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French Revolution Resources

louisdeath.jpg (16631 bytes)In 1789, most observers viewed the revolutionary developments in France as the nothing less than the fulfillment of the Enlightenment's promise -- the triumph of reason over tradition, and liberty over tyranny. It seemed that by making a revolution, the French had ushered in the dawn of a new Jerusalem.

The ostensible cause of the revolution was a French financial crisis (the nation was bankrupt thanks to the wars of the Louis XIV). Between June and November 1789 the bourgeoisie, aided by uprisings from the people of Paris, were able to gain control over the state and institute reforms. During this so-called "moderate stage" of the revolution, the bourgeoisie abolished the special privileges of the aristocracy and clergy, drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, subordinated the church to the state, reformed the country's administrative and judicial systems and drew up a constitution creating a parliament and limiting the king's power.

Between 1792 and 1794 came the "radical stage" of the revolution. Three issues propelled the revolution in this direction. First, the urban poor or sans-culottes, wanted the revolutionary government to do something about about their poverty as well as counter-revolutionaries. Second, the clergy and aristocracy had mounted a counter-revolution to undue the reforms of the revolution. Finally, France had gone to war with European powers that sought to check French expansion and to stifle the revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality.

Louis XVI was dethroned and a republic established in 1792. In January of the following year, Louis met his fate at the guillotine. The republic was now faced with internal insurrection and foreign invasion. In June 1793 the Jacobins took power and mobilized the defenses of the nation. To deal with counter-revolutionaries, the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror under the supervision of Maximilien Robespierre. The Terror was responsible for the death of 20-40,000 people, many of them innocent. When moderate Jacobins found themselves in control in the summer of 1794, Robespierre himself fell victim to the Terror and was guillotined.

In the 19th century, the ideals and reforms of the French Revolution spread in waves across Europe. In country after country, the ancien regime was challenged by the ideals of liberty and equality. Not only that, the ancien regime was also challenged by history itself, a history the French Revolution helped to create.

More Information
Bastille Day and the French Revolution (1789) Explained (student project)
British Newspaper Coverage of the French Revolution
Chronology of the French Revolution

Decree Abolishing the Feudal System (Hanover)
Eighteenth Century Resources
French Revolutionary Pamphlets
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution

Links on the French Revolution

The People and the French Revolution
Revolution and After: Tragedies and Farces

Select Bibliography

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Blanning, T. C. W., ed. The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution. Chicago, 1996.
Brewer, J. The Common People and Politics 1750-1790s. Chadwyck-Healey, 1986.
Cobb, Richard. The Police and the People: French Popular Protest 1789-1820. Oxford, 1970.
Cobb, Richard. "The Revolutionary Mentality in France". In A Second Identity. Oxford University Press, 1969.
Cobban, Alfred. A History of Modern France. Rev. ed. Penguin, 1965.
Cobban, Alfred. Aspects of the French Revolution. Jonathan Cape, 1968.
Cobban, Alfred. The Social Interpretation of the French Revolution. Cambridge, 1964
Doyle, W. Origins of the French Revolution. Oxford, 1980. 
Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford, 1989.
Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. "Who intervened in 1788? A Commentary on the Coming of the French Revolution". American Historical Review 71 (October 1965), pp. 77-103. 
Forrest, Alan, The French Revolution. Blackwell, 1993. 
Furet, Fran�ois. Revolutionary France 1770-1880. English trans. Blackwell, 1992.
Furet, Fran�ois, and Denis Richet. The French Revolution. English trans. Macmillan, 1970.
Furet, Fran�ois, and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. English trans. Harvard, 1989.
Godechot, J. The Taking of the Bastille. Trans. Jean Stewart. Faber & Faber Ltd., 1970. 
Greer, D. The Incidence of the Terror during the French Revolution, a statistical interpretation. Harvard, 1935. 
Hampson, Norman. Prelude to Terror: The constituent assembly and the failure of consenses, 1789-91. Blackwell, 1988. 
Hampson, Norman. A Social History of the French Revolution. Routledge, 1963.
Hampson, Norman. The Terror in the French Revolution, General Series 103. (Historical Association, 1981).
Hill, Draper, ed., The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray. Dover, 1976. 
Hufton, Olwen. "Women in Revolution 1789-1796". Past and Present 53 (November 1971), pp. 90-108. 
Hyslop, Beatrice Fry. A Guide to the General Cahiers of 1789. Octagon Books, 1968. 
Jones, Colin. The Longman Companion to the French Revolution. Longman, 1988. 
Kennedy, E. A Cultural History of the French Revolution. Yale, 1989. 
Lefebvre, Georges. The coming of the French Revolution. Trans. R.R. Palmer. Princeton, 1971. 
Lefebvre, Georges. French Revolution 2 vols. Columbia, 1962-64.
Lefebvre, Georges. The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France. Princeton, 1973.
Lewis, Gwynne. The French Revolution: rethinking the debate. Historical Connections. Routledge, 1993. 
Mason, Laura and Tracey Rizzo, eds. The French Revolution: A Document Collection. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Palmer, R. R. The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America. 2 vols. Princeton, 1964.
Palmer, R. R. Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution. Princeton, 1941, 1969.
Palmer, R. R. The World of the French Revolution. Harper, 1971.
Roberts, J. M. The French Revolution. Oxford, 1978.
Rud�, George. The French Revolution: Its Causes, its History, and its Legacy. Grove Weidenfeld, 1988.
Rud�, George. The Crowd in The French Revolution. Clarendon, 1959.
Schama, Simon. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. Knopf, 1989.
Soboul, Albert. The French Revolution 1787-1799. 2 vols. English trans. Vintage, 1975.
Soboul, Albert. The Parisian Sans-Culottes and the French Revolution, 1793-4. Clarendon, 1964.
Soboul, Albert. A Short History of the French Revolution. California, 1965.
Sutherland, D. M. G. France 1789-1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution. Oxford, 1986.
Sydenham, M. J. The First French Republic 1792-1804. B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1974. 
Thompson, J. M. The French Revolution. Oxford, 1966.
Williams, G. A. Artisans and Sans-culottes. Edward Arnold, 1968. 

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