20 Nov) foggy
Frimiare- (21 Nov ~ 20 Dec) frosty
Nivôse- (21 Dec ~ 19 Jan) snowy
Pluviôse- (20 Jan ~ 18 Feb) rainy
Ventose- (19 Feb ~ 20 Mar) windy
Germinal- (21 Mar ~ 19 Apr) plant germination
Floréal- (20 Apr ~ 19 May) flowering
Prairial- (20 May ~ 18 Jun) meadows
Messidor- (19 Jun ~ 18 Jul) harvesting
Thermidor- (19 Jul ~ 17 Aug) heat
Fructidor- (18 Aug ~ 16 Sep) fruit harvesting
September Massacres, 1792
• 2 Sept. the Austrian army captured the last fortress before
Paris- stories of women being raped and babies being impaled
on spikes reached Paris.
• This caused panic- generating violence.
• Rumours spread by the popular press that the prisons were full
of conspirators and Marat urged people to go to the prisons
and murder refractory priests and other traitors such
as imprisoned Swiss Guards.
• Executions were carried out
by beating the victims to
death with metal bars.
• At the Abbaye Prison, murder
squads carried hatchets, razors and
saws and under the guidance of a
local butcher, literally hacked 19
priests to death.
Key Individuals
• Marat
– Founder of the
extremist newspaper
L’Amni du peuple
– Associated with the
– Was able to exercise
direct control over the
Parisian mob.
– Continually called for
the blood of the
people’s enemies.
International War, cont.
• Late 1792- the military situation improved.
• Battle of Valmy (20 Sept. 1792) the Prussian
army was devastated by an outbreak of
disease and began retreating to the frontier.
• Battle of Jemappes (6 November 1792) the
French Army defeated the Austrians and
proceeded to caprure most of Belgium.
• This was followed by a declaration of war on
England, Holland and Spain in early 1793.
Louis XVI executed (January 1793)
• Radicals in the National Convention
discovered letters to Austria in which
Louis XVI had supported France's
• The King was tried for treason.
• The vote to condemn was: 28 were
absent, 321 voted for other penalties,
13 for death with a respite, 361 for
immediate execution.
• The majority to execute was thus one
vote. No one thought Louis was
• Civil war in the Vendee region (south-west France)March-December 1793.
• Like the Krondstadt Rebellion in Russia- was
embarassing for the revolutionaries because it denied
the revolution’s very rational (to be improving the
world for the people).
• Carried out mostly by peasants, who felt their situation
was worse as a result of the revolution.
• This began occurring across France- refer to map p.
What was the government’s response to counter
revolution in France?
The Federalist Revolt
• Not technically counter-revolution, because its
members supported the Republic and the
Constitution of 1793.
• Wished to protect the revolution from ‘direct
democracy’ being urged on by the sansculottes in Paris.
• They began a number of rebellions varying in
seriousness during 1793.
• Review map, p. 150
What threats were being placed on the survival
of the revolution during 1792 and 1793 and
how widespread were they?
Key Individuals
• Robespierre
– Initially considered to be
the ‘lawyer of the poor
man’- spokesman of the
working peopledemocratic, attacked
active/passive citizenship,
capital punishment and
demanded an ‘open’
National Guard
– Called to power when
elected to the Commitee
of Public Safety in 1793led to his use of extreme
measures to keep the
revolution alive.
The Committee of Public Safety
• In May/June 1793,there was a new insurrection, and the radicals known as
"the Mountain" seized control in the Convention.
• They appointed a "Committee of Public Safety" in June 1793, a body that
was to rule France for the next year.
• Under the leadership of Maximilian Robespierre, the Committee of Public
Safety functioned as a ruthless but effective government.
• Its policy of "terror" was designed to suppress opposition to the
The Jacobin Constitution, 1793
• Formally made France a republic.
