The Revolution in Provincial France: Aquitaine, 1789-1799

The Revolution in Provincial France: Aquitaine, 1789-1799

The Revolution in Provincial France: Aquitaine, 1789-1799

The Revolution in Provincial France: Aquitaine, 1789-1799

Synopsis

This scholarly account presents a provincial view of Revolutionary France and describes a region far removed from high politics in Paris. It shows how local conflicts and personal rivalries shaped events within the region, and emphasizes the importance of religion, war, peasant radicalism and commercial stagnation in defining the course of the Revolution in the south-west.

Excerpt

The municipal revolution and the elections to departments, districts, and cantons presupposed a level of political involvement that would have been unthinkable during the ancien réime. Each department and each city had to produce its own educated political cadres if the Revolution were to have any meaning at local level. By 1793 the revolutionaries would insist that individual citizens show positive commitment to revolutionary policies: the Jacobin Republic would not accept a lack of interest in politics as an excuse for inactivity. But even in 1789 passivity was discouraged. Ideas had to be discussed and debated, assimilated and digested, and new vectors of political expression were rapidly created, especially in urban centres. Paris might still be the fulcrum of political life, sending tracts and discussion papers down to the departments and inaugurating change which affected the lives of provincial Frenchmen. But participation was not limited to Paris. Provincial towns soon mobilized their own battalions of the National Guard and organized local federations. Intellectually, too, it was the towns -- with Bordeaux staking a claim to the regional intellectual leadership which it regarded as its right -- that took the most important initiatives. Bordeaux, it might seem, was well-prepared for its new role, since it had already enjoyed an active literary and intellectual life in the last years of the ancien régime. Leading figures from the merchant and legal communities, in particular, had long shown an interest in politics and had demanded the right to more active participation. the Academy, the Musée, the Chamber of Commerce, and the various masonic lodges which flourished in the city guaranteed that those eager to discuss the important issues of the day were seldom denied a forum in which to do so. Here many of those who would go on to make their mark in revolutionary politics . . .

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