On Counterrevolution

Semantic Investigations of a Counterconcept during the French Revolution

in Contributions to the History of Concepts


After 1789, counterrevolution emerged as revolution’s first counterconcept in French political discourse. While scholars of the French Revolution commonly associate counterrevolution with a backward-oriented political program, often with the restoration of the ancien régime, this article challenges such a retrograde understanding. Drawing on a broad corpus of sources, it emphasizes the flexible and pluralistic meanings of counterrevolution during the 1790s. Rather than designating a political objective, counterrevolution first of all focused on the process of combating the revolution as such, which allowed for different political strategies and aimed beyond a return to the status quo ante. By discussing, next to the French case, examples from the Haitian Revolution, Britain, Germany, and Switzerland, this article also highlights the transnational dimension of the debate on counterrevolution. It concludes with a plea for rethinking counterrevolution as revolution’s asymmetric other in a more relational rather than dichotomous perspective.

“When Orpheus looked for Eurydice in the underworld, the Gods prescribed him not to look behind. That is the symbol of a counterrevolution”1 asserted? Francois Dominique de Reynaud de Montlosier, a prolific émigré writer and journalist, in a memoir for the Austrian court at the height of Jacobin terror in spring 1794. Montlosier’s mythological characterization of counterrevolution is both irritating and revealing in several respects. First, he attributed to the “other half of revolution”2 a dynamic, if not progressive, orientation and made not the slightest allusion to political regression. Second, this contemporary understanding of revolution’s most prolific “asymmetrical counter—concept”3 stands in contrast to a mainstream historiographical current that tends to see counterrevolution as a political ideology or counterrevolutionaries as a distinct group of political actors. Third, Montlosier used a counterrevolution not as a collective singular but rather as a more independent—and thus grammatically indefinite—concept that epistemologically owed itself to the older repetitive concept of revolution.4

These observations made by a defender of an aristocratic constitutional monarchy guide this article’s main argument. It starts from 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 ancien régime distorts or even openly contradicts the manifold significances contemporaries attributed to counterrevolution.5 Against such an oversimplification, this article maintains that an exclusively retrograde understanding of counterrevolution represents an anachronism and turns out to be one-sided.6 Such a semantically nonjustified—and hardly ever explained—reduction toward the status quo ante obscures the manifold and competing strategic uses historical contemporaries employed to make sense of the concept of counterrevolution. As an effect, historians of the French Revolution have classified actors as counterrevolutionary who themselves rejected the concept in the way it has later been attributed to them. This semantic misrelation also impacted the analysis of their political ideas. To put it bluntly, actors who had created, conceptualized, and debated the very word “counterrevolution” in the 1790s remain virtually silent in studies treating counterrevolution from a bird’s-eye perspective as a political-historical idea or a sociopolitical movement. Whereas there exists ample scholarship on the concept of revolution and political neologisms arising after 1789, counterrevolution remains largely absent from these semantic analyses.7 As this article demonstrates, contemporaries’ ideas on counterrevolution were complex and dynamic and did not focus on the restoration of France’s ancien régime. In the year 1794 alone, the meaning of counterrevolution shifted from a condemnation of all political forces in power—except the Jacobins-to a synonym for Jacobinism itself.8

Analyzing early uses in the 1790s, I contend that counterrevolution had different temporalities and designated the process of combating the revolution. Rather than a political objective, it pointed to the means and instruments of subverting the political regime in place, not a coherent doctrine of ideas or values. Given the remarkable gap between the notoriety of counterrevolution as an interpretative framework and its early uses as a counterconcept to revolution, this article mobilizes the “veto of the sources” that Reinhart Koselleck has established as a crucial step in the formation of categories of analysis. Source work, according to Koselleck, does not lead to unambiguous conclusions about how a historical text can be interpreted, but it “forbids us to dare or admit interpretations that evidence from the sources simply unmasks as wrong or inadmissible”9 The “veto” thus presents a reflexive counterpoint to the use of the conceptual couple of revolution-counterrevolution in later scholarship no longer informed by its original semantic potential.10 As Michel Peronnet has emphasized, the dominating structure-oriented and, strictly speaking, ahistorical conceptualization of counterrevolution depends on a preceding conceptualization of revolution on the same terms.11

Against this risk of essentializing both revolution and counterrevolution, this article analyzes counterrevolution, in relation to the respective understanding of revolution it opposes, as a discursive phenomenon to question its large-scale explanatory potential for studies on the French Revolution and to sharpen awareness for alternative historical usages. In a first step, I survey important historiographical conceptualizations of counterrevolution. Despite the broad literature on “French counterrevolution” after 1789, very few works have ever looked at, let alone questioned, the conceptual origins of their category of analysis. Relying on Koselleck’s “veto of the sources,” I confront the historio-graphical state of the field with five theses about the contemporary meanings of counterrevolution in the 1790s to demonstrate the variety and complexity of usage patterns. I therefore draw on a broad corpus of sources—mainly pamphlets, journals, memoranda, and correspondence—from different political viewpoints, actors, and publics. The sources also include archival material that made important contributions to the contemporary debates but then fell into oblivion. In conclusion, linking the historiographical observations to the semantic analysis, I reflect on possible consequences for future scholarship on counterrevolution.

Though the main focus of this article is on revolutionary France, I also consider the widely neglected discussions on counterrevolution in the diaspora of French émigrés. Moreover, I include sources from the Holy Roman Empire, Britain, Switzerland, and Saint-Domingue that highlight the transfer of the original French term to other revolutionary experiences in the same period. This comparative perspective further scrutinizes the homogenizing use of the concept in scholarship well beyond the French Revolution.

Counterrevolution in Recent Historiography of the French Revolution

Most works on counterrevolution analyze political and social characteristics of so-called counterrevolutionary actors but do not extend their scope to the uses of the concept in historical political discourse. As a result, even more nuanced approaches paradoxically stick to the holistic label of La Contre-Révolution.12 A striking symptom of such a factualist understanding is the overall absence of counterrevolution from important dictionaries of conceptual history dealing with the French Revolution. Alternatively, handbooks present actors, ideologies, and practices of counterrevolution without relating this category back to its historical semantics.13 The only significant exception to this absence is Matthias Middell’s 2005 study combining semantic observations of counterrevolution with an investigation of the role of counterrevolutionaries in modernization processes.14

Within the dominant historiography, important differences exist questioning whether counterrevolution is interpreted primarily in terms of ideological coherence or rather in terms of political and social divergence. The first “coherent” strand importantly relies on Jacques Godechot’s model of counterrevolutionary doctrine and action that he saw as constitutive for a dualist vision of French history over the whole early modern period. Leaving aside the fact that the word “counterrevolution” only emerged in 1789, Godechot set up a genealogy of counterrevolution as a historical driving force reaching back as far as the sixteenth century.15 Also, Middell’s earlier idea that actors in the Revolution “jumped” into a somehow preexisting counterrevolutionary camp seems to be informed by such a dualism, as does Bernard Hours’s anachronistic article on “Counterrevolution before 1789” in Jean-Clément Martin’s Dictionnaire de la contre-révolution.16

Though Godechot’s holistic model is far from dominant in more recent scholarship, its reminiscences are still traceable. For example, academic textbooks on the French Revolution continue to treat counterrevolution in chapters separate from the “revolutionary” main narrative, prominently linking it to the royal family and the émigrés, to theocratic ideas, or to a postulated resurrection of the ancien régime, but leaving aside its historical meanings.17 However, as the following section demonstrates, this dualist view owes more to Jacobin imaginations than to the so-called counterrevolutionaries’ own conceptions of counterrevolution. It is therefore hardly surprising that the persistent search for ideological coherence at the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy sometimes ended in historiographical disillusion. Gérard Gengembre called the history of counterrevolution a “despairing history.”18 Jean-Clément Martin, in a similar pessimistic tone, attributed the growing interest in the field over the past thirty years to the instrumentalization of counterrevolution as a “possible wall against the dehumanization imposed by globalization or totalitarian utopias.”19

