Historiography of the French Revolution 2

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 28-05-18 20:32
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  • Historiography of the French Revolution 2 (https://lycfrenchrevolution.wikispaces.com/file/view/Historiography+Taylor.pdf)
    • Classic View
      • Originally C19th republican-democratic view put forward by one of great French historians of Revolution, Michelet, in 1840s and 1850s
      • Just before WW1, became mainly French Marxist or socialist interpretation
      • Broadly sympathetic to Jacobins
        • pain was necessary and Jacobins took on job of organising Terror because it was a dirty job but someone had to do it
      • suggests Revolution was largely progressive event that moved social and political ideas forward by overthrowing feudal regime which was in decline
      • Rationalism of Enlightenment, it argues, was theoretical foundation for liberation of 'the People' from irrational superstition, privilege and corruption
    • The Marxists
      • Writers like Lefebvre, Jaurez, Mathiez and Souboul
      • later re-interpreted Revolution as not merely a popular revolt against old regime but as part of ongoing class struggle
      • Bourgeoisie
        • was reacting against fading and bankrupting regime to give themselves more space for capitalistic development (trade and industry)
        • found temporary allies in working class of Paris who wanted equality, and with peasants who had been hurt in 1788 harvest failure
      • Terror was desperate response to war, to inflation, to subsequent popular discontent and to conscription
      • Robespierre was revolutionary hero who maintained his ideals in time of turmoil (Mathiez), much like Lenin
      • Revolutionary regime needed support from sans-culottes through these crises but once events had settled, bourgeois and working class interests different from Robespierre reining in sans-cullottes - to their despair
      • To come up with this point of view, Lefebvre and Souboul both studied archives
        • Lefebvre found peasants were not single group but consisted of various groups, some of whom actually opposed each other
        • Souboul found that sans-cullottes had made Revolution more radical than had originally been envisaged by bourgeois reforms and were then crushed in the Terror
    • French Revisionists
      • French Marxist historians had rejected Cobban-Taylor view
      • Francois Fu ret
        • Revolution was indeed progress because it did lead to Enlightenment style equality and democracy
          • but because it had to misuse force to maintain itself, the Revolution failed to produce liberty
        • Along with Denis Richet
          • Argued Napoleon could use democracy to gain tyranny because disruptions of Revolution had removed all checks and balances in society and government which would keep tyrants at bay - or at slow them down
        • Terror was built-in to Revolution from very beginning
          • because, having destroyed early acceptance of differences of opinion, it could not accept any opposition
        • Conclusion, French Revolution had seriously lost its way and Jacobins were originators of modern totalitarianis
        • French historians opposed Furet's views
          • Felt he was blindly loyal to progressivist nature of revolution which they saw as a vindication of radical socialism
    • Post-revisionism - discourse analysis
      • 1980s
      • View based on post-Habermas examination of language of documents of Revolution
      • Old Regime had lost public support because of the way public opinion had been influenced by published writings (pamphlets, books, etc.) prior to 1789
      • Post-revisionists saw pre-revolutionary period as important because discourse of that time showed monarchy was already on its way out
    • Narrative History - back in fashion again
      • Simon Schama
        • French Revolution was bloody interlude
        • As with Furet, he feels revolution lost its way with Terror


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