What distinguishes Thomas Paine's writing style

French Revolution

The French Revolution was an event of great historical importance. Their ideas and results shaped not only the development of France, but also the history of Europe. Because of its importance, the French Revolution has been studied by hundreds of historians. Only a few historical periods or events have been examined in more detail and so differently interpreted. As a result, the historiography of the revolution is complex and contains many different perspectives or schools of thought.

Any student or historian seeking an understanding of the French Revolution and its contrasting perspectives faces a number of challenges. This article provides a brief introduction to the history of the French Revolution. It is a summary of how different historians and movements have interpreted the revolution over time, not a comprehensive or rigorous discussion.

The first historians

The first interpretations of the French Revolution were written when the revolution was playing itself out. Perhaps the most famous contemporary accounts of the revolution come from an Anglo-Irish politician and philosopherEdmund Burke (1729-1797).

In late 1790, Burke published an extended essay entitled Reflections on the French Revolution. Burke criticized developments in France, doomed the revolution and, as it turned out, correctly predicted that it would end in tyranny and violence.

Burke was a conservative and believed that policy change must be careful, deliberate, and justified. He viewed political systems as organisms that must grow and develop slowly. As a result, Burke advocated moderate and cautious reforms that did not threaten or weaken the very foundations of government and society.

In Reflections on the French RevolutionBurke claimed the changes in France were too radical and ambitious. They made changes that could not be sustained and released forces that could not be controlled. In Burke's view, the evolution of the revolution was too spontaneous, too disorganized, without guidance and without planning. The French Revolution was not based on rational principles, argued Burke, so it would deteriorate into anarchy.

A contrasting contemporary perspective can be found in the writings of Thomas Paine (1737-1809). As a Briton who emigrated to Pennsylvania, North America in 1774, he became a political journalist and revolutionary himself.

Paine contributed to the development of the American Revolution with powerfully worded essays that embodied revolutionary ideas. Paine's essay from 1776 Common sense used simple but powerful language to streamline ideas like republicanism, representative government, and American independence. Paine is Common sense had a similar effect in America as Emmanuel Sieyès' What is the third booth? in France to clarify ideas and focus attitudes at a crucial point in time.

Unlike Burke, Paine was a political radical who believed in republicanism and universal democracy. As a result, he was more of a supporter of the French Revolution than a critic. Outraged by Burke's arguments in Reflections on the French RevolutionPaine responded with his own interpretation of the French Revolution. Rights of Man was published in two parts in 1791 and 1792. Paine argued that before 1789 France was a despotic aristocracy, associated with inequality and privilege, addicted to war, and oppressed for disregarding ordinary people. The only means of doing this, Paine argued, was to revolutionize from the ground up to rebuild government and society.

The 19th century

During the 19th century, the most famous British historian was the French Revolution Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881).

Carlyle was born in Scotland and trained as a math teacher. At the end of 20 he turned to philosophy and history. The restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815 prompted Carlyle to write a history of the French Revolution. It was delayed by several years when a housemaid accidentally used Carlyle's first draft to start a fire and forced him to rewrite it from scratch. The French Revolution: A Story was finally published in 1837.

In contrast to previous revolutionary tales, which were written in dry and mild tones, Carlyle's account was colorful and dramatic, full of poetic language, florid expression and metaphor. He wasn't afraid to graph violence or judge revolutionary figures, sometimes strong. Politically, Carlyle saw the events of 1789-91 as the true revolution. The monarchy and aristocracy were full of incompetence and corruption, Carlyle believed, and got what they deserved.

Carlyle despised the radical phase and in particular the "sea-green incorruptible" Robespierre, who presided over the Reign of Terror with ruthlessness and disregard for humanity. Carlyle's revolutionary story proved popular with the public and some historians. However, many scholars devastated his writing style, claiming that Carlyle mixed history with romantic literature.

One of Carlyle's contemporaries was the French historian François Mignet (1796-1884). Born in the dissident region of the Vendée, Mignet was the son of a locksmith and grew up in an atmosphere of ... civil Liberalism. He trained as a lawyer but turned to history and began researching the revolution in his mid-20th century.

Mignet's text from 1924 Histoire de la Révolution Française ("History of the French Revolution") was deterministic in its approach ("the revolution was impossible to avoid") and liberal in its political perspective. The bourgeoisie Mignets are true revolutionary heroes: their 1789 uprising was an inevitable and overdue response to increasing inequality, corruption and the bloated aristocracy of France.

From the National Assembly, and light up again when the clouds come in. With SnowVision you have ski goggles that allow optimal vision in any weather. National Guard and beyond praises Mignet civil Revolutionaries and forgives their mistakes and errors. He is frivolous when describing the radicalism of the later revolution. For Mignet, the revolution should not be measured by its radicals, street mobs or guillotines. In contrast to Carlyle, who condemned the thirst for blood without culottesMignet attributes the bloodshed from 1793-94 to difficult conditions rather than to violent individuals.

