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On Counterrevolution

Semantic Investigations of a Counterconcept during the French Revolution

Friedemann Pestel

the observation that the uses of the category of counterrevolution in scholarship on the French Revolution significantly contrast with its historical occurrences. Its widespread association with political reaction, ultraroyalism, or restoration of the

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"History Written with a Little Spite"

Palmer, Brinton, and an American Debate on the French Revolution

John Layton Harvey

How did the historical profession in America view the French democratic tradition during the international crisis of modern liberalism of the twentieth century? Although Robert R. Palmer is remembered for his historical texts, his defense of popular democracy in the historiography of the French Revolution was an important, and as yet overlooked, contribution to the intellectual defense of democratic values during the 1930s, just when Western faith in "enlightened reason" was reaching a new low. This contest becomes visible in Palmer's debate on the meaning of the Revolution and the Great Terror with the Harvard historian, Crane Brinton. Viewed in the discipline's historical context, their debate shows that, rather than a consensual support for the ideal of European popular democracy, up to the 1950s American specialists of European history were quite divided on the French republican and revolutionary experience.

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Raymonde Monnier

Departing from Mario Turchetti's study on the concept of tyranny and tyrannicide, the author sets out to explore its specific use in the political discourse in the eighteenth century. Originally, as in the works of Plato and Montesquieu, tyranny was used in reference to degenerate forms of government. Tyranny and tyrannicide gained additional significance with its inclusion in the virulent discourse during the radicalization of the French Revolution. Based on the myth of Brutus and other classical sources, anti-tyrannical rhetoric in the form revolutionary literature and propaganda spurted political activism. As the figure of the king became the main obstacle to liberty and the foundation of a new republic, tyranny and tyrannicide became key concepts in the revolutionary movements.

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“Source de lumières & de vertus”

Rethinking Éducation, Instruction, and the Political Pedagogy of the French Revolution

Adrian O'Connor

This article examines the political pedagogy of the French Revolution and, with that, the revolutionaries' engagement with issues of political community and communication. It proposes that while the distinction between éducation and instruction, or between the development of moral and civic character, on the one hand, and the cultivation of particular skills, on the other, was prominent in eighteenth-century pedagogy and has been influential in our understanding of the Revolution, that same distinction has obscured essential elements of the revolutionaries' pedagogical and political agendas. Attention to the proposals and practices of revolutionary pedagogy, including the revolutionary festivals, reveals that what the revolutionaries called “public instruction” was a dynamic synthesis of civic and technical training, a synthesis that was intended not to foster unquestioning obedience or the obliteration of differences among citizens, but to promote civic communication in ways that would make a participatory politics possible.

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Ronald Schechter

This article argues that the term “holy” (saint/sainte) was a key word in the French revolutionary lexicon during the Terror. Its use was comparable in frequency to the terms “glorious” and “useful”. Among the many things revolutionaries regarded as “holy”—for example, liberty, equality, the constitution, the laws, and the revolution itself—by far the most often cited was the “Mountain”. Historians have assumed that “Montagne” simply referred to the deputies who occupied the upper benches in the National Convention, but an analysis of the term “holy Mountain” shows that the real significance of the name came from its analogy to Mount Sinai. Revolutionaries venerated the Mountain as a source of divine laws and as a force with the godlike capacity to punish “impious” enemies. The concept indicates an authentic religiosity among the revolutionaries, who are otherwise seen as heirs to the Enlightenment, and therefore questions the traditional opposition between Enlightenment and religion.

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A Fiction of the French Nation

The Émigré Novel, Nostalgia, and National Identity, 1797–1815

Mary Ashburn Miller

In B. A. Picard’s 1803 novel Le Retour d’un émigré , Sophie, the daughter of an émigré of the French Revolution, visits the greenhouse on her father’s estate, which has been sold to a family friend. There, she approaches two large orange trees that

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Suzanne Desan

“All history is contemporary history,” observed Benedetto Croce. Work on the French Revolution has often proven his insight.* In today’s globalizing climate, it is worth examining French revolutionary historians’ uneven embrace of the current historiographic trend toward transnational approaches. On one hand, scholarship has been comparatively slow to take this turn for several reasons, notably the persistent belief in the centrality of the nation. The revolutionaries themselves built claims of French exceptionalism into their construction of universalism, and historians have inherited the strong sense that the Revolution held particular power and played an integral role in constructing French national identity.

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D.M.G. Sutherland

Claude Langlois's work on the French Revolution captures the experience of ordinary people in the country as a whole. Against an interpretation that sees the Revolution as resulting in a secular, modernized France, he emphasizes the ambiguity and uncertainties of the outcome. He is above all interested in assessing the impact of the Revolution on the Church. Although the Revolution had a profound impact on the personnel, landscape, finances, and politics of the Church, the Concordat created the conditions for recovery. There were restorations in pastoral care and practices but in addition, there were also ruptures, especially in the long term. Alongside a nineteenth century of unexpected piety, there were also regions and groups of low practice and indifference. The article also discusses Langlois's contributions to the political history of the coup of 1799, and to population studies.

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"La Politique Spectacle"

A Legacy of the French Revolution?

Yann Robert

Matthew S.Buckley, Tragedy Walks the Streets: The French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

Paul Friedland, Political Actors: Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002).

Susan Maslan, Revolutionary Acts: Theater, Democracy, and the French Revolution (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

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The Terror of their Enemies

Reflections on a Trope in Eighteenth-Century Historiography

Ronald Schechter

This article attempts to explain the appeal of "terror" in the French Revolution by examining the history of the concept of terror. It focuses on historiographical representations of sovereign powers, whether monarchs or nations, as "terrors" of their enemies. It argues that the term typically connoted majesty, glory, justice and hence legitimacy. Moreover, historiographical depictions of past rulers and nations frequently emphasized the transiency of terror as an attribute of power; they dramatized decline in formulations such as "once terrible." For the revolutionaries, terror therefore provided a means of legitimation, but one that always had to be guarded and reinforced.