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THE CROWD IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION Opened door to the investigation of the nature of popular support for the French Revolution and the relationship of.

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Presentation on theme: "THE CROWD IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION Opened door to the investigation of the nature of popular support for the French Revolution and the relationship of."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE CROWD IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION Opened door to the investigation of the nature of popular support for the French Revolution and the relationship of lower classes with the revolutionary leadership First published in 1959 George Rudé

2 REVISES STEREOTYPES Re-examined stereotypes of revolutionary crowds Found that crowds were made up of “small workshop masters, independent craftsmen, shopkeepers, and journeymen” –Men with jobs, a little property and who had a stake in their community Social groups which composed leadership of the Revolution were missing from the crowds –Crowds and revolutionary leadership composed of two different groups of people

3 WHAT CAUSED CROWDS TO TAKE ACTION? Revolutionary crowds were not passive pawns of certain revolutionary leaders –They “absorbed and adapted” the slogans and ideas of that leadership and also developed their own program of action They “enthusiastically supported and assimilated the objects, ideas, and slogans of the political groups in the National Assembly and Jacobin clubs whose leadership they acknowledged and in whose name they petitioned and took up arms” –But they also had demands and interests of their own –Especially the “compelling need” for the cheap provision of bread and other necessities

4 CONCLUSION “the primary and most constant motive impelling revolutionary crowds was the concern for the provision of cheap and plentiful food” –Does not mean that crowds were apolitical –In their pursuit of “cheap and plentiful food,” they politicized their uprisings by adopting many of the political ideas of the revolutionary leaders Without these ideas, the crowds would have remained without real purpose With these ideas, crowds had a powerful impact on the development and outcome of the Revolution

5 TRANSMISSION OF IDEAS Pamphlets and newspapers—the “popular press” Political education common people received when they joined the National Guard and various revolutionary clubs and committees Spoken word in public places Crowds often formed spontaneously –On the basis of rumors –But, once in motion and influenced by propaganda from sources listed above, they did become politicized and help push the Revolution Until 1795

6 WHAT IS A SANS-CULOTTE? Recognizable by their clothing and social behavior –They estimated a person’s worth by his external appearance –If you dressed like an aristocrat, you were an aristocrat and an enemy of the Revolution –Also hated “aristocratic behavior” Came to believe that anyone with wealth and property was an aristocrat and enemy of the Revolution –Not opposed to private property per se –Against the possession of large amounts of property by those who had inherited it or use inherited money to buy it

7 CLASS-CONSCIOUS PROLETARIAT? Being urban consumers and small producers, they were hostile to large scale commercial capitalism –Hostility turned to violence during 1793 Definition of a sans-culottes therefore based on who they were against –Aristocrats –Anyone who lived off unearned income –Large merchants But sans-culottes did not have a clearly developed class consciousness –You were considered a sans-culotte by they way you acted, dressed, and by your attitude towards the wealthy Not precisely by your social station

8 SANS-CULOTTES DEMANDS I Wanted to guarantee all people equal opportunity –Not based on theory –Based in response to the pressure of events and the problems of daily living Recurrent food shortages cause they to demand equal distribution of food –From the idea of equality in food came ideas of equality in everything Wealth, property, etc.

9 SANS-CULOTTES DEMANDS II Not against property rights –Believed that property should be shared equally through all levels of society Thereby insuring everyone a decent livelihood –Tried to put idea into practice Advocated such programs as high taxation of rich and the Maximum Sans-culottes motivated by their hard living conditions, not the power of ideas –Their demand for equality arose from the need for steady, cheap supply of food –Tended to support concrete measures rather than abstract expressions of general principles

10 SANS-CULOTTE SOCIAL IDEAL Social ideal was a society of small producers –Each person owning their own, small production unit –Believed state should intervene and prevent growth of large production concerns and monopolies Never realized this was an impossible dream –That system of small enterprise would inevitably turn into system of large, concentrated enterprises –Antagonism between their idealized social dream and reality would ultimately defeat sans-culottes movement

11 SANS-CULOTTE POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS Primary concept was the idea that sovereignty resided in the people –Not an abstract principle but a concrete reality Meant that they, united in the neighborhood assemblies, should exercise their political rights Should have final say in approving laws, should have right to bear arms, should have the right to rebel when laws violated their rights