The latter authors also share some features with a second strand of scholarship that is more or less indebted to the “revisionist” school of French Revolution historians around François Furet. Furet himself, with the bicentenary of the French Revolution approaching, distanced himself from a priori categorizations of counterrevolution but nonetheless insisted on its alleged attempt of making tabula rasa of any revolutionary change.20 William Doyle further refrained from summarizing the historical actors’ different attitudes under one counterrevolutionary label, as this theoretical trope popular among revolutionaries “does nothing to promote our understanding of what really motivated the bulk of the active resistance encountered by the French governments in the 1790s.”21

As an answer to this problem, Norman Hampson proposed abandoning counterrevolution as a collective singular at all: “Looking for a counterrevolution amidst that much confusion gives proof of good will rather than of good sense.”22 Taking a poignant position in the bicentenary debates, he compared the French Revolution to a city bus that people were continually hop-ping on and off without traveling the whole way (back to the ancien régime). Significantly, no other historian followed Hampson’s semi-ironic suggestion to banish counterrevolution from historical vocabulary completely, though he set the course for conceptualizing revolution and counterrevolution as belonging to the same processes of politicization, radicalization, and mediatization triggered by the final crisis of the monarchy and the outbreak of the revolution.23

In particular, historians with a comparatist background defended a more inclusive perspective. Regarding the American Revolution, Larry Tise emphasized the common roots of revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries “all across the Western world”24 in Enlightenment thinking that grounded their political programs. Arno Mayer, from a background in the French and Russian revolutions, insisted on the symbiotic relationship between revolution and its “other half.”25 None of them, however, turned from such structural considerations to an analysis of the revolutionaries’ or counterrevolutionaries’ use of the concept.

From his works on the royalist upheavals in the Vendée, Jean-Clément Martin, visibly less pessimistic than in his later contributions, added the dimension of temporalization to the discussion. He insisted on the shifting demarcation line between the two camps over the 1790s: counterrevolution started as a political designation on the Far Right, reaching its left-wing peak under the Terreur before partly swinging back.26 But again, though Martin pointed to the existence of “semantic quarrels”27 among the contemporaries, he continued taking counterrevolution for a sociopolitical phenomenon rather than a discursive construct, not least in his 2011 Dictionnaire de la contre-révolution.

Matthias Middell, by then insisting on the dialectic relation between revolution and counterrevolution, developed Martin’s idea of temporalization into a more flexible interpretative framework of historical learning processes. He criticized the fact that historiography had widely underestimated the contribution of enemies of revolution to the modernization of French society embedded in a globalizing environment of revolution. For him, counterrevolution could no longer be equated with the status quo ante.28 Middell’s conclusion links well to Sylvie Aprile’s claim that enemies of revolution in exile were more united by their shared refusal of the revolution than by a coherent political program.29 This emphasis on counterrevolution as opposition to the revolution rather than as a struggle for the ancien régime sets the course for the following considerations about the semantic patterns contemporaries of the French Revolution developed to make sense of counterrevolution.

Five Observations on the Use of Counterrevolution in the 1790s

Counterrevolution Served as a Contested Concept

The appearance of the term “counterrevolution” necessarily presupposed a wide consensus that the interpretation of what was happening in France in 1789 qualified as revolution. The famous anecdote of the duc de Liancourt disabusing the incredulous Louis XVI after the fall of the Bastille that they were no longer experiencing a “revolt” but a “revolution” may be apocryphal, but it spread rapidly among contemporaries, as it more broadly reflected the realization of many French about the events they lived through.30 The subsequent semantic stabilization of revolution in the following months finally made the term available for morphological alterations as neologisms.

One of the first occurrences of counterrevolution was in correspondence from the French court sent to Warsaw on 16 December 1789 accusing the aristocrates in the Constituent Assembly of blockading a plan de finances in order to promote their “clandestine projects of a counterrevolution.”31 This example is symptomatic for the uses of counterrevolution in the early phase of the French Revolution: the term designated oppositional forces inside and outside the National Assembly and is often linked to rumors and an imagined relationship between the royal family and the army.32 Whereas the use of counterrevolution sharpened the awareness of possible dangers to the revolutionary process, it normally did not indicate a political program or a precise political aim. This relative vagueness is hardly surprising, as it points to the morphology of the term itself.33 Though the linguistic opposite to revolution, counterrevolution remained inextricably linked to it by expressing a sense of direction (“countering”) but not its final point. As a provisional solution, contemporaries resorted to two strategies—one of opening up and one of specification-that, nonetheless, operated on the level of phrase rather than on the word level: using the indefinite article or adding an attribute.

Une contre-révolution conveyed contemporaries’ uncertainties about its actors or projects, but this vagueness also had a reassuring effect. Counterrevolution hardly presented prospects of success, as it was supposed to first ruin the counterrevolutionaries themselves.34 For the semiofficial Moniteur Universel, such an outlook seemed improbable given the undergoing legal reorganization of the state to the benefit of all French citizens.35

Critics of revolution, during this early phase, refrained from adopting the notion of counter revolution, as this would have implied an implicit recognition of the Revolution’s historical driving force. The abbé de Montesquiou declared in the National Assembly in May 1790: “I do not understand what these words revolution, counterrevolution want to mean. The constitution cannot be attacked if it is good. If it is bad, that is, does not please the nation, nothing prevents it from being destroyed.”36 Nicolas Bergasse, an anglophile constitutional monarchist leaving the Assembly in autumn 1789, is one of the rare cases of an affirmative use of counterrevolution, though he, like his revolutionary counterparts, refrained from giving a precise definition or objective: “I want a counterrevolution! And what is a counterrevolution? Do you understand by this that I want another constitution … ? Well, yes! I want a counterrevolution because I essentially want liberty … But do you want to think that I wish the old order of things to be reinvigorated?”37

It is striking to see that, in contrast to many historiographical assumptions, counterrevolution for contemporaries did not imply a return to the status quo ante. If speakers wanted to suggest a return to the ancien régime, they had to specify what type of counterrevolution they were talking about by adding an attribute. Collocations as contre-révolution compléte38 or definitions such as “ancien & excellent gouvernement”39 are therefore indicative of the inherent pluralism of the term. Likewise, collocations such as contre-révolution politique,40 contre-révolution constitutionnelle,41 or contre-révolution armée42 demonstrated that the term itself was in permanent need of further explanation once it became associated with more precise projects or actors.

In consequence, for contemporaries counterrevolution did not happen in isolation or by the inference of supernatural powers. For them, it was grounded in the political reality of the Revolution and had to be “operated.” From 1790 to 1791, opérer une contre-révolution became a common phrase yet still under the reserve that “the counterrevolution can be done in numerous different ways.”43 A controversy between the oppositional monarchist Montlosier and the officer Pierre Marie de Grave, supporting the Constitution of 1791, illustrates both the pluralistic and the performative dimension of counterrevolution. In 1791, Montlosier published a pamphlet titled De la nécessité d’une contre-révolution en France,44 which indicated his refusal of the status quo but was by no means a call to return to the status quo ante. Accordingly, he had to specify his intentions in a subtitle: Pour rétablir les Finances, la Religion, les Moeurs, la Monarchie et la Liberté. Grave, however, found this title confusing, as he attributed it to a return to the ancien régime that—once the Constitution of 1791 was accepted—would have been illegal:

One saw before the revolution that the finances were in a desperate state, the morals pure as in Rome, liberty protected by lettres-de-cachet & de jussion. It is certainly not that, Monsieur, which you propose to re-establish. I would recommend you to change the title of your book … : nécessité d’une contre-révolution par la guerre civile.45

Montlosier published a second pamphlet in which he fully concentrated on the means of bringing about counterrevolution: Des moyens d’opérer la contre-révolution.46 As he had already specified his program, he could now rely on the definite article, but he shifted the focus onto the process, which, for him, indeed implied the use of violence against the revolutionaries. As the pluralistic use highlights, contemporaries did not care primarily about drawing sharp and persistent dividing lines between “revolutionaries” and “counterrevolutionaries” or to identify counterrevolutionary political programs. What appeared to be more relevant was to raise awareness for une contre-révolution as a general process of contestation that could take different political forms in need of further specification.

Counterrevolution Designated the Process of Combating the Revolution Rather than a Return to the Ancien Régime

Counterrevolution emerged as the French Revolution’s negative other and became inextricably linked to the idea of revolutionary movement. From the very first occurrences, its use required an understanding of revolution as a linear, progressive change and no longer relied on the older cycle of a “revolution” or more general acceptations of turnover.47 Accordingly, the term “counter-revolution” primarily expressed the dynamics directed against the process of revolution but not an automatic return to its starting point. Sporadic links to the “ancient & excellent government”48 or “the total re-establishment of what has been changed or abolished”49 remain exceptions to this general tendency or served as a polemical argument.

