plate depicting the execution of Louis XVI
Plate depicting the execution
of King Louis XVI

UCSB Hist 2c (World History, 1700-pres.)
The French Revolution in World History
Lectures 7 & 8, on Apr. 25 & 27, 2006 (prev., next)

by Professor Harold Marcuse
(Prof's homepage;
created Apr. 29, 2006, updated

What am I supposed to be learning?
1. The Marseillaise
2. Ideas vs. Economics as primary cause
3. The Concept of "Revolution"
4. Origins & Features of the French Revolution
5. Course of the Revolution
6. Images & Symbols

What am I supposed to be learning? (back to top)

  • In lecture 7 I showed 13 powerpoint slides, 7 with text and 6 with images, as well as a 2-minute clip from the 1995 film Jefferson in Paris. My goals were:
    1. to situate the French Revolution in the context of world history--why are we spending a whole lecture on another event that took place in western Europe, instead of looking at other regions of the world? My answer is that this was a world-historically new and unique event that had important repercussions around the globe;
    2. to offer some "backbone" explanation of the course of the revolution itself to supplement the narrative in the textbook. In teaching jargon this would be "modeling how to derive meaning from the selection of facts presented in the textbook."
    3. to offer some additional content to illustrate in-depth what some of the things mentioned in passing in the textbook looked like and meant to contemporaries in 1790s France.
  • At the beginning of lecture I announced that the Disabled Students Program was seeking a note taker who would receive $100 for photocopies of their notes over the course of the quarter. After lecture five students expressed their interest, so I asked them to submit a photocopy of their notes to me to help me choose who it should be.
    • Upon reviewing the notes I found that these students, whose notes are presumably better-than-average, basically copied down the text from the powerpoint slides, with a small bit of additional commentary. That wasn't my intention at all--I realized in a very graphic way how detrimental using powerpoint can be. (I have been studying to benefits and disadvantages of using various kinds of technology in classrooms for quite some time, and have even lectured about it--see this web outline of my 2002 presentation for K-12 History/Social Studies teachers, "Technology in the History-Social Science Classroom."
    • At any rateOrigins slide with notes, I decided to postpone the planned topic of the next lecture (8: Latin America) to L 9, and show students what notes I wanted them to take from those slides intead. So I in L 8 I showed 10 of the slides from L7 as small images on the left side of the new powerpoint slides, accompanied by the note taking "points" on the right. I also included some slides with short quotations from the textbook to show why I had chosen those topics.
    • Thus this page of lecture notes combines the two lectures, and I am designing it to reflect the ppt on left / notes on right slides I used in L8.
    • Last but not least: I hope this deals with the frustration many students experience when professors say "you don't have to copy this down."  "Then why are you showing it to us," they wonder. (remember the Doonesbury cartoon from L4?)
      I think this gap represents a kind of paradigm shift from "knowledge as facts" to "knowledge as understanding:" it's not the raw data that is important, but the principles we draw from it that help us to assess and operate in the world around us today.

1. Marseillaise (French national anthem) (back to top)

  • song, popular with French citizenry, becomes national anthem [composer didn't support radical revolution; volunteer units from Marseilles sang]
  • sometimes deemed too political & banned, e.g.
    • 1804-1830: by Napoleon (1830 rev. reinstated)
    • 1851-1879: "reaction" after failure of 1848 revolution, til 1879, after 1871 "commune"
    • 1939-1945: by Nazi occupation
  • textbk, 206f: "foot soldiers demonstrated their solidarity with revolutionary songs like 'The Marseillaise,' which soon became the French national anthem."
  • Ok, so those are the notes. The question remains: what's the point?
    My idea was to lead into the lecture with an example of the importance of symbols for people's understanding of events--what does this mean to me, why should I care about that issue?
  • The tune was used for the "communist anthem" Internationale in the 1870s; the song itself was sung during the Russian Revolution in 1917-18. I also mentioned that I had just learned at a performance at UCSB the night before (Claudia Stevens' "Madame F") that French Holocaust survivor Fania Fenelon had sung the Marseillaise at her liberation in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945.

