Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.
Even before the French Revolution, the French had used a woman in a toga to symbolize liberty. By July 1789 this symbol had become quite common and would only grow more familiar over the revolutionary decade. Generally the female Liberty was a poised counterpart to the frantic actions of the Revolution. She represented calm like a saint.... Read More »
To contemporaries who subscribed to the Enlightenment principles, preceding the French Revolution, the term "reason" was to be contrasted to superstition. Even though Christians, too, believed in reason, they also wanted to make room for the possibility of God’s intervention, particularly in miracles.... Read More »
This image of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen includes a fascinating mix of symbols. By arranging the articles on tablets, the artist clearly meant to associate this document with Moses’ Ten Commandments. Such a link could establish the French revolutionaries’ handiwork as equivalent to that of God. Reinforcing this is the all–seeing eye located at the top of the tableau.... Read More »
Here Louis XVI is portrayed as a benevolent king distributing alms to the poor, an appropriate action for the "Father of his people." However, his rich fur–clad outfit contrasts with the abject poverty of the common people, suggesting to those inclined to be critical that the King did not understand the true state of popular misery during some of the 1780s, preceding the French Revolution.... Read More »
The French Revolutionary engraving's depiction of the physical eviction of the black–robed magistrates in front of a female audience has a somewhat ambiguous message. On the one hand, noting the female figure on the dias in the back, this image could suggest excessive female authority at court, notably that of the Countess du Barry.... Read More »
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.... Read More »
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.... Read More »