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Chapter 10: Legacies of the Revolution
Contemporaries saw the French Revolution as an epochal event, and it has still continued to be understood by many as the marker between the traditional and modern periods. The strong response to the Revolution was immediate and has continued to the present and spread throughout the world. This chapter includes the early AngloAmerican response, conservative reaction, and literary reactions. It concludes with a description of how subsequent historians have understood the Revolution.
Chapter 11: Songs
During the Old Regime and the revolutionary era, the French sang when they worked, fought, and celebrated. People from different classes, including the illiterate, expressed their hopes and aspirations in song. This chapter not only narrates the musical history of the Revolution but also includes thirteen audio examples of key songs.
Chapter 12: How to Read Images
This chapter and the Web site provide three tools for understanding the rich imagery that emerged out of the Revolution. First, we include captions that contextualize the individual images. Second, we offer in this chapter a narrative of how image making changed and shifted throughout the Revolution. Finally, we conclude with an iconography so that readers can make better sense of individual images.
Chapter 1: Social Causes of the Revolution
PreRevolutionary France had a social structure that assigned every individual their rightful place before God. In actuality, commoners resented the nobility and the poor resented those above them, whether noble or common. Although the Revolution destroyed noble rank, it did not attempt a social leveling. Tension between haves and havenots festered through the Revolution and beyond. This chapter details these social antagonisms and their political ramifications.
Chapter 2: Monarchy Embattled
From midcentury until the outbreak of the Revolution, the monarchy faced one challenge after another. An attempted assassination of Louis XV in 1757 had, for example, raised questions about monarchical popularity. The philosophes became increasingly critical, and the wives and consorts of the king provided an object of scorn. This chapter details these attacks on the monarchy as well as the royal response.
Chapter 3:The Enlightenment and Human Rights
French revolutionaries, as this chapter shows, drew upon multiple traditions, including such ancient English documents as the Magna Carta, as well more recent influences like the American Revolution. But the French Declaration of Rights and Citizens made human rights even more central than the Americans. As the Revolution unfolded, the French even grappled with rights for women, slaves, and religious minorities.
Chapter 4: Paris and the Politics of Rebellion
No social group played a more dramatic part in the Revolution than the workers of Paris. This chapter describes their early activities in 1789, including the attack on the Bastille in July and their October march on the palace at Versailles. The narrative of popular action continues through the end of the Terror in 1794. This chapter also details the heroes and enemies of the working people as well as their clubs and other organizations.
Chapter 5: Women and the Revolution
Women, as this chapter explains saw the ideals of the Revolution as promising an improvement in their situation. Some even came to see a chance for real equality with men. But the male revolutionaries in charge generally were not interested in addressing womens rights, which men argued would undercut needed unity. Although women were eventually driven from the public sphere, they did play a large symbolic role, especially as a symbol for liberty.
Chapter 6: The Monarchy Falls
This chapter chronicles the events that led to the executions by guillotine of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in 1793. Although neither was popular on the eve of the Revolution, no one could predict their dethroning, much less their demise in such a short time. Louis XVI, in particular, played a double game at first, collaborating with the revolutionaries while simultaneously conspiring with other crowned heads of Europe to reverse matters. But eventually the revolutionaries and the monarch became sworn enemies, leading first to the overthrow of the king in August 1792, his execution in January 1793, and his wife’s beheading in October.
Chapter 7: War, Terror, and Resistance
Complicating the controversy over the monarch in 1792 was the beginning of the war between France and the royal heads of state in Europe. Totally unprepared for war, the French immediately suffered losses; the popularity of the government, and indeed of the Revolution, waned. By the summer of 1793, France was increasingly divided between supporters and opponents of the Revolution. This chapter follows the efforts of those who favored continuing the Revolution and their reliance on terror to stay in power. The opposition to their measures only mounted as the war continued into 1794. But eventually the Terrorists would triumph at home and abroad. This victory in August 1794 relieved the country of the need for such stringent regulation and this powerful government led by Robespierre fell. Over the next four years, France would be consumed by a continuing battle over the course of the country.
Chapter 8: Slavery and the Haitian Revolution
The French Revolution possessed immediate and obvious implications for Haiti, its colony that depended largely on slave labor. If France were to be free, why not the entire world? This chapter details the social conditions before 1789, the debate in France over freeing the slaves, and the struggles in Haiti. These last events, faraway in the Caribbean, would upstage the effort of the French to dictate to and control the island. In the end, the Haitians would wrest their freedom from their metropolitan masters.
Chapter 9: The Napoleonic Experience.
Born to a poor though noble family in Corsica, Napoleon had managed to make it to a military academy in France on the eve of the Revolution. The enormous number of noble defections from the military created opportunities for young officers. No one made more of this possibility than did Napoleon who by his late twenties was a general and conqueror of Italy. His military power filled a political vacuum; by 1804 he was emperor of France. Chronicling this meteoric rise, this chapter also takes Napoleon through his domestic policies, his eventual military disaster, and his subsequent exile.