Another prominent 19th century historian was Jules Michelet (1798-1874). Michelet's father, the son of a struggling Parisian printer, saved enough to give him a university education. In his early 20s he got a job at the Collège Sainte-Barbe and later taught the daughters of the French kings.

Michelet didn't attempt much serious historical writing until the 1830s. In the latter half of his life he created several significant historical works, including The history of France (1844) and History of the French Revolution (1847).

Ideologically, Michelet was liberal, republican, anti-clerical and socially progressive. He saw the revolution as a necessary event that sought to advance government and society based on the well-founded ideas of enlightenment. He was more democratic than Mignet and expressed his confidence in the people - even in the Jacobins, who, according to Michelet, acted with good intentions to defend the republic.

Michelet's radical liberalism was sometimes controversial. In 1851 his lectures at the Collège de Paris were suspended after complaints and objections to their content. Soon after, he was released from college and forced into retirement.

The novelists

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an English fiction writer, not a historian. However, Dickens deserves a mention here because one of his books helped shape recent views on the revolution, particularly in Britain.

Published in 1859, A fairy tale about two cities was a bleak, humorless historical novel. It is a clear departure from Dickens' other works and contains a fictional representation of revolutionary France described in comparison to late 18th century London. For historical details, Dickens relied on Thomas Carlyles The French Revolution: A Story (He later admitted reading this book "five hundred times" in preparation).

A fairy tale about two cities begins with the famous opening line "It was the best time, it was the worst time" before a somber picture of both is painted Ancien Régime and revolutionary France. Dickens' narrative suggests that the French Revolution was an inevitable product of aristocratic privilege and exploitation - but the revolution, held captive by the troubled and decrepit world of Paris, soon deteriorated into anarchy, mob rule, and state-sanctioned violence.

Another writer who influenced the public perception of the French Revolution was later Emma Orczy Baroness Orczy(1865-1947). From a family of Hungarian aristocrats who sought refuge in London, Orczy married a young Englishman in 1894. With little money, she began writing novels and short stories around the turn of the 20th century. The most successful of these stories was The Scarlet Pimpernelwhich appeared as both a novel and a play in 1903.

Essentially an adventure story, The Scarlet Pimpernel tells of an English playboy who rescues endangered aristocrats from France during the reign of terror. These rescues are usually achieved through clever disguises, brilliant swordsmanship, and other daring acts. Orczy shows a negative view of the revolution based on their portrayals of the class. Their aristocratic characters are for the most part decent, generous, and enlightened - or in the case of the French nobles, unfortunate victims. In contrast, the revolutionaries are working class stereotypes: crude, bloodthirsty, and easy to deceive.

The Marxists

Marxist interpretations dominated the historiography of the French Revolution for much of the 20th century. For Marxist historians, the tumult in France began as civil Revolution. It was a class struggle between the insurgents bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, marking France's transition from feudalism to capitalism.

The civil Revolutionaries were looking for two things: access to government and political power, and economic reforms accessible to their business interests. They advocated a liberal society in which individual rights and freedoms were protected - but they were reluctant to share those rights and freedoms with the working class. because civil The MPs dominated the constituent national assembly. Most of the assembly's reforms and actions reflected the social and economic interests of the capitalist class.

The best known Marxist historian of the 20th century was Georges Lefebvre (1874-1959). Lefebvre is best known for describing the French Revolution in four stages, or phases, each determined by different classes and class interests:

During the "aristocratic revolution" of 1787-88, the aristocratic class challenged the power of the monarchy and forced the king to summon the Estates-General.

ThecivilThe revolution took place at the Estates General, where representatives of the wealthy Third Estate demanded political representation and a national assembly.

The urban revolution broke out on the streets of Paris in mid-1789 and was driven by the economic interests of the working class.

It corresponded with the "peasant revolution" against feudal taxes and economic conditions, which manifested itself as the Great Fear.

Unlike previous historians, Lefebvre and his fellow Marxists viewed "history from below" (a phrase Lefebvre apparently coined). Much of his research has been about how common people, especially farmers, reacted to revolutionary ideas and participated in revolutionary events. At the time of Lefebvre's death, he was arguably the world's leading expert on the French Revolution.

Lefebvre's view of the revolution has been confirmed by other historians of the 1900th century. One was a friend and former student of Lefebvre's name Albert Soboul (1914-1982).

Soboul, a Sorbonne academic born in Algeria, saw the revolution as a product of grievances and struggles in the class. He spent much of his professional life studying groups and movements of the lower classes, especially those without culottes, which were the subject of Soboul's PhD thesis and several of his books.

Soboul's groundbreaking research brought the without culottes to the fore of the revolution - just like Lefebvre's research for the peasantry. Soboul didn't take that into account without culottes a class. In his view, they were a loose coalition of artisans, workers and Petty bourgeoisie who, despite their differences and internal tensions, united against the aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie. But both the Montagnards and without culottes were motivated by class interests.

