Essays on the French Revolution: Paris and the Provinces

Essays on the French Revolution: Paris and the Provinces

Essays on the French Revolution: Paris and the Provinces

Essays on the French Revolution: Paris and the Provinces

Synopsis

The overwhelming focus on Paris is probably nowhere in French studies more obvious than in treatments of the French Revolution. Until recently, with few exceptions, historians of the revolution have begun and ended with the events and philosophies of the capital. In this volume, however, the authors describe how men and women across France sometimes welcomed, often modified, but most often rejected policies emanating from Paris, thereby inflecting the course of the fateful revolution.

Steven G. Reinhardt examines peasant unrest in the region of the Perigord in 1789-90 and concludes that the blow they dealt seigneurialism pushed the revolution in a more radical direction than the delegates in Paris had ever intended. In the Midi-Toulousain, a region of longstanding sectarian tension and hostility, violence erupted over the revolutionary decision to strip the Catholic church of much of its temporal power and property. Clarke Garrett examines the differing responses of Catholics and Protestants and the resulting disturbances.

Roderick Phillips describes the wide variation in provincial response to the revolutionary assembly's family reform measures. He traces the different reactions of urban and rural residents to such legal measures as liberalization of divorces, secularization of birth, death, and marriage registrations, and inheritance reform. Peasants in central France were already engaged in total revolution when Joseph Fouche arrived there in late 1793. Nancy Fitch argues that Fouche was formed by his encounter with indigenous peasant radicalism as much as the peasants were influenced by his rhetoric of a new political culture.

Donald Sutherland, summarizing scholarly debate on the subject, argues that, in the final analysis, the Revolution itself was tragically and profoundly alien to many French men and women in 1789. Together these essays and the introductory essay by Robert Forster bring into clear relief the ambivalent relationship between Paris and the provinces and offer a fresh approach that emphasizes the extent to which provincial history supplies the key to understanding the dynamic of the French Revolution.

Excerpt

On the occasion of the twenty-fifth annual Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lectures, scholars of French history gathered at the University of Texas at Arlington to consider how and why people in the French provinces reacted to the decade of revolution initiated by Parisians in 1789. Participants in the lecture series of March 15, 1990, described how men and women across France sometimes welcomed, frequently modified, but most often rejected the policies emanating from Paris, thereby propelling the revolution along its fateful course. the present volume contains the results of their research. While the authors may differ in their approach and, in some respects, their conclusions, they essentially agree on the importance of understanding the French Revolution as a complex, continuing process of interaction between Paris and the provinces. They thereby offer a fresh appraisal of this revolutionary decade, one that emphasizes the extent to which provincial history supplies the key to understanding the dynamic of the French Revolution.

The contributors to the volume are drawn from across the continent, from the eastern seaboard and Canada to Texas and California. Each is a recognized scholar in French history. Robert Forster, author of the introduction, is professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and an acknowledged dean of eighteenth-century French historical studies. He has authored three major monographs: The Nobility of Toulouse in the Eighteenth Century, The House of Saulx-Tavanes, and Merchants, Landlords, Magistrates: The Depont Family in EighteenthCentury France. With Orest Ranum, he coedited seven volumes containing selections from the noted French journal Annales: Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations. Currently he is investigating French colonial sugar planters and plantations in the Antilles.

Steven G. Reinhardt, assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington, is the author of Justice in the Sarladais . . .

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