2. Ideas vs. Economics as primary causes (back to top)

The next slide was actually the concluding slide from L5 on antislavery: What caused the end of slavery?
  • powerful new ideas (natural rights) or economics
    • experts don't agree
  • various econ. arguments
    • slaves less efficient (A.Smith, 1776)
    • better when slaves consume (Equiano; Fordism)
    • macro-econ (decreasing commodity prices prior to 1807) (E. Williams, 1944)(Marxist interp./explan.)
  • prof. thinks humanitarian ideas ultimate cause in this case
    • reformers & elites believed in economic arguments

I concluded that my point was the "primacy of ideas (in revolutionary change)" with three quotations from the textbook (p. 198, 199):

  • p. 198: "In denouncing commercial privileges and monopolies, as well as arbitrary rulers, reformers employed a rhetoric of freedom, which would alter the course of world history."
  • p. 199: "The rhetoric of revolution--freedom, liberty, and equality--once unleashed, proved difficult to contain in later generations."
  • p. 203: "But revolutions do not occur simply because people are oppressed, hungry, and angry, or even because some begin to imagine alternatives to the order of things. It took a unique combination of these pressures, and the opportunity provided by a fiscal crisis, to unleash the French Revolution of 1789."

Using especially this last quotation, I discussed how one might apply the "paradigm model" of revolution:

  1. anomalies emerge that the old paradigm can't handle (king needs to levy new taxes),
  2. a new model is envisaged that can handle them (people determine who pays the taxes),
  3. that new paradigm is established against the will of the adherents of the old paradigm,
  4. whereby new anomalies emerge that are tolerated by some but prompt others either to find newer solutions, or return to the way the old paradigm solved them.

And how these factors can fit into my "EIEIO" model categorization of causes:

  • Economic pressures stemming from both Environmental changes (demographics) and International pressures (war with Britain) forces lEader Louis 16 to convene an Elite Institution, some of whose members have radical new Oppositional Ideas

3. The Concept of "Revolution" (back to top)

Revolution in World History
Revolution in World History notes

Revolution: "fundamental change"
(paradigm shift: "after" doesn't understand "before")

  • term used in "Western" (European) context since 1600s/1700s
  • in various areas
    • ideas (Scientific Rev.: Copernicus, Newton)
    • politics (England, 1640-1689: power of king changed, not structure of society)
    • US colonial: ideas & politics, not social
    • French, 1789-1804: political and social
    • economic (most fundamental, underlying cause): Ind. Rev., 1750-1850
  • economic rev. caused social & political
  • social causes political (ultimately/always)
  • ideas (and economics) can cause political
The point of this slide was to argue that the whole notion of fundamental change emerged in "the West," which needed to coin a term for it. This slide reviews the various revolutions we talked about in this course, and attempts to categorize them.

4. Origins and Features of the French Revolution (back to top)

What caused the French revolution?

  • financial (econ.): king needed to raise taxes to fund wars (vs. England, help US colonies)
  • demographic (econ/environmental):
    • pop. increase->urbanization 1730s-80s
    • crises in 1770s/80s: bad harvests, inflation
  • political: king needed approval of ancient [medieval] parliament for tax increase
    • ["ancient"--100, 140, 175 years =since 1614]
    • 3 houses: clergy, nobles, "third estate"
      (300, 300, 600 representatives)
    • vote by house: royalists win (c+n)
    • vote by head: bourgeoisie wins (most of 600 in "3rd" plus some sympathetic clergy & nobles)
  • student question: how was it decided by house or by head? The powerpoint answer in L8 looked like this:
    • July 1788: no more censorship of pamphlets, so Est. gen'l elections could proceed [lots of newspapers! (literacy!)]
    • spring 1789: King Louis 16 allows 600 reps. in 3rd estate
    • May 5: Estates General convene
    • June 10: 3rd invites clergy & nobility; they refuse
    • June 17: 3rd declares itself "National Assembly" (some clergy & nobles join).
      King suspends sessions.
    • June 23: meet in tennis court, swear oath
    • July 14: storming of Bastille ("pentagon")
    • Aug. 4: Nat. Assembly abolishes feudal system
What was the point of these slides? To show that underlying economic causes (some triggered by the king's politics--fighting England in its North American colonies) led to a situation in which political developments took their own course. That course was very much determined by the decisions and actions of individual human agents (such as the king, and outspoken members of the Third Estate).
battle pamphlets list
Battle pamphlets notes

What notes would I have taken from the lecture based on this slide (the prof. said: you don't need to copy this down!)?

  • how ideas circulated, how opinions were formed in late 1700s
    • eites published and read pamphlets
    • discussed ideas in salons
    • film clip: Jefferson explaining Declaration of Independence to French--"your revolution is incomplete" (because of slavery, only propertied men)
  • [list of 11, available on oll website]
  • Edmund Burke:
    • thought humiliating king went way too far
    • founder of "conservatism" (never needed term before, because nothing changed!)
  • Olympe de Gouges
    • added "and women" to Dec. Rights Man.
    • Mary Wollstonecraft: gave intellectual justification for equality (textbook p. 205)

What was the purpose here? I wanted to illustrate in greater depth a discussion in the textbook (p. 204: "As arguments raged and pamphlets poured out of Paris in the spring and early summer of 1789 ..."), where Jefferson, Rights of Man, Rights of Woman, and Vindication are all mentioned. I talked about each pamphlet and author, and how they drew on and responded to each other.