With the growing tensions between revolutionary France and the European monarchies and the formation of émigré troops at the French border in 1791/1792, counterrevolution served to interpret the coming of war no longer in terms of a monarchical war but rather as an externalized civil war.50 Counterrevolution pointed to France’s possible invasion by the émigrés and the coalition,51 though it said little about their objectives. Together with the external enemies, parts of the French population also became suspected of counterrevolution. The phrase “to have the counterrevolution operated by the people itself”52 is evocative of the mistrust the central authorities placed on the reliability of “inner counterrevolutionaries,” especially in peripheral French departments after the outbreak of war in 1792/1793. With the radicalization and thus semantic narrowing of revolution, for the National Convention and the Committee of Public Safety counterrevolution comprised all forces in opposition to the Jacobins regardless of their varying positions: “We can say that there are no more than two parties: the counterrevolutionaries and the revolutionaries or Jacobins.”53 It is this dichotomous—and in terms of actors, asymmetric—Jacobin definition of counterrevolution that has become influential in later historiography, though its inherent Manichaeism makes it rather unsuitable for historical differentiation.

The Jacobin pattern competed with more dynamic connotations counterrevolution took among French émigrés.54 At the climax of the First Coalition War, 1793/1794, they turned it into a positive concept of active combat.“Counterrevolution and war have to walk abreast, the latter as instrument, the former as point of direction,”55 Montlosier declared in his consultations with Austrian and British diplomats in Brussels. Facing revolutionary terror and a revolutionary army ideologized by the levée en masse, émigrés of different political orientations agreed on the necessity of concerted military action against the Jacobin Republic together with the allied monarchs: “The rescue of France is inseparable from the salvation of Europe, it is the true counterrevolution. Because this is nothing other than the conservation of the social order.”56 By defending a bellicose understanding of counterrevolution, emigres tried to postpone their internal divisions about France’s political future in favor of combating the Revolution in the present. In this context, Montlosier gave the most salient definition of counterrevolution not as a retrograde process but as a military, political, and social movement imitating and finally surpassing the revolutionary forces:

A principle to which one has never paid sufficient attention is that a counterrevolution is nothing other than a revolution against the revolution. By consequence, the means of counterrevolution are essentially revolutionary means. It is obvious that monarchical elements and forms that are so suited for preserving an existing monarchy are totally inappropriate for re-establishing it.57

With his fellow émigrés and allied diplomats, Montlosier discussed a program of downright counterrevolutionary “salutary terror”58 that explicitly in-cluded mass violence: “Slaughter the Jacobins everywhere, have the buyers of emigre estates perish by the sword of the law; oppose terror by terror, scaffolds by scaffolds; defy the Convention by excelling it in its furors.”59 This extreme position demonstrates how close imaginaries of revolution and counterrevolution could come, totally eclipsing the question of a return to the ancien régime.

Along with Montlosier’s counterrevolutionary bellicosity, it is worth discussing Joseph de Maistre’s seemingly contrary definition of counterrevolution that has become a classic in the nineteenth-and twentieth-century canon of counterrevolutionary thought:60 “the reestablishment of monarchy one calls counterrevolution will not be a contrary revolution but the contrary of the revolution.”61 Placed in their historical context, Maistre’s Considerations sur la France reveal, however, a far more complex political imaginary than a simple apology of theocracy or the ancien régime. Traditional interpretations62 often overlook that Maistre wrote his Considérations as a contribution to the royalist electoral campaign in spring 1797, when émigrés and inner-French monarchists hoped for a royalist majority and a subsequent overturn of the Republic.63 As the pamphlet, because of its delayed completion, only gained influence after 1814, its immediate political purpose is often blurred.

Although Maistre never expressed precise ideas of how he imagined France’s political order would be after a restoration of monarchy,64 both the Considérations and his diplomatic correspondence with the court of Turin make clear that his “counterrevolution” did not imply the ancien régime. Instead, it had a more immediate political relevance than Hannah Arendt suggested by her dismissal of it as an “empty witticism”65 wholly dependent on the definition of revolution.

Maistre’s Considérations immediately replied to Benjamin Constant’s defense of the French Republic, which reproached the émigrés, saying that they were ready to sacrifice France’s inner pacification after the fall of the Jacobins for their own interests: “Those who want to overthrow the Republic are strangely fooled by the words. They have seen that a revolution was a terrible and tragic thing, and they conclude from it that what they call a counterrevolution would be a happy event. They do not understand that this counterrevolution would be itself but a new revolution.”66

Against such a scenario of renewed terror much in the idea of Montlosier’s bellicosity, Maistre argued for a “contrary of revolution” gradually leading to monarchy after divine providence had already subverted the Jacobin “monsters” at Thermidor.67 He grounded his understanding of revolution and counterrevolution in the experience of the English Restoration in 1660, mentioned immediately before his definition of counterrevolution in the Considérations.

Moreover, recent scholarship has emphasized Maistre’s economic liberalism and his pragmatic position toward the early phases of the Revolution.68 In his diplomatic correspondence, he several times excluded the “chimera of the ancient regime”69 as an option for France: “In my way of thinking, the project of bottling Lake Geneva is much less mad than putting things back on the same foot where they were before the Revolution.”70

Compared to Montlosier’s definition from 1793/1794, Maistre paid little attention to the agency of counterrevolution. His theocratic and pacificatory rhetoric can be explained by the changes in political circumstances in 1796/1797. Maistre—and with him a large part of the émigré community, including Louis XVIII-kept his distance from (counter)revolutionary violence, hoping to operate a counterrevolution using the republican instrument of elections.71 The further political horizon of counterrevolution remained unspecified, as the emphasis remained on the process and not on its final goal.

Counterrevolution Could Also Designate a Left-Wing Phenomenon

Jean-Clément Martin has observed that the dividing line between the labels revolution and counterrevolution shifted from the Far Right leftward until 1794; he did not include the opposite phenomenon into his consideration, though.72 Following a left-wing understanding of revolution, he, along with most other historians, situated counterrevolution exclusively on the political right. The historical usage patterns suggest a more flexible understanding in those phases when the revolutionary process aimed at balancing diverging interests as around the adoption of the constitution in 1791 or, in other words, in phases of attempting to end the Revolution.73

In one of the rare studies on how contemporaries made sense of counterrevolution, Julien Boudon has analyzed the writings of Jacques Mallet du Pan, editor of the influential Mercure de France and after 1792 one of the most important émigré writers.74 Boudon observed that Mallet du Pan originally conceptualized counterrevolution in a very broad sense, including the republican enemies of the constitution as legally enshrined by the Revolution. For him, this group was “a class that, animated by a spirit of Counterrevolution, wants to destroy the monarchical government consecrated by the Constitution.”75

Minoritarian in France, this left-wing extension of counterrevolution referring to the precarious status of the 1791 constitution became more popular among German journalists.76 Gottlob Benedict von Schirach, frankly opposing the Revolution, called the attack on the Tuileries and the deposition of Louis XVI in August 1792 not “a supplement of the Revolution” but “a true counterrevolution because the whole constitution is overthrown.”77 Following a relational understanding of counterrevolution as a process, Schirach, like Mallet du Pan, used the constitution as a measuring stick. His opponent Johann Gottfried Dyk, more sympathetic to the Revolution, linked counterrevolution to the ancien régime, as he could not make sense of the attack on the Tuileries in terms of counterrevolution: “Has the old constitution of the state been restored? And is the counterrevolution now consolidated in France?”78 In the German debate, Dyk, who adopted the French mainstream interpretation of counterrevolution as a right-wing phenomenon, provoked sharp contestation that could still take another turn. In a comment to his translation of Mallet du Pan’s Considérations sur la nature de la révolution de France, Friedrich Gentz, in 1794, reflected on the temporal ambiguities of counterrevolution:

As long as there was still in France a king and a monarchical constitution, counterrevolution meant nothing but the reestablishment of the old constitution with all its errors. No honest and enlightened man could be a counterrevolutionary then: the challenge was to improve, to modify, to completely change the constitution. Since mid-1792 the scenery has changed: and now every honest and enlightened man must be a counterrevolutionary. There is now no point anymore where an improvement could be made. Instead, the notion of counterrevolution, after wandering through so many forms, has, at this moment, become an indefinite and ambiguous notion that apart from its main characteristic (the abolition of the present state) takes to so many side characteristics as there are people thinking or dreaming about France’s destiny.79

Emphasizing the overturn of the present government as the semantic core of counterrevolution, Gentz also left out any reference to the ancien régime. Taking up the idea of a political center of the Revolution, he defined counterrevolution with clear normative implications.