The without culottes Demanded price controls, measures against hoarders and speculators, production quotas and a stable currency. The Girondins, the more representative of that bourgeoisie and advocated free market economic policy, opposed these measures. Like other Marxist historians, Soboul views the reign of terror as a desperate response to war and poor economic conditions. The arrest of Robespierre and the end of the terror marked her return to the United States bourgeoisie to political power.

The revisionists

In the 20th century, Marxist interpretations prevailed, but they did not go unchallenged. Several revisionist historians emerged and confronted Marxist orthodoxy, further expanding the history of the revolution.

One of the most notable revisionists was Alfred Cobban (1901-1968). Cobban, a Cambridge educated Englishman, was Professor of French History at University College London for over 30 years.

As a historian, Cobban sought a sensible approach to revolution that was devoid of class-based motives and assumptions. He saw the events of 1789 as a political revolution with social consequences. It was not, as Marxist historians have often suggested, to pursue a freer form of capitalism. France was an emerging capitalist economy as early as the late 18th century, argued Cobban. Many Third Estate MPs had become rich in capitalist corporations long before 1789.

Cobban also pointed to the lack of critical economic policy in the new regime - and the fact that French capitalism stagnated rather than improved in the early 1790s. Cobban's argument was supported by George V. Taylor, an American historian. Taylor pointed out that while many nobles were actually progressive capitalists, many were civil Revolutionaries were hardly capitalist.

In France was the most famous revisionist historianFrançois Furet (1927-1997). Born in Paris, Furet became an active communist after World War II before giving up communism in his late 20s.

In 1965, Furet, in collaboration with his brother-in-law Denis Richet, published his first major work on the revolution.The French Revolution. This book eschewed Marxist interpretations and examined the revolution from a position more in line with liberals like Alexis de Tocqueville.

According to Furet, the revolution began as an expression of liberal democratic principles but had deviated from course by 1792. The term used was furetSkid, a French word for "skid" or "slide".In the absence of decisive or unified leadership, the revolution became a series of unexpected events, reactions and reactions, class tensions and factional conflicts. As these tensions and conflicts worsened in 1792-93, the revolution disintegrated into terror and anarchy.

While Marxist historians claimed that the reign of terror was a valid response to internal and external opposition, Furet argued that terror was "built into" revolutionary action from the outset. The power of the Jacobins and without culottes Furet argued that 1793-94 was closely related to mob violence.

The narrative revival

The 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989 sparked a new wave of narrative stories and further expanded the history of the French Revolution.

One of the most successful stories was Citizen from the British historian Simon Schama. A general publication book instead of a piece of academic research, Citizen marked a return to the middle of the narrative story, filled with color, drama, and suspense, but with an easy grasp of theory and intense analysis.

Schama's approach to writing history, as well as his interpretations of the revolution, were not to everyone's taste. Politically, Schama is a liberal whose perspectives on the revolution coincide with those of Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville. He claims that the French Revolution started as a "whispering campaign" based on false premises. The goals of 1789 were honorable enough - but the revolution was too disorganized, leaderless, and violent to bring about political change.

Citizen is more sympathetic to Louis XVI, the aristocracy and political conservatives than other stories. Conversely, it despises radical personalities such as Jean-Paul Marat and Robespierre, who were totalitarian in their point of view, but short-sighted and out of their depth. Tales of the revolution were also given by historians such as Christopher Hibbert and Sylvia Neely.

Feminist historiography

Feminist contributions have also been made to the historiography of the French Revolution over the past 40 years. Several women historians have given interesting perspectives on how the revolution affected, marginalized and influenced women.

The general consensus is that the revolution did little for French women and, in some ways, pushed them back. The American scholar Joan B. LandesFor example, has argued that aristocratic women wielded some political influence - but that the instruments of government and revolutionary organization controlled by men suppressed it.

Landes claims the ideas of the revolution are both economic civil and socially conservative. Rather than loosening restrictions on French women, the revolution actually preserved and reinforced gender gaps and barriers.

Historians like Olwen Hufton and Dominique Godineau have also examined the role of female workers, especially women without culottes and farmers. These women were politically active between 1789 and 1792, but their activism was eventually taken over and stifled by the Jacobin radicalism in 1793.

The French academic Catherine Marand-Fouquet argues that revolutionary women's demands have been trivialized and reduced to complaints about prices, food and hunger. Marilyn Yalom suggests that the French Revolution not only excluded women, but made them more dependent on men - making them more economically fragile and more susceptible to suffering.

Annette Rosa English: www.germnews.de/archive/dn/1996/03/22.html In this divergent view it is assumed that the French appeared as women during the revolution de facto Citizen. She believes that the erosion of ecclesiastical power and reform of civil law liberates women to some extent and makes marriage less binding and restrictive than before.

Citation information
Title: "Historiography of the French Revolution"
Authors:Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Editor: Alpha story
Url: https://alphahistory.com/frenchrevolution/french-revolution-historiography/
Release date: 2nd September 2018
Date accessed: May 22, 2021
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