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12 April 2015


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Thomas Kennedy

As I am starting all the way back in the time of Charles Stuart and am on the fifth episode of this podcast after recent binge consumption of roughly forty episodes of the History of Rome this comment is irrelevant/agnostic to the actual content of this podcast. Just wanted yo say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you gor all the work you've fone. What sn incredible public resource!


I just finished all 179 episodes of The History of Rome. What an amazing adventure. Thank you for pouring so much into that project. I can't wait to start Revolutions.

dairy queen

Try pronouncing Vendée as if it were a combination of"Vaughn" as in Ralph Vaughn Williams followed by "day". It would be a lot closer and less jarring!

Steve Isherwood

Dude, I think you accidentally reposted last week's episode.

Timothy Scott Johnson

This is less a substantive criticism than a minor point that leads to further interesting questions currently being debated in the scholarship on the Revolution.

While it is true that J-B Royer proposed to the Jacobin club in September of 1793 that the Convention should "make terror the order of the day," it was never actually made so by the Convention. Making something "the order of the day" was a common phrase that meant the Convention should put it on the schedule for debate. But the Convention never actually passed any laws that officially made terror something like the guiding principle of the Revolution with a prescribed framework.

Of course, the Convention and CoPS did do some terrible things, the law of suspects had real effects, and Revolutionnaries did rework the old concept of a sovereign's powers of terror into terror (lambasted by Montesquieu as despotic) as a concept meaning something that could be used by popular sovereigns. This is not really in dispute. But if the government did not actually make terror a formal system of legislative action (as the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française would add the entry "terrorisme" to its 1798 edition, defining it as "a system or regime of terror") then the questions become: What counts as "the Terror," where did it happen, and when did it happen? As you noted, Saturn had quite the insatiable appetite from the very beginning. And the Thermidorian reaction will in some ways be more bloodthirsty than any CoPS member ever was, but do they end "the Terror" or do they perpetuate it under new guises?

But it also matters for characterizations of the Convention at the time as well as of the Committee of Public Safety. Typically, the CoPS are depicted as having near dictatorial powers (or, very anachronistically, totalitarian powers). But in this instance it becomes plausible that by not actually systematizing what government terror was and how it should be carried out, its ill-defined and nebulous form may have actually led to more violence by non-state actors and more corruption on local levels.

Unfortunately, some of the most relevant recent literature on this is in French, but there are some English language pieces as well. The most pertinent, I think are the following books.
Bronislaw Baczko, Comment sortir de la terreur (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), trans. as Ending the Terror (Cambridge UP, 1994).
Jean-Clément Martin, Violence et révolution: essai sur la naissance d’un mythe national (Paris: Seuil, 2006).
Marisa Linton, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship, and Authenticity in the French Revolution
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Love the podcast--keep it up!


Had the chance to visit Bordeaux recently and was quite taken aback by the pro-Girondin sentiment on public display there. There's a very prominent monument to 'Girondin Martyrs" in the center of town, and they've even named their soccer team the FC Girondins.


Since I'm a big fan of the History of Rome, I can't help but notice that all of these generals in the French Revolution seem to go pretty willingly to Paris for a date with La Madame Guillotine. In Rome, anytime a general felt at personal risk he'd turn his army around and march on the capital. Why don't the French generals resist and how is the Committee of Public Safety so apparently unconcerned about this possibility? Did the generals have that little loyalty from their troops? Did the troops also blame the generals for every failure?

Thanks Mike or any generous listener who has the answer!


Ron, I think most of the Roman generals who marched on the capital were successful in the field. They had earned the loyalty of their troops by fighting with them and enriching them (i.e. Marius, Sulla, Caesar, Vespasian, etc.). Most of the French generals discussed so far have not been successful enough to earn that respect from their troops. Dumouriez was solid for a while but the lack of support from his officers ended his plan of marching on Paris. Napoleon is one guy that did earn the loyalty of his troops through a string of fantastic victories, and that loyalty gave him the political clout to become master of France.

Dan Walker

I'm reading "The Great Controversy" by Ellen White. In Chapter 15 she discusses the causes of the French Revolution which she traces to the rejection of the Reformation and particularly the Bible. Exposure to the Bible would have acted as a restraint on society, and mob violence would not have broken out to the excess that it did. It's a very fascinating thesis that I don't think other historians even consider.

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