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French Revolution I: From Freedom to Terror

Seminar questions

  • Why, according to Tocqueville, did the Old Regime collapse?
  • What were the main grievances and crises in French society in 1789? [lecture and textbook]
  • What were the principal achievements of the French Revolution in its early years? [lecture and textbook]
  • What role did popular violence play in the French Revolution? Can Markoff's study of peasant action be reconciled with Tocqueville's interpretation?

Core Readings

  • Abbé Sieyès, ‘What is the Third Estate?’ [electronic resource]
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution, part I (entire); part II chps 1, 2, 5, 7-12. [You may want to purchase the book. I like the edition translated by Stuart Gilbert (1954), but there are newer critical editions as well. Or use the free version through the title's link here.]
  • John Markoff, ‘Violence, Emancipation and Democracy: The Countryside and the French Revolution’ in American Historical Review, vol. 100, no. 2 (1995), p. 360-386. [electronic resource, available through JSTOR]
  • For background: Popkin, A History of Modern France, chps 7-8
  •  For further brief, textbook overviews of the French Revolution, see
    • Jeremy Popkin, A Short History of the French Revolution
    • William Doyle, A Very Short History of the Revolution
    • Peter McPhee, The French Revolution, 1789-1799

Further Reading

General Accounts

  • William Doyle. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Peter McPhee, The French Revolution, 1789-1799. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.
  • Gary Kates, ed. The French Revolution: Recent Debates and New Controversies. London: Rutledge, 1998.
  • Gwynne Lewis. The French Revolution: Rethinking the Debate (1993)
  • T. C. W. Blanning, ed. The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • Paul R. Hanson, Contesting the French Revolution (Malden, Maine: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009); on the historiographical debates of recent decades.
  • Jeremy Popkin. A Short History of the French Revolution. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002 (3rd edition).
  • Jack Censer and Lynn Hunt, eds. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2001.
  • Ronald Schechter, ed. The French Revolution. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.
  • Ferenc Fehér, ed. The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
  • Isser Woloch, The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789-1820s (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1994).

Early Revolutionary Politics and Culture

  • Emmet Kennedy, Cultural History of the French Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
  • Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
  • Timothy Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
  • Patrice Higonnet, Goodness Beyond Virtue: Jacobins during the French Revolution (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
  • Barry Shapiro, Revolutionary Justice in Paris, 1789-1790 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
  • Suzanne Desan, The Family on Trial in Revolutionary France (2004)
  • P. McPhee, Robespierre: A Revolution Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).

Revolutionary Journées, Popular Agitation, Radicalisation

  • J. Markoff, The Abolition of Feudalism: Peasants, Lords, and Legislators in the French Revolution (State College, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 1996).
  • H-J Luesebrink and R. Reichardt, The Bastille: A History of a Symbol of Despotism and Freedom (1997)
  • D. Andress, Massacre at the Champ de Mars: popular dissent and political culture in the French Revolution (2000)
  • G. Rudé, The Crowd in the French Revolution (1959)
  • C. Lucas, ‘The Crowd and Politics’ in K. Baker (ed.), The French Revolution and the Creation of Modern Political Culture (1988), vol. 2, 259-285.
  • L. Hunt, The Family Romance in the French Revolution (1993)
  • D. Edelstein, The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (2008)
  • D. Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (2007)
  • C. Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (2009)
  • R. R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution (1973).
  • M. Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution (2013).
  • C. Lucas, The Structure of the Terror: The Example of Javogues and the Loire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973).