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Was The French Revolution Revolutionary Essay, Research Paper

Robert Darnton writes this small essay and tries to decide what exactly was revolutionary about the French Revolution. Just because it was a revolution does not make it revolutionary. Darnton explores this idea throughout his article. As Darnton develops the essay, he detail three main things that he believes made the French Revolution revolutionary: the involvement of such a large portion of the nation, the idea of popular sovereignty and the incredible amount of death the occurred during this time period.

Darnton referred many times to the amount of people that were involved in the revolution. Not everyone may have joined the Jacobin clubs, but almost everyone participated in some manner. With this involvement came a sense of comradery. Darnton seemed to be amazed at this sense of comradery. Referring to a speech given by A.-A. Lamourette in the Assembly, Darnton writes, “They needed more fraternity. Whereupon the deputies, who had been at each other’s throats a moment earlier rose to their feet and started hugging and kissing each other as if their political divisions could be swept away in a wave of brotherly love.”(Darnton, pg. 27-28) Darnton claims that acts such as this made the French Revolution revolutionary.

Darnton also points at the idea of popular sovereignty that arose during the revolution as a source of proving revolutionary status. He points out that during the Old Regime that is was common assumption that men were unequaland that this was a positive thing. But when the revolution came around, the people of the nation began to feel that all men were equal. This was an amazing idea, maybe not in this day and age, but at that time, it in itself was revolutionary. Peasants began to feel that they were no less of a human being than the highest noble. It took a little time for this to take place, but it did. The mind-set of all the people changed. Darnton finds this quite amazing and revolutionary.

The last thing that Darnton points to in his essay is the Terror and the amount of death that went along with this event. In that day and age, the type of death that occurred unknown: Severing of heads, gutting and dismemberment were common place. Describing on set of mass trials that took place, Darnton writes, “If guilty, he[the accused] would be hacked to death in a gauntlet of pikes, clubs, and sabres. Then his body would be stripped and thrown on a heap of corpses or dismembered and paraded about on the end of a pike.”(Darnton, pg 26-27) This type of savageness was unknown to the civilized world and because of this, helps make the French Revolution revolutionary.

I feel Darnton did a great job proving that the revolution was revolutionary. Just looking at the title of the article, I thought he was going to try to prove that it wasn’t revolutionary, but he totally did the opposite. I think that people feel that the French Revolution was just one of many Revolutions, such as the American and Russian revolutions, but it was not. It was very much unlike other revolutionary movements and Darnton does a great job at convincing the reading of that point. I really enjoyed reading this article. It really helped change some of my views on the French Revolution.


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