• Was more radical than 1791
• Ideas:
– the people as the source of sovereignty (literally the population
of 28 million)
– Fundamental principles of 1791- equality before the law,
recognition of merit, freedom of thought and worship, basis
upon how laws are made, rules by which arrest, trial and
punishment take place, property was a fundamental human
– The right to insurrection
• Democracy of hold- the constitution was almost
immediately suspended until the revolutionary government
gained peace.
What system of government was outlined in this constitution?
The Reign of Terror (July 1793-1794)
Marked by mass executions of ‘enemies of the revolution’
Was formally accepted by the Convention, through the
creation of the Committee of Public Safety and the Law of
Suspects (document that listed people classified as suspects)
After the murder of a prominent radical Marat, killed by
Charlotte Corday on July 13 1793, the height of the Terror
lasted from Fall 1793 to July 1794.
First Marie-Antoinette and the Royal Family and aristocrats
were executed.
In 1794 the Terror moved to the provinces and included
peasants and sans-culottes.
Finally by Spring 1794 even republicans like Danton faced the
The repression accelerated in June and July 1794 and this
period soon became known as the ‘Great Terror’.
– The backlog of suspects to be tried led to the Committee of Public
Safety passing the Prairial Year II Law (June 10 1794), effectively
reducing the 'trial' process to a simple appearance before a judge
without the right to speak and prompt sentencing.
Estimations of the total number executed during the reign of
terror vary and range from 16,000 to 40,000, including the
many summary executions, mass drownings and other
Hébert’s atheist movement (Cult of Reason)initiated a religious campaign in order to
dechristianise society– waged against Catholicism, and eventually against all forms of Christianity.
– Included the deportation of clergy and the condemnation of many of them to death, the closing of
churches, the institution of revolutionary and civic cults, the large scale destruction of religious
monuments, the outlawing of public and private worship and religious education, forced marriages of the
clergy and forced removal from their priesthood.
– The enactment of a law on 21 October 1793 made all suspected priests and all persons who harbored
them liable to death on sight. The climax was reached with the celebration of the goddess "Reason" in
Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November.
Robespierre did not support the Cult of Reason- as his power increased this became
regarded as counterrevolutionary, extremist enragés such as Hébert were guillotined in the
Spring of 1794.
The Cult of the Supreme Being
– May 1794 Robespierre delivered a major speech to the convention announcing that atheism was evil and
that henceforth a state cult based on Rousseau’s civil religion would exist.
– Decreed the existence God as the ‘supreme being’ and the immortality of the soul.
– On 7 June 1794 the worship of the deistic Supreme Being was inaugurated as an official aspect of the
Revolution and instructed the convention to institute a series of public festivals- the first being the Festival
of the Supreme Being on 8 June- involved great feasts, many long speeches, the burning of effigies,
baskets of flowers, music, statues and children all paying homage to Robespierre’s ‘supreme being’.
– This strict new religion of Virtue was received with signs of hostility by the Parisian public and other
members of French society- did not allow freedom of religion, which angered the population of France
because it contradicted the supposed ideals of freedom of the Revolution.
– Many historians argue that Robespierre's proclamation of the cult as the new state religion in 1794 was
possibly one of the factors that prompted the Thermidorian Reaction.
Key Individuals
• Hébert
– Atheist movement
initiated a religious
campaign in order to
dechristianise French
– Ultimately led to his
Thermidorian Reaction (July 27, 1794)
• The Reign of Terror was genuinely terrifying, and even
radical politicians feared for their own heads when
Robespierre made a threatening speech on July 26th,
• Before he could act, he himself was arrested and
condemned to the Guillotine by the Convention on 9th
of Thermidor.
• Since the end of Robespierre's power came in the new
month of Thermidor, the name of that month was
attached to the entire moderate rejection of the terror.
List some of the key reasons outlined by historians as to
what caused Robespierre’s downfall.
Constitution of Year III (1795)
• In the wake of the Terror,
• the Convention approved the new
"Constitution of the Year III" on 22 August
1795. A French plebiscite (referendum)
ratified the document, with about 1,057,000
votes for the constitution and 49,000 against.
