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

The Coronation of Louis XVI from the Gazette of France (1775)

These two articles from the official newspaper of the day describe the coronation of Louis XVI at Reims, the city to which French kings had traveled to be anointed and crowned for a thousand years.

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Moreau, "On the Origins of the French Monarchy"

Jacob–Nicolas Moreau wrote this excerpt as part of his Lessons of Morality, Politics and Law (1773) at the request of the aging Louis XV for the instruction of the Dauphin. Throughout the 200–page book, Moreau defends the power of the King to rule France without opposition.

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Bossuet, "The Nature and Properties of Royal Authority"

Jacques–Benigne Bossuet (1627—1704), bishop of Meaux, was a well–known seventeenth–century peacher who believed that although France had a sizable minority of Protestants, France should have a single religion, Catholicism. At the same time, he was a Gallican, meaning he argued that the French clergy owed primary allegiance to the king rather than the Pope in Rome.

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Proclamation of the Department of the Seine–et–Oise (9 March 1792)

Despite the radical measures taken by the National Assembly, such as the abolition of nobility and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, social conflicts continued to manifest themselves after the National Assembly completed its work in 1791. In the document below, we see evidence of continued friction over the circulation of grain and bread.

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Letter from Rabaut de Saint–Étienne to the Minister of the Interior (27 February 1791)

In this document, Jean–Paul Rabaut de Saint–Étienne, a Protestant pastor from Nîmes who had been a deputy to the National Assembly and who would later be elected to the National Convention, warns the central government of the ongoing violence in the Midi and the role of refractory priests and religious issues in that violence.

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Report by the Jacobin Society of Besançon on Refractory Priests

A Jacobin club in Besançon in the Franche–Comté on the eastern borders of France sent this report to the Jacobin Club of Paris on 8 January 1792. The club sees the continuing presence of those who did not take the clerical oath to the new regime ["nonjurors"] as a destabilizing factor and is concerned that their agitation will turn to open resistance.

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Monks Learning to Exercise.

This image ridicules monks for contributing nothing to society, either economically or demographically, by depicting a group of them being taken from the monastery and drafted into the army, where they hope "to become good citizens" as was expected under religious restructuring during the French Revolution.

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The Third Estate Marrying Priests with Nuns

The National Assembly also eliminated monasteries during the French Revolution, since monks and nuns had increasingly become figures of ridicule. This image depicts the dissolution of the religious orders, rather than the confiscation of lands, as the crucial element in religious reorganization.

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Attack on Seigneurial Dues

The petitions from rural communities focused in part on the abuse of seigneurial dues owed by peasants to lords for which, in principle, they received protection and supervision.

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Babeuf’s Trial

Long after sans–culotte influence on the government had waned, social conflicts continued to drive some revolutionary events. Throughout 1794 and 1795, urban and rural radicals alike demanded "bread and the constitution of 1793," meaning that the government should feed the people and grant universal male suffrage.

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