12 NEIGHBORHOOD ASSEMBLIES Viewed their neighborhood assemblies as watchdogs over government activity –Not as local legislatures –Needed to be permanent –Tended to skip meetings when there was not a crisis Wasted much potential power

13 RIGHT TO REBEL Believed in right to rebel –Did not necessarily mean armed insurrection –Could also mean “continual state of useful defiance” Refusal to obey unjust laws –Could also mean mass demonstration Attack on the Tuilieries Palace

14 PUBLIC POLITICS Believed political life was a public affair –Considered publicity and public demonstration as a civic duty Publicity meant such things as roll-call voting –No secret ballot Also meant denunciation –Public accusation of a person as enemy of the Revolution –Justified as a means to fight aristocratic enemies of the Revolution Therefore had no odious connotations

15 SANS-CULOTTE LEISURE Militant sans-culottes spent most of their time engaged in politics –Especially neighborhood assemblies Symbol was red cap and pike Used informal pronoun “tu” instead of the more formal “vous” Wanted to abolish all insignias of rank in army Sang patriotic songs, talked politics and listening to the reading of newspapers in taverns Demanded rent ceilings Demanded cheap, good quality bread in adequate supplies –Passionate desire for equality stemmed from their overwhelming concern for food

16 FALL OF THE SANS-CULOTTES Collapsed after death of Robespierre Jacobins had enlisted support of sans-culottes –But they were uneasy allies Sans-culottes insistence on popular sovereignty interfered with government efficiency Sans-culottes unhappy with Jacobin tendency to concentrate on abstract expressions of equality instead of concrete implementation of idea –Wanted action, not words Disagreed on economic issues –Differences in goals and outlook became glaring by 1794

17 WHY DID THEY LET THEMSELVES BE DESTROYED? Plain, old-fashioned fatigue Many had joined the army Perils of success –Many dropped out once their personal demands had been met Not a class but a coalition of various social groups united by their hatred of aristocracy and desire for a cheap, steady supply for bread –No alternative for the future except a vague concept of a society of small producers An idea already out-of-date

18 REVOLUTIONARY WOMEN Women have not been studied until recently –Some stuff on symbolic role –Some stuff on famous women Mme Roland and Claire Lacombe But what about ordinary women? Madame Roland

19 ROLE OF ORDINARY WOMEN Worked as servants before marriage and at home for a manufacturing contractor after marriage –Sometimes performed jobs men wouldn’t do Important component of family economy Other important functions as well –Keeping family together Clung more devotedly to their families than men –Kept food on table in times of shortage Had right to riot if she was unable to get enough food Food riot was therefore a predominantly female terrain

20 POLITICZATION OF WOMEN Participation in food riots made them aware of political issues involved in food shortages –Made them see beyond their family-oriented issues to the larger picture of how the Revolution would solve the root causes of their problems Did not happen until 1792

21 FEMALE ACTIVISM Formed club des femmes in 1792 –Demanded fixed prices for food –Supported the war effort Donated household linen for bandages –Sent patriotic petitions to government –Swore to carry out “internal war” against traitors Sometimes went to ugly extremes Tended to be more frenzied, more intense, and more vindictive than men –Although opportunities to express these emotions were more limited

22 WHAT CAUSED VIOLENT EMOTIONS? Revolution hit poor families hard –War removed breadwinners –Political involvement kept husbands away from family Women gradually accumulated experiences that would ultimately sour them on the Revolution

23 COMPLETE BURN OUT Famine of 1795 Women spent more and more time in food lines Government abandons rationing and fixed prices in 1795 –Women pawn possession –Participate in food riots Sexually selective results of malnutrition and starvation appear –Women hit harder than men Miscarriages, stillborn and malformed babies, had to watch children weaken and die –Food riots of 1795 were last gasp before women slipped into the twilight world of the weak and worn-out

24 RESULTS Increased suicides Revival of Catholicism –Formerly women had been anti-Church –Many women began to feel guilty about this after 1795 and returned to the Church With a vengeance After 1795, poor women dropped out the Revolution and returned to religion for comfort

25 WHO CAN BLAME THEM? Revolution, war, and famine had threatened or destroyed families of women At least the Church stood for integrity of family –More important to women than politics Women forced to conclude that the price they had paid for the intangible benefits of the Revolution had been far too high


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