• The results of the voting were announced on
23 September 1795, and the new constitution
took effect on 27 September 1795.
What system of government was outlined in this
So do you know, what you need
to know?
So what should you know?
• Key knowledge
• the contribution of individuals and groups to the creation of the new society;
for example, in France, Danton, Marat and Robespierre.
• the cause of difficulties or crises faced by the revolutionary groups or
governments as a new state was consolidated; for example, the revolutionary
war in France.
• the response of the key revolutionary individuals, groups, governments or
parties to the difficulties that they encountered as the new state was
consolidated; for example, Jacobin Terror in France.
• the compromise of revolutionary ideals; for example, the radicalisation of
policies; for example, during the authoritarian rule of the Committee of Public
Safety in France.
• the changes and continuities that the revolution brought about in the structure
of government, the organisation of society, and its values, and the distribution
of wealth and conditions of everyday life.
Key Questions AOS2
• What impediments were there to the creation
of a new society?
• What were the responses to these
• How did he new regime cope with ruling the
new society?
• How/Did the new regime realise its ideals?
The history of the French Revolution is highly debated and there
are a range of interpretations of it. Below is a brief outline of
three key groups.
• Mostly held by 19th century and early 20th century French
historians - often viewed as being the conservative stream of
• Accused of simplifying and romanticising descriptions of the
• View the revolution from above- from the viewpoint of those
who dominated society, such as the nobles and bourgeois.
• Tend to focus on the achievements of the constitutional
monarchy of the National Assembly, disowning later, more
radical events.
• The ordinary people were seen as undifferentiated mass, who
reacted predictably (by rioting) to food shortages and who
followed the political lead of the upper classes.
• Dominant interpretation of the French Revolution for much of the 20th
• Often socialist ideals, viewing the Revolution “from below”, favouring
explanations in terms of class.
• The revolution was made up of four stages: first there was the
“aristocratic revolution” of the Assembly of Notables and the Paris
Parlement in 1788; then the “bourgeois revolution” of the Third Estate;
then the “popular revolution” symbolised by the Fall of the Bastille; and
then finally the “peasant revolution” represented by the “Great Fear” in
the provinces and the burning of chateaux.
• Sees a rising capitalist middle-class (bourgeoisie) overthrowing a dyingout feudal aristocratic ruling class and instilling a capitalist society in
France - also focussed heavily on the role of the lower classes and in
particular the sans-culottes as a vital revolutionary force, particularly
during the years 1792-94 - noted that their support was necessary to
enable the bourgeois leaders to achieve their outcomes - rejected the
idea of the mob and saw that the lower classes had their own ideas and
institutions, which were often opposed to one another.
• George Lefebvre, Albert Soboul, George Rude
Beginning with Alfred Cobban in 1954 – attacked the “social interpretation” (Marxist) of
the Revolution.
It was not the capitalist bourgeoisie (business-men or merchants) who led the
revolution, but instead lawyers and other professional men – believed the revolution
retarded the development of capitalism in France, as by 1799 industry still remained
Believe that there was no class-struggled between the nobles and bourgeoisie as rich
bourgeois could buy noble offices and therefore what they wanted to do was join the
nobility rather than get rid of it - both nobles and rich bourgeois formed part of the
same elite class.
Maintain that the abolition of privilege and noble status did not significantly change the
nature of the elite which ruled France, birth was no longer important, but wealth was.
Focus a lot of their attention on the counter-revolution - this had little to do with
international agents or aristocratic plots - it was wide-spread, lasting and popular,
covering large areas of France between 1793-97 - it is seen to be the cause of much of
the radicalisation of those years, including the Terror, the failure of constitutional
government and the eventual need for a dictator.
Some saw violence as being a central factor in the revolution; Simon Schama claimed
that it was “not the unfortunate by product of the revolution, [but] the source of its
Alfred Cobban, George V. Taylor, Simon Schama, Richard Cobb, William Doyle and Lynn