After Thermidor and around the Constitution of 1795, the idea of a double-faced counterrevolution reemerged both in the German debate80 and in France. Representatives of the purged National Convention feared “counter-revolutionary” machinations not only among royalists but also among former (left-wing) robespierristes and hébertistes.81 In return, marginalized Jacobins such as Jean Marie Collot d’Herbois or Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne reproached (right-wing) Thermidorians to represent themselves la contre-révolution.82 However, the Directory’s interpretation of counterrevolution as a multipolar political movement prevailed, as demonstrated by the dictionary of the Gottingen scholar Leonhard Wilhelm Snetlage: “This term, novel in its composition, signifies in France the violent reversal not only of the first Constitution that turned France into a constitutional monarchy, but also of the last one that turned her government republican and popular.”83 Accordingly, he classified the Jacobins as openly counterrevolutionary to the monopole of state power enshrined by the Directory and the Constitution of 1795. By consequence, between Thermidor and the coup d’état of Fructidor, defenders of the anti-Jacobin republic faced the challenge of winning over two counterrevolutions both from the left and from the right.

Historiographical Alternatives to Counterrevolution Also Have Different Historical Meanings

Social history approaches to the French Revolution have been reluctant to label popular resistance to the Paris central government as counterrevolution. As an alternative to the allegedly elitist, idea-based (or theocratic), and “foreign” (regarding the anti-French coalition and the émigrés) counterrevolution, some historians have proposed the categories of résistances or anti-revolution.84 These concepts were supposed to be more socially inclusive and less reactionary than counterrevolution.85

William Doyle explained the failure of the counterrevolution to cherish the ancien régime was due to its lacking support from the anti-revolution, which excluded any idea of a return to the prerevolutionary order.86 Hervé Leuwers estimated the difficulty of drawing a distinctive line between anti-and counterrevolution as “the anti-revolution can transform into counterrevolution and become instrumentalized by it.”87

The reasons for such difficulties become obvious in a historical perspective, as these counterconcepts have been turned into analytical categories without any discussion of their contemporary semantics. Whereas resistance is problematic given the overlap with French oppositional action against the German occupation during World War II,88 anti-revolution was part of the political vocabulary in the French Revolution since 1790.89 Frequently, contemporaries used anti-revolution as a synonym for counterrevolution without any confusion.90 Both concepts expressed a dynamic impulse that, as we have seen, had little to do with a return to the ancien régime, but emphasized combat against the Revolution.

In cases where anti-revolution and counterrevolution carried different meanings or were even opposed to one another, these dichotomies did not at all correspond to the later “technical” distinction between an elitist, retrograde counterrevolution and a popular, less regressive anti-revolution. In the German journal Friedenspräliminarien, Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, a sympathizer of the Revolution before the takeover of the Jacobins, understood anti-revolution in a broader sense than counterrevolution.91 Whereas counterrevolution for Huber required the direct experience of revolution, he used anti-revolution to characterize foreign attempts to prevent revolution. The Swiss diplomat and writer Johannes von Müller defined anti-revolutionaries in 1797 as defenders of the political status quo.92 These examples show the inconsistent meanings of anti-revolution in the 1790s. If the term expressed a distance from a return to the ancien régime, this superficial similarity with its later use in historiography does not relate it to socially broader opposition to revolution.

Other Revolutionary Experiences in the “Age of Revolutions” Triggered Differing Meanings of Counterrevolution

Another dominant feature of the historical literature on counterrevolution is its prevailing francocentrism. In studies on other revolutionary experiences, either the French Revolution remains the dominating reference, or they use counterrevolution as a category of analysis without acknowledging the specific French origins of the concept.93 The following comparative observations on the Glorious Revolution and the American, Helvetian, and Haitian revolutions call for caution about such generalizations and bring out the complex semantic entanglements between the French and other revolutionary contexts.

After counterrevolution had first appeared in 1790 as a translation from the French, the English language took over the French mainstream patterns, for example, “a counterrevolution” as a pluralist concept or the action-bound collocation “effecting a counterrevolution.”94 Nonetheless, on the semantic level, this transfer required a complex adaptation of the British understanding of its counterpart revolution. As William Doyle has pointed out, translating counterrevolution logically implied a shift from a cyclical to a linear movement of revolution that conflicted with the seventeenth-century revolutionary legacy.95 Whereas anglophile Frenchmen paralleled their Revolution with the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, British and British-born contemporaries struggled with these overlapping directions of revolution.

Thomas Paine’s attempted definition presents a case in point for this ambivalence. Emphasizing the progressive changeover of the French Revolution, he preferred in his Rights of Man the category of counterrevolution to revolution:

The Revolutions which formerly took place in the world had nothing in them that interested the bulk of mankind. They extended only to a change of persons and measures, but not of principles, and rose or fell among the common transactions on the moment. What we now behold may not improperly be called “counter Revolution.” Conquest and tyranny, at some early period, dispossessed man of his rights, and he is now recovering them.96

Paine’s idea of man “recovering” his rights therefore implies a semantic blending of old and new elements of revolution in favor of the new human rights that probably opposed Edmund Burke’s defense of the old corporative rights of the ancienne constitution. Tellingly, from his background of the American Revolution, Paine, using the category of counterrevolution, not only temporalized experiences of revolutionary change but also spatialized them by drawing on the older astronomic semantic layers of the term “revolution": “Government founded on … the indefeasible hereditary Rights of Man, is now revolving from west to east by a stronger impulse than the government of the sword revolved from the east to west.”97 In that sense, it was a supposed inversion of the geographical direction of change in an Atlantic perspective that justified Paine’s substitution of a retrograde idea of revolution by a progressive as well as spatially opposite counterrevolutionary process. Unsurprisingly, this complex permutation of categories in order to express the irreversible dynamics of change found little resonance among his contemporaries.

The fact that Burke, the addressee of Paine’s pamphlet, reflected extensively on the Revolution in France but almost not at all on counterrevolution suggests that he also struggled with the term. A passage in the 1794 translation of Mallet du Pan’s Considérations by his son Richard hints at this. Richard Burke translated Mallet du Pan’s ex positivo term contre-révolution absolue as “unqualified counterrevolution.”98 This ex negativo qualification evoked the model of the Glorious Revolution as an implicit norm. The Burke family, as adherents of the French ancienne constitution, wanted the French counterrevolution to be a “qualified”—that is, gradual—process, not in terms of guaranteeing universal human rights like Thomas Paine but in opposition to ideas of terror prominent in French discourse.

Other sources, such as British diplomatic correspondence, took up elements from both Paine’s radical plea for constitutional change and the Burkean condemnation of (counter)revolutionary violence. They suggest that, in relation to a restoration of the Bourbons to the throne, British politicians understood counterrevolution “in the extended sense of the word”99 that went beyond military action and politically excluded ideas of the ancien régime. From a British constitutional point of view, “counter revolutionists”100 could not be reduced to politically intransigent émigrés of the first hour.

In general, the semantic transfer of counterrevolution into British and American political discourse remained limited. Translations in English mostly applied to the developments in France but did not become an integral part of British or American political vocabulary in the period. Counterrevolution confusingly interfered with the space of experience of a “Glorious Revolution” or its American regeneration that needed no counterrevolution in the French sense.

