This collection offers students a wide selection of primary texts that help illustrate and explain the processes behind the enormous social and political changes undergone by France during the revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The documents are organized thematically into chapters, and generally follow a chronological progression. Each document is prefaced with a short explanatory note that places it within its precise historical context and links it to the wider course of the French Revolution and Empire.
Some of the documents are here published in English for the first time, such as the cahiers from the Berry (p. 5-13), the remarkable statement by a group of children from La Rochelle (p. 91) and some of the reflections French people made on the significance for their lives of the extraordinary period through which they had just lived (pp. 202-8). Others are already well known but nevertheless indispensable for any collection covering this period: the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and extracts from the various constitutions drawn up by parliaments seeking to codify the Revolution's achievements and to achieve stability.
The collection is necessarily selective in its choice, but the guiding principle throughout has been to detail the course and impact of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era on the people of France and, to a lesser extent, on the peoples of Europe. To this end we have sought to illustrate the gradual development of revolution in France, the rise of the Republican movement, the origins of the revolutionary wars and the continuation of those wars into the Napoleonic era with all the social and political consequences they entailed. In an attempt to go beyond traditional documentary formats students might often find dry, and in an effort to imbue the collection with the vigour and excitement that characterised the era, preference has been given to extracts that let individuals speak for themselves.
We have sought to offer as broad a range of documents as possible. The questions that students of revolutionary and Napoleonic France ask of the period have inevitably changed across time, and some of the documents in this collection offer the opportunity to investigate dimensions of the period which reflect current debates about the meaning and significance of these years. This is particularly so of those documents illustrative of the ways in which revolutionary governments excluded categories of individuals from full citizenship despite the demands of those people (Chapter 4) and of the impact of the