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HIST 462/662, French Revolution (Brown): Getting Started


from The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Houghton Mifflin

The event at the end of the eighteenth century that ended the thousand-year rule of kings in France and established the nation as a republic. The revolution began in 1789, after King Louis XVI had convened the French parliament to deal with an enormous national debt. The common people's division of the parliament declared itself the true legislature of France, and when the king seemed to resist the move, a crowd destroyed the royal prison (the Bastille). A constitutional monarchy was set up, but after King Louis and his queen, Marie Antoinette, tried to flee the country, they were arrested, tried for treason, and executed on the guillotine. Control of the government passed to Robespierre and other radicals — the extreme Jacobins — and the Reign of Terror followed (1793-1794), when thousands of French nobles and others considered enemies of the revolution were executed. After the Terror, Robespierre himself was executed, and a new ruling body, the Directory, came into power. Its incompetence and corruption allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to emerge in 1799 as dictator and, eventually, to become emperor. Napoleon's ascent to power is considered the official end of the revolution. (See Georges Danton and Jean-Paul Marat.)

 Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company

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Reference books



The genius of France extirpating despotism tyranny & oppression from the face of the earth Or the royal warriors defeated

Cruikshank, Isaac, 1756?-1811?, artist. [London] : Pub. by S.W. Fores, 1792 Dec. 21.

Cartoon shows a woman wearing a liberty cap, representing the genius of France, holding a cat-o'-nine-tails in one hand and the reins of a donkey in the other; on this donkey and another bucking in the background are several monarchs identified as Prussia, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Brunswick, Turkey, Spain, and, falling to the ground, China; Louis XVI lies on the ground beneath the donkey held by the woman; in the left foreground, sitting on the ground tearing her hair is Marie I of Portugal.

Catalogue of prints and drawings in the British Museum. Division I, political and personal satires, v. 6, no. 8143 . Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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