  • I also showed a 2-minute film clip from Jefferson in Paris (1995, 139 mins.) 27:30-29:30
    • Jefferson succeeded Franklin as minister to France in 1785. The 2 scenes showed:
    • dinner party: Frenchman pokes fun at TJ--are morals the reason, or French wine?
    • salon: Declaration of Independence--only for white men, propertied white men?

5. Course of the French Revolution (back to top)

French revolution phases

phases after the French revolution

revolutionary phases notes

Why the "scare quotes" around the The? Because we can (and historians do) define the phases differently, according to what events they see as part of the revolution.

  • If "the" revolution is just the violent breakdown of the old order, then one can divide the revolution into phases such as these top 3. I discussed important features of each, as well as some concepts that emerged during each phase (see textbook pp. 206f for details)

So, what notes would *I* have taken:

  • narrower sense: 3 phases
    all of these are just ONE phase in big picture
  • longer term sense: 3 phases
    1. radical phase, 1789-1794
      • 3 sub-phases:
        1789-91: Constitutional Monarchy
        liberal-aristocratic revolution
        1792: egalitarian democracy
        "middle class" & intellectual revolution levée on masse: drafted army
        1793-94: Jacobin Terror (5/93-7/94)
        extremist revolution (Robespierre) "Thermidor"
    2. new solutions, 1795-1804
      • Napoleon emerges as leader
    3. Empire phase, 1804-1814
      • Napoleon implements some rev. goals, e.g. ...
  • apply paradigm model:
    1. breakdown of old paradigm
    2. search for new paradigm
    3. establishment of new paradigm
What's the point? We are using hindsight to conceptualize (make a theory about) how a world-historically new paradigm for organizing a state emerged during the French revolution.
Does it work? The proof will be when we apply it to other, later transformation, upheavals and revolutions.

6. Images & Symbols of the French Revolution (back to top)

Finally, I showed a series of images that were used during the French Revolution. These are available from the Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University (chnm French Rev. images page).

British vs. French liberty

This 1793 image contrasts the calm and controlled nature of British liberty with the chaotic and violent (severed head and phyrgian caps on a trident, hanging in background) nature of the liberty practiced during the first phase of the French revolution.

This artist thought things had gotten way out of hand in France. (source page)

republican calendar
"Republican Calendar"

This poster includes the Republic’s new calendar under an image of Marianne, another symbol of the Republic as well as the ultimate expression of revolutionary liberation from the past. Yet without her pike, calmly reading a book with a cupid around, she is more the mother of this new system than a warrior for liberty, as in other prints. (source page)

Marie Antoinette as serpent
King Louis as a pig

Marie Antoinette as a Serpent, Louis as Pig (source page)
The Queen, never popular to begin with in France, also bore the brunt of popular anger in 1792, as seen in these images of the King, Queen, and elsewhere the entire royal family, as animals. One wonders if this dehumanization of the King and Queen might explain why they became such lightning rods for criticism and, moreover, why the entire royal family would eventually be excluded from any protection under law, at the very moment that a constitution ensuring the rights of all people was being put into effect.

It was a very new and radical idea to portray a king--by Divine Right--as no more than an animal, and a vile one at that. This is evidence of a huge paradigm shift in people's minds.

Image of the King on Trial
When he was charged, the King might have refused to participate on the grounds that the Constitution promised his immunity. But this defense, he knew, was useless and he elected to stand on his record. Among his attorneys was the distinguished old regime administrator Chrétlen–Guillaume de Malesherbes. In the end, political necessities and the King’s own actions led to the inevitable result: guilty and execution.

"Hell broke loose or the murder of Louis."

The 1793 English broadsheet says, in effect: Do not take your God-given rulers lightly, or look what might happen!


Louis arrives in Hades

Louis Arrives in Hell (source)
In classical mythology, the journey to Hell involved crossing the river Styx. Revolutionary cartoonists often invoked this image when describing the fate of their enemies. This is no exception. See the boat on the left with the dog, Cerberus, who was the guardian of the gates of the underworld. Arriving here is the headless Louis, greeted by other prior monarchs. In the right corner is a glade, showing a contrasting world in which people dance happily around the liberty pole.

I took this image to discuss some of the symbolism, including that of the Phrygian cap on the liberty pole in the background. It was worn by freed slaves in the Roman empire and thus came to symbolize liberty. (see Wikipedia Phrygian cap page)

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, April. 29, 2006, updated: see header
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