In Switzerland, counterrevolution entered political discourse after the Helvetian Revolution of 1798.101 As the downfall of the old confederation and the emergence of the short-lived Helvetic Constitution resulted from an interplay between the French invasion and Swiss patriots opposing the patrician-oligarchic order, the Swiss understanding of counterrevolution depended on French patterns but took an opposite direction. For Swiss politicians during the Helvetic period, counterrevolution meant the overthrow of the new constitution that directly involved French political influences. When French republican representatives reduced their support for a strong central power in favor of a federal organization of Switzerland and parts of the old elite, Minister of Justice and Police Bernhard Meyer von Schauensee complained “that the French agents protect the counterrevolutionaries and operate the counterrevolution themselves.”102

The Basel revolutionary Peter Ochs, another advocate of strong central power, perceived the difficult status of an independent Swiss confederacy toward France in terms of revolution and counterrevolution. He reproached his political opponents that they instrumentalized the delicate question of national independence to advance the reestablishment of the Swiss Old Regime and announced that “everyone who does not go ahead of the counterrevolution will pay dearly for it one day.”103 For Swiss revolutionaries, it was hardly conceivable that the French Republic, which had brought about the Revolution in 1798, could only a few years later openly support a Swiss counter-or “Retro-Revolution”104 partially returning to the status quo ante. As the European cases of Britain and Switzerland demonstrate, experiences of revolution beyond France questioned the legitimacy of the French Revolution, associating it with counterrevolution.

Outside of Europe, this interrelation had paradoxical effects. Commonly, scholarship on the Haitian Revolution highlights the independence of the world’s first postcolonial, antislavery state in 1804 as the most radical attempt to realize the Enlightenment imperative of universal equality.105 Contemporaries, however, prominently designated the slave insurrections as counterrevolution. When one of the “insurrectionist” chiefs, Jorge Biassou, declared, “I am the Chief of the Counter-Revolution,”106 therein agreeing with a white lawyer taken prisoner by the slaves, this reference is evocative for the ambiguous relation of Saint-Domingue toward the National Assembly’s colonial politics.107 As the French legislature had decreed the emancipation of the gens de couleur but not of the slaves, the latter put their hopes on Louis XVI, imagined as a counterrevolutionary ally against revolutionary legislation that in terms of equality showed little interest in abolishing the ancien régime colonial.108

Diffuse royalist orientations of the slaves together with the planters’ opposition to the measures taken in the metropole also made French revolutionaries believe that the prestigious Caribbean colony had fallen into the hands of counterrevolution. As the idea of an insurrection primarily driven by the miseries of slavery remained widely “unthinkable,”109 French observers supposed a royalist conspiracy inciting the slaves.110 This interpretation, however, completely ignored the slaves’ agency and their appropriations of revolution and counterrevolution that, besides the French developments, reflected an African space of experience. One of their leaders, Macaya, presented himself as the subject of three kings: the French king by his slave father, the Spanish king by his slave mother, and the king of the Congo as the “master of all blacks.”111 In this respect, the category of counterrevolution connected different strands of identity and loyalty.

With regard to the revolutionary Atlantic space, the Haitian Revolution blurred another important reference for French revolutionaries: the American Revolution.,112 When royalist émigré planters from Saint-Domingue implored the British government for protection and considered passing under British sovereignty or even full independence, French republicans conceived of such scenarios both in terms of revolution and counterrevolution.113 Whereas a secession from the metropole could have appeared as an imitation of the American settlers France had supported in the 1770s, the overlap with the slave insurrections in Saint-Domingue and the alliance of French royalist planters with France’s fiercest enemy seemed to fall into the category of counterrevolution: “Pitt wants to overturn the new American constitution, revolutionize the West Indies, and counterrevolutionize France.”114

Therefore, the Haitian Revolution, the seemingly most radical of all Atlantic revolutions, being perceived as a counterrevolution provides another argument for a more reflexive use of the term in historiography. Overall, these three examples make clear that the French Revolution and its impact on revolutionary experiences outside France quickly turned into counterrevolution when it seemed to convey normative implications.

Historiographical Reconsiderations

The five spotlights on the early meanings of counterrevolution reveal the problems in its historiographical use as both a holistic category designating a refusal of revolutionary change and an umbrella understanding that subsumes all shades of opposition against the course of the French Revolution. In the outcome, historians of the French Revolution, mostly unconsciously, appear as actors of conceptual history rather than as interpreters of history.115

On the one hand, historiography largely defends a structural rather than a discursive approach to counterrevolution. Conceptualizing the category in a dichotomy with revolution, it tends to reify a Jacobin usage pattern. On the other hand, this practice stands in apparent contrast to the more dynamic, flexible, and process-oriented use of other contemporaries. This gap has considerably narrowed the analytical potential of counterrevolution. As a historical concept, it designated shifting relations between actors and means or strategies of combating the Revolution rather than their objectives.

Whether the consequence should be to take Hampson’s suggestion to ban counterrevolution from analytical vocabulary more seriously or to reinvestigate its analytical potential, but informed by an increased awareness of its manifold historical meanings, remains a question for further discussion. Regarding the existing literature, the first option might seem easier than the second one. Nonetheless, searching for a clear rule risks once more overem-phasizing or even reessentializing the differences between revolution and counterrevolution.

Instead, I conclude with five arguments for rethinking revolution’s asym-metric other in a more relational rather than dichotomous perspective. This proposition owes to the inductive approach of histoire croisee, providing a methodological tool for historical investigations from the inside of certain constellations toward the outside of embedding frames.116

First, for contemporaries counterrevolution was a contingent concept, as there was no generally accepted meaning after 1789. The concept mostly referred to precise political orders, constitutional models, or institutions only insofar as they became part of a strategy or a process. By consequence, every reference to counterrevolution had a specific political viewpoint that expressed relations to political allies and opponents that later historiographical uses often ignored or left unmentioned.

Second, counterrevolution contributes little to explain the agency of historical actors during the French Revolution in terms of success or failure. As the directions of the process of counterrevolution were different, the dividing line between revolution and counterrevolution remained permeable in time and flexible over time. Nonetheless, contemporaries shared one horizon: counterrevolution had never been fully operational but was still to come—or to fear. In this respect, counterrevolution neither referred to the present of revolution nor to the prerevolutionary past, but to the future.

Third, counterrevolution can therefore not be separated from its actors. Rather than an ideology or doctrine of counterrevolution, counterrevolutionaries had agency related to specific but highly unstable political constellations. This processual and relational quality is most often blurred when the contemporaries’ Bewegungsbegriff turns into an analytical entity.

Fourth, as counterrevolution did not primarily express the idea of a return to the status quo ante, it says little about whether or not actors were supporters of the ancien régime. In the 1790s, counterrevolution remained a void category for discussing this point, as it simply did not provide the discursive framework. Other but interrelated categories and debates as on ancienne constitution permit a more fruitful access point for studying political objectives toward which counterrevolution, on another level, could provide the means or instruments.117

Fifth, when adherents of the Revolution used counterrevolution to denounce political dangers or when enemies of the Revolution adopted the term for them, they pointed, in both cases, to the openness and imponderabilia of the revolutionary process. Reducing this variability and contingency retro-spectively risks taking a teleological perspective on the French Revolution and an anachronistic view on its actors.

Paying more attention to the semantics of counterrevolution therefore allows for reconsidering the relation and entanglements between the French Revolution and its opponents. Rather than defining counterrevolutionaries from a bird’s-eye perspective along more or less static predefined criteria, a semantically informed approach would focus more on the actors’ interests and strategies. Such a shifted perspective would be to consider critics and opponents no longer as standing on the Revolution’s other side but as an integral part of a long and fragmented process that finally discarded the option of the ancien régime from the political horizon.

I would like to thank Anna Karla, Fabian Rausch, Rieke Trimçev, and the reviewers for their comments on this article.


François Dominique de Reynaud de Montlosier to Florimond Claude de Mercy-Argenteau, 16 April 1794, Österreichisches Staatsarchiv Wien (hereinafter ÖStA), Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (hereinafter HHStA), Frankreich Varia 50 (emphasis added; all translations are my own unless otherwise indicated). On Montlosier, see Simon Burrows, French Exile Journalism and European Politics 1792–1814 (Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society, 2000); Pierre Serna, “Du noble radical à l’aristocrate tempéré ou le comte de Montlosier et la naissance d’une famille de la droite française durant le Directoire,” in Les noblesses francaises dans l’Europe de la Revolution: Actes du colloque international de Vizille (10–12 septembre 2008), ed. Philippe Bourdin (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2010), 177–195; Friedemann Pestel, Kosmopoliten wider Willen: Die monarchiens als Revolutionsemigranten (Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015).


