Browse Primary Sources
Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.
Congress of Vienna

Congress of Vienna

The treaty in the spring of 1814 had accepted Napoleon’s surrender, but a general meeting of European countries convened to settle broader issues of a postrevolutionary era. While the allies were working on a number of concerns—and as a byproduct, raising French anxieties—Napoleon returned to capitalize on this negative reaction.

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Return from the Island of Elba

Return from the Island of Elba

Troops sent by Louis XVIII to stop Napoleon’s advance toward Paris either deserted or joined Napoleon.

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The Day after Waterloo painting

The Day after Waterloo

Thousands died or were wounded in the fighting that began 15 June and ended at a series of farmhouses at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

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The Death of Napoleon on St. Helena

The Death of Napoleon on St. Helena

Even in death Napoleon was controversial. Many questions surrounded his death: Was he poisoned? His hair had high levels of arsenic in it. Did he have stomach cancer? He certainly had stomach ulcers and suffered from severe intestinal pain and frequent vomiting.

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Festival of National Unity, 14 July 1939

Festival of National Unity, 14 July 1939

In this celebration of national unity, the focus on 1789 is quite apparent. The Phrygian cap at the top of the decorations recalled the Revolution, as did the date for this celebration. Of course, both symbol and date had been used and appropriated repeatedly since 1789, but this is a clear reference to the 1789 event.

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Mr. de Lafayette, Commander of the Paris National Guard, Receives the City’s 'Sword for the Defense of Liberty'

Lafayette Receives the City’s 'Sword for the Defense of Liberty'

During the Revolution the most visible connection between America and France was Lafayette, who had volunteered for service in the American Revolution and had been mentored by Washington and Jefferson. This special status vaulted him to prominence in 1789 as he became a delegate in the Estates–General, head of the National Guard, and a general in the military.

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With the Help of Mr. de la Fayette, the French Nation Defeats Despotism

The French Nation Defeats Despotism

Here Lafayette’s role is praised. A warlike liberty stands with him over a defeated despotism at his feet. Revolutionaries often represented despotism as a multi-headed monster.

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Washington and Lafayette in Color

Washington and Lafayette in Color

Washington had taken a special interest in Lafayette.

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Statue of Lafayette-Le Puy

Statue of Lafayette-Le Puy

Even today, this statue of Lafayette graces the streets of a provincial town.

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Solemn Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty

Solemn Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty

Toned down and transformed from her revolutionary past, the Statue stands for liberty, even without a pike and a Phrygian cap. Furthermore, the Statue, a gift from France and a marvel of engineering, still connotes revolution because of the identification between France and revolutionary notions.

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