Arno J. Mayer, The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 45.


Reinhart Koselleck, Vergangene Zukunft : Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1979); Kay Junge and Kirill Postoutenko, eds., Asymmetrical Concepts after Reinhart Koselleck: Historical Semantics and Beyond (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011).


See Reinhart Koselleck, “Revolution, Rebellion, Aufruhr, Bürgerkrieg,” in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, vol. 5, ed. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck (Stuttgart: Klett, 1984), 653–788; Isabelle Albaret, Les mots de la Révolution (Paris: Ledrappier, 1987).


See Eugenio di Rienzo, “Le due rivoluzioni,” in Nazione e controrivoluzione nell’Europa contemporanea: 1799–1848, ed. Eugenio di Rienzo (Milan: Guerini e Associati, 2004), 9–83, here 12, taking a stance against “Jacobinophile” historians; cf. Massimo Viglione, “Il debattito storiografico in Italia in occasione del bicentenario delle insorgenze controrivoluzionarie (1990–2010),” in Les autres Vendées: Les contre-révolutions paysannes au XIXe siècle, ed. Yves-Marie Bercé (La Roche-sur-Yon: Centre vendéen de recherches historiques, 2013), 163–207.


On different forms and functions of anachronisms, see Miriam Lay Brander, “Der Anachronismus als literatur- und kulturwissenschaft liche Kategorie,” in Anachronismen—Anachronismes—Anachronismi—Anachronismos: Atti del V Dies Romanicus Turicensis (Zurigo, 19?20 giugno 2009), ed. Cristina Albizu, Hans-Jörg Döhla, Lorenzo Filipponio, Marie-Florence Sguaitamatti, Harald Völker, Vera Ziswiler, and Reto Zöllner (Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2011), 13–27; for a detailed analysis of “hermeneutic presentism,” see Carlos Spoerhase, Autorschaft und Interpretation: Methodische Grundlagen einer philologischen Hermeneutik (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2007); from a more engaged position, see Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics, Vol. 1: Regarding Method (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 57–89.


See the striking absence of “counterrevolution” from dictionaries of conceptual history dealing with the French Revolution discussed in the following section.


See, e.g., Journal républicain, Rhône et Loire, no. 40 (30 March 1794): 275; Représentant en Mission Florent Guiot to the Committee of Public Safety, 2 July 1794, in Recueil des actes du Comité de salut public, avec la correspondance officielle des représentants en mission et le registre du conseil exécutif provisoire, vol. 14, ed. Alphonse Aulard (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1901), 664; Monestier, Représentant in the Landes, the Hautes and Basses Pyrénées, to the Committee of Public Safety, 17 November 1794, in Recueil des actes du Comite de salut public, avec la correspondance officielle des representants en mission et le registre du conseil exécutif provisoire, vol. 18, ed. Alphonse Aulard (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1908), 205–206.


Reinhart Koselleck, “Standortbindung und Zeitlichkeit: Ein Beitrag zur historiographischen Erschließung der geschichtlichen Welt,” in Objektivität und Parteilichkeit in der Geschichtswissenschaft, ed. Reinhart Koselleck, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, and Jörn Rüsen (Munich: dtv, 1977), 17–46, here 45–46. For the disciplinary context of Koselleck’s middleground position between the Marxist postulate of historians taking sides and the idea of historical objectivity, see Stefan Jordan, “Vetorecht der Quellen,” Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte (11 February 2010), http://docupedia.de/zg/Vetorecht_der_Quellen.


On this process, see Kari Palonen, Die Entzauberung der Begriffe: Das Umschreiben der politischen Begriffe bei Quentin Skinner und Reinhart Koselleck (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2004), 224.


Michel Péronnet, Les 50 mots clefs de la Révolution française (Toulouse: Privat, 2005), 97.


Karine Rance, “La Contre-Révolution à l’oeuvre en Europe,” in La Revolution a l’oeuvre: Perspectives actuelles dans l’histoire de la Révolution française, ed. Jean-Clément Martin (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005), 181–192.


The absence applies, for example, for Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck, eds., Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, 8 vols. (Stuttgart: Klett, 1972–1997); Laboratoire de Lexicologie Politique, ed., Dictionnaire des usages socio-politiques (1770–1815), 8 vols. (Paris: Klincksieck; Champion, 1985?2006). For recent factualist approaches, see Gérard Gengembre, La contre-révolution ou l’histoire déséspérante: Histoire des idées politiques (Paris: Imago, 1989); Jean Tulard, ed., La Contre-Révolution: Origines, histoire, postérité (Paris: Perrin, 1990); Massimo Boffa, “Contre-Révolution,” in Dictionnaire critique de la Révolution française, vol. 4, ed. François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Paris: Flammarion, 1992), 87–101; Jean-Clément Martin, ed., Dictionnaire de la contre-révolution: XVIIIe–XXe siècle (Paris: Perrin, 2011); Richard Ballard, A New Dictionary of the French Revolution (London: I. B. Tauris, 2012).


Matthias Middell, Die Geburt der Konterrevolution in Frankreich 1788–1792 (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2005).


Jacques Godechot, La contre-révolution: Doctrine et action, 1789–1804 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961); for a critique of his genealogy, see William Doyle, Officers, Nobles and Revolutionaries: Essays on Eighteenth-Century France (London: Hambledon Press, 1995), 200.


Matthias Middell, “Widerstand gegen die Französische Revolution: Einige Überlegungen zur Konterrevolutionsforschung,” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 37 (1989): 880–889, here 887; Bernard Hours, “Contre-Révolution avant 1789,” in Martin, Dictionnaire de la contre-révolution, 195–202.


Robert Calvet, Révoltes et révolutions en Europe et aux Amériques: 1773–1802 (Paris: A. Colin, 2004), 179–185; Michel Biard, Philippe Bourdin, and Silvia Marzagalli, Révolution, Consulat, Empire: 1789–1815 (Paris: Belin, 2009), 377–420. Jean-Clément Martin, “The French Revolution and Its Historiographies,” in Transnational Challenges to National History Writing, ed. Matthias Middell and Lluís Roura (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 343–376, here 343, also criticizes this separation.


Gengembre, Contre-révolution.


Jean-Clément Martin, “Introduction,” in Dictionnaire de la contre-révolution, 7–28, here 9.


François Furet, Penser la Révolution française (Paris: Gallimard, 1985); Furet, “Réflexions sur l’idée de tradition révolutionnaire dans la France du XIXe siècle,” Pouvoirs 50 (1989): 5–14.


Doyle, Officers, 203.


Norman Hampson, “La Contre-Révolution a-t-elle existé?,” in Les Resistances a la Révolution, ed. Roger Dupuy and François Lebrun (Paris: Imago, 1987), 462–468, here 463.


Cf. Jean-Clément Martin, Contre-révolution, Révolution et Nation en France, 1789–1799 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1998), 9; Matthias Middell, “Konterrevolution in Frankreich, Konservatismus und Religion,” in Auf dem Weg in die Moderne: Radikales Denken, Aufklärung und Konservatismus, ed. Birgitta Bader-Zaar (Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2007), 35–45, here 39.


Larry E. Tise, The American Counterrevolution: A Retreat from Liberty, 1783–1800 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998), 322.


Mayer, Furies, 45.


Jean-Clément Martin, Révolution et contre-révolution en France de 1789–1989: Les rouages de l’histoire (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 1996), 143–144; Martin, Contre-révolution, Révolution et Nation, 304.


Martin, Contre-révolution, Révolution et Nation, 11.


Middell, Geburt der Konterrevolution, 19–20; Middell, “Auf der Suche nach neuen Ausdrucksformen: Die Gegner der Französischen Revolution 1788–1792,” in Medienereignisse im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Christine Vogel, Herbert Schneider, and Horst Carl (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2009), 77–91, here 80.


Sylvie Aprile, Le siècle des exilés: Bannis et proscrits de 1789 a la Commune (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2010), 37.


Jörn Leonhard, “‘Eine Art von Convulsion bis in das Innerste’: Europäische Revolutionskonzepte und ihre Alternativen im langen 19. Jahrhundert,” in Romantik und Revolution: Zum politischen Reformpotential einer unpolitischen Bewegung, ed. Klaus Ries (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 83–104, here 83?84; Alain Rey, “Revolution,” histoire d’un mot (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 109; Koselleck, “Revolution,” 725–726.


Mathurin François Adolphe de Lescure, ed., Correspondance secrète inédite sur Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, la cour et la ville de 1777 à 1792, vol. 2 (Paris: Plon, 1866), 408–409; Theodor Ranft , “Der Einfl uß der französischen Revolution auf den Wortschatz der französischen Sprache” (PhD diss., University of Gießen, 1908), 112; and Ahcène Abdelfettah, Die Rezeption der Französischen Revolution durch den deutschen öffentlichen Sprachgebrauch: Untersucht an ausgewählten historisch-politischen Zeitschrift en (1789–1802) (Heidelberg: Winter, 1989), 325 erroneously take an article in Le Moniteur Universel, 15 January 1790, as the first occurrence of the term.


Lescure, Correspondance, 487–488; L’Ami du Peuple, no. 296, 30 November 1790; Revolutions de Paris, no. 388, 6 April 1790, 19–20; Lescure, Correspondance, 465; L’Ami du Peuple, no. 372, 15 February 1791.


Cf. Laurence R. Horn, A Natural History of Negation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).


Lescure, Correspondance, 489 and 553–554.


Le Moniteur Universel, 15 January 1790.


Mercure de France, no. 21, 22 April 1790, 350 (emphasis in original).


Nicolas Bergasse, Lettre de M. Bergasse, député de la sénéchaussée de Lyon, à ses commettans, au sujet de sa protestation contre les assignats-monnoie, accompagnée d’un tableau comparatif du système de Law avec le système de la caisse d’escompte et des assignats-monnoie (Paris: s.n., 1790), 36.


Le démocrate et l’ami des lois, 1794/1795, no. 7.


Anon., Qu’est-ce qu’une révolution? (s.l., 1792), 7.


L’Ami du Peuple, no. 573, 13 October 1791.


Joseph Hyacinthe François de Paule de Vaudreuil to Emmanuel Louis Henri de Launay, Comte d’Antraigues, 16 June 1792, in Correspondance intime du Comte de Vaudreuil et du Comte d’Artois, vol. 2, ed. Léonce Pingaud (Paris: Plon, 1889), 94.


Journal général de France, no. 281, 8 October 1790, 1183; Mercure de France, 7 August 1790, quoted from Julien Boudon, “La voie royale selon Mallet du Pan,” Revue francaise d’histoire des idées politiques 27 (2008), 3–41, here 14–15.


Jacques Mallet du Pan to Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix de Castries, 6 October 1793, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. suppl. 866.


François Dominique de Reynaud de Montlosier, De la nécessité d’une contre-révolution en France, pour rétablir les Finances, la Religion, les Moeurs, la Monarchie et la Liberté (Paris: s.n., 1791); cf. also Marie-France Piguet, “‘Contre-révolution,’ ‘guerre civile,’ ‘lutte entre deux classes’: Montlosier (1755–1838) penseur du confl it politique moderne,” Asterion 6 (2009), http://asterion.revues.org/1485.


Pierre Marie de Grave, Lettre à M. de M[ontlosier] … sur son ouvrage intitule: De la necessite d’une contre-révolution en France, pour rétablir les Finances, la Religion, les Moeurs, la Monarchie et la Liberté (Paris: Petit, 1791), 22.


François Dominique de Reynaud de Montlosier, Des Moyens d’opérer la contre-révolution (Paris: s.n., 1791).


Koselleck, “Revolution,” 653–788; Albaret, Les mots de la Révolution; Rey, Révolution.


Anon., Qu’est-ce qu’une révolution?, 7.


Jacques Mallet du Pan, Considérations sur la nature de la révolution de France, Et sur les Causes qui en prolongent la durée (London: s.n., 1793), 50.


Jörn Leonhard, Bellizismus und Nation: Kriegsdeutung und Nationsbestimmung in Europa und den Vereinigten Staaten 1750–1914 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2008), 131–167.


Compare Christian Henke, Coblentz—Symbol für die Gegenrevolution: Die französische Emigration nach Koblenz und Kurtrier 1789–1792 und die politische Diskussion des revolutionären Frankreichs 1791–1794 (Stuttgart: Thorbecke, 2000).


Lescure, Correspondance, 579.


Ibid., 615.


See for the following Pestel, Kosmopoliten wider Willen, 131–151.


[Montlosier]: Vues sommaires sur la direction des forces & la combinaison des moyens à employer contre la France revolutionnaire, June 1794, The National Archives (hereinafter TNA), Kew, F.O. 26/25.


Jean Gabriel Rocques de Montgaillard, Nécessité de la guerre et dangers de la paix (The Hague: Bool, 1794), 31 (emphasis in original).


Montlosier, Memorandum, 22 November 1793, ÖStA HHStA Frankreich Varia 50, 40.


Ibid., 44.


Montlosier, Memorandum, 4 March 1794, TNA F.O. 26/24.


See Richard Lebrun and Carolina Armenteros, eds., Joseph de Maistre and His European Readers: From Friedrich von Gentz to Isaiah Berlin (Leiden: Brill, 2011); Carolina Armenteros, The French Idea of History: Joseph de Maistre and His Heirs, 1794–1854 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011).


Joseph de Maistre, OEuvres, ed. Pierre Glaudes (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2007), 276 (emphasis in original); see also Friedemann Pestel, “Französische Emigranten als Revolutionskritiker: Kontinuität und Diskontinuität von Denk- und Handlungsräumen im politischen Exil (1789–1814),” in Praktiken der Kritik, ed. Katia H. Backhaus and David Roth-Isigkeit (Frankfurt: Campus, 2016), 299–323, here 314–316.


Most recently Gérard Gengembre, “Maistre, Joseph Marie, comte de,” in Martin, Dictionnaire de la contre-révolution, 356–358.


Cara Camcastle, The More Moderate Side of Joseph de Maistre: Views on Political Liberty and Political Economy (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005), 3–4; Jean-Louis Darcel, “Introduction,” in Joseph de Maistre, Considérations sur la France, ed. Jean-Louis Darcel (Geneva: Slatkine, 1980), 17–56, here 43–45; Jean Tulard, “Un classique de la Contre-Révolution: Les ‘Considérations sur la France’ de Joseph de Maistre,” in Revolution und Gegenrevolution 1789–1830: Zur geistigen Auseinandersetzung in Frankreich und Deutschland, ed. Roger Dufraisse (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1991), 99–105, here 101.


Jean-Paul Clément, “Joseph de Maistre et Bonald à propos de la Contre-révolution,” in Joseph de Maistre, ed. Philippe Barthelet (Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 2005), 337–345, here 338.


Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1963), 8.


Benjamin Constant de Rebecque, De la force du gouvernement actuel de la France et de la necessite de s’y installer, ed. Philippe Raynaud (Paris: Flammarion, 2009), 38.


Maistre to Aimé Louis Vignet des Étoles, 26 August 1794, Revue d’etudes maistriennes 10 (1986/1987), 101.


Camcastle, Joseph de Maistre; Carolina Armenteros and Richard Lebrun, eds., Joseph de Maistre and the Legacy of Enlightenment (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2011).


Maistre to Vignet des Étoles, 4 September 1793, in Joseph de Maistre, OEuvres completes, vol. 9 (Lyon: Pélagaud, 1884), 50.


Maistre to Vignet des Étoles, 9 December 1793, ibid., 58.


Friedemann Pestel, “Monarchiens et monarchie en exil: Conjonctures de la monarchie dans l’émigration française, 1792–1799,” Annales historiques de la Révolution française 382 (2015), 3–29, here 18–20.


Martin, Contre-révolution, Révolution et Nation, 304.


For discussions of different phases of ending the Revolution, see François Furet, ed., Terminer la Révolution: Mounier et Barnave dans la Révolution française (Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 1990); Michel Troper, Terminer la Révolution: La Constitution de 1795 (Paris: Fayard, 2006); Gérard-Jean Chaduc and Pavel Bělina, eds., Terminer la Révolution? (Paris: Economica, 2003); François Furet, La Révolution française, vol. 2: Terminer la révolution: De Louis XVIII à Jules Ferry (1814–1880) (Paris: Hachette Littératures, 1997).


Boudon, “La voie royale.”


Mercure de France, 7 August 1790, quoted in ibid., 14–15.


German writers mostly used the superficially Germanized term “Contre-Revolution” but also properly translated it into “Gegenrevolution.”


Politisches Journal nebst Anzeige von gelehrten und andern Sachen, August 1792, 918. For the German context, see Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, Rolf Reichardt, and René Nohr, “Kulturtransfer im Epochenumbruch: Entwicklung und Inhalte der französisch-deutschen Übersetzungsbibliothek 1770–1815 im Überblick,” in Kulturtransfer im Epochenumbruch: Frankreich–Deutschland 1770–1815, vol. 1, ed. Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink and Rolf Reichardt (Leipzig: Universitätsverlag, 1997), 29–86; Rolf Reichardt, “Die Revolution—‘ein magischer Spiegel’: Historisch-politische Begriff sbildung in deutsch-französischen Übersetzungen,” in Lüsebrink and Reichardt, Kulturtransfer im Epochenumbruch, vol. 2, 883–998; Erich Pelzer, Die Wiederkehr des girondistischen Helden: Deutsche Intellektuelle als kulturelle Mittler zwischen Deutschland und Frankreich während der Französischen Revolution (Bonn: Bouvier, 1998).


Neue Leipziger gelehrte Anzeigen, supplement 18, 15 September 1792, 191–192.


Jacques Mallet du Pan, Mallet du Pan über die Französische Revolution und die Ursachen ihrer Dauer, trans. Friedrich Gentz (Berlin: Vieweg, 1794), 141–143n28.


Politisches Journal 1 (1795): 244?255.


Monestier to the Committee of Public Safety, 17 November 1794, in Recueil des actes, vol. 18, 205–206; Mailhe, représentant en mission in the Yonne and the Côte-d’Or, to the National Convention, 27 May 1795, in Recueil des actes du Comité de salut public, avec la correspondance officielle des représentants en mission et le registre du conseil exécutif provisoire, vol. 23, ed. Alphonse Aulard (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1913), 616.


Messager du soir, 21 November 1794, in Paris pendant la réaction thermidorienne et sous le Directoire: Recueil de documents pour l’histoire de l’esprit public à Paris, vol. 1, ed. Alphonse Aulard (Paris: L. Cerf, 1898), 264.


Leonhard Wilhelm Snetlage, Nouveau dictionnaire français contenant les expressions de nouvelle création du peuple français: Ouvrage additionel au dictionnaire de l’Academie française et à tout autre vocabulaire (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1795), 49–50.


Dupuy and Lebrun, Résistances; Colin Lucas, “Résistances populaires à la révolution dans le Sud-Est,” in Mouvements populaires et conscience sociale: XVIe–XIXe siécles, ed. Jean Nicolas (Paris: Maloine, 1985), 473–485; Rance, “La Contre-Révolution,” 181.


See Anna M. Rao, “Folle controrivoluzionarie: La questione delle insorgenze italiane,” in Folle controrivoluzionarie: Le insorgenze popolari nell’Italia giacobinae napoleonica, ed. Anna M. Rao (Rome: Carocci, 2002), 9–36.


Doyle, Officers, 204–205.


Hervé Leuwers, La Révolution française et l’Empire: Une France révolutionnée, 1787–1815 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2011), 176.


For this critique, see Mayer, Furies, 47.


Rey, Révolution, 118.


See, e.g., Lescure, Correspondance, 555; Jacques Mallet du Pan, Mémoires et correspondances de Mallet du Pan pour servir à l’histoire de la Révolution française, vol. 2, ed. Pierre André Sayous (Paris: Amyot, 1851), 322, 275; Courier de Londres, 8 August 1800, 93; Castries to Mallet du Pan, 10 April 1796, Balliol College Oxford, Mallet Family Papers #25; François Descostes, La Révolution française vue de l’étranger 1789–1799: Mallet du Pan à Berne et à Londres (Tours: Mame, 1897), 40.


Friedens-Präliminarien 3, no. 9 (1784): 87.


Johannes von Müller to Johann Amadeus Franz de Paula von Thugut, 2 September 1797, ÖStA HHStA Schweiz 198.


Jacques Cauna, “La Contre-Révolution à Saint-Domingue et ses suites,” Revue de la Société haitienne d’histoire et de géographie 46 (1989): 11–27; Michael Wagner, England und die französische Gegenrevolution 1789–1802 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1994); Tise, The American Counterrevolution; Jean-Clément Martin, ed., La Contre-Révolution en Europe XVIIIe– XIXe siècles: Réalités politiques et sociales, résonances culturelles et idéologiques (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2001); Brian Manning, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in England, Ireland and Scotland, 1658–1660 (London: Bookmarks, 2003).


See, e.g., Robert Stephen Fitzgerald to Francis Godolphin Osborne, Duke of Leeds, 9 April 1790; TNA F.O. 27/34; John Trevor to William Wickham, 26 May 1795, Hampshire Record Office Winchester 38M49/1/50.


William Doyle, “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in France,” in Revolution and Counter-Revolution, ed. Ellen E. Rice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 95–108, here 96–97; Doyle, Officers, 198–199.


Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Rights of Man, and other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Sidney Hook and Jack Fruchtmann Jr. (New York: Signet, 2003), 269 (emphasis in original); see also Koselleck, “Revolution,” 737; Stephanie Barbé Hammer, “Schiller, Time and Again,” German Quarterly 67, no. 2 (1994), 152–172, here 156.


Paine, Rights of Man, 269.


Jacques Mallet du Pan, Considerations on the Nature of the French Revolution; and on the Causes Which Prolong its Duration (Dublin: Byrne, 1794), 101.


Wickham to William Wyndham Grenville, Baron Grenville, 8 March 1797; TNA F.O. 74/20, fol. 99’.


Jacques Antoine du Roveray to Evan Nepean, 27 May 1794; TNA W.O. 1/391, fol. 361.


Holger Böning, Der Traum von Freiheit und Gleichheit: Helvetische Revolution und Republik (1798–1803) (Zurich: Orell Füssli, 1998).


Bernhard Meyer von Schauensee to Philipp Albert Stapfer, 15 July 1801, in Rudolf Luginbühl, “Die Geschichte der Schweiz von 1800–1803 nach bisher unedierten Briefen hervorragender helvetischer Staatsmänner an Ph. Alb. Stapfer,” Politisches Jahrbuch der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft 20 (1906): 75–210, here 138.


Peter Ochs to Stapfer, 28 February 1801, Bundesarchiv Berne, J1.66.


Karl Wild to Stapfer, 10 January 1801, in Luginbühl, “Geschichte,” 159.


E.g., Nick Nesbitt, Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008).


Quoted in Jane G. Landers, Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 55.


A Historick Recital of the Different Occurrences in the Camps of Grand-Reviere, Dondon, Sainte-Suzanne and others from the 26th of October, 1791 to the 24th of December, of the Same Year, Baltimore 1792, quoted in Landers, Atlantic Creoles, 62.


Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2004), 106; Jeremy D. Popkin, A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).


Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995).


Ashli White, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 90.


John K. Thornton, “’I Am the Subject of the King of Congo’: African Political Ideology and the Haitian Revolution,” Journal of World History 4, no. 2 (1993): 181–214.


Philippe Raynaud, Trois révolutions de la liberté: Angleterre, Amérique, France (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010).


For the context, see David Geggus, Slavery, War and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793–1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982); Wagner, England.


Les deux hémispheres, May 1796, Archives des Affaires étrangéres, La Courneuve, Correspondance politique, Angleterre, vol. 586. fol. 143.


Cf. Margrit Pernau, Transnationale Geschichte (Stuttgart: UTB, 2011), 143.


Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Refl exivity,” History and Theory 45, no. 1 (2006): 30–50; for a more detailed discussion of histoire croisée as a tool for rewriting the history of French emigration, see Pestel, Kosmopoliten wider Willen, 37–46.


Cf. Wolfgang Schmale, “Constitution, Constitutionnel,” in Handbuch politisch sozialer Grundbegriffe in Frankreich 1680–1820, vol. 12, ed. Rolf Reichardt and Hans-Jürgen Lürsebrink (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1992), 31–63; Pestel, “Französische Emigranten als Revolutionskritiker.”

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