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

Inside a Revolutionary Committee during the Reign of Terror

The extremely respectful view of sans–culotte militancy is evident in this image, engraved by the French Revolutionary sculptor Berthault and based on a painting by Fragonard, the son of the famous old regime painter. Imitating an old master’s interior scene, it shows a committee somberly meting out revolutionary justice.

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Manifesto of the Enragés

Jacques Roux, a former priest turned radical French revolutionary, became the leading voice for a group known as the "Enraged," because they expressed constant anger at the unfairness shown toward the ordinary, poor people who made up the bulk of the patriotic citizenry and whose plight Roux demanded the government redress by any means necessary.

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The Good Sans–Culotte

Reflecting values of the French Revolution, Male and female sans–culottes were supposed to embody frugality, thrift, hard work, and, above all, honest devotion—whether to pets, the nation, or fellow comrades.

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Abuses to Suppress

This French Revolution era print depicts the Third Estate—represented by the peasant at the rear of the chariot, the worker leading the horse, and the merchant driving—delivering to the National Assembly a petition listing "abuses" to be remedied.

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Le Chapelier Law

In the spring of 1791, as the National Assembly worked on political and social reforms, workers in Paris took economic matters into their own hands by staging a series of strikes and demonstrations against their employers.

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Populace Awake

In the view of the most radical commentators, such as those writing for the newspaper Révolutions de Paris, the French Revolution had to be the work of more than just the deputies of the National Assembly; it had to be an effort of the common people.

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Beware the Wealthy Bourgeoisie

The term "bourgeoisie" had many meanings in eighteenth–century France, from the most literal sense of "citizens of a city" to a more sociological meaning of talented and cultivated members of the Third Estate. Some eighteenth–century writers also used the term to refer to merchants.

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Departure of the Three Orders for Versailles

Although 14 July 1790 was a high point in the aspiration for unity during the French Revolution, the preparation for the Estates–General set the stage for later problems. In this image, representatives of each of the three orders depart together in a cart for the 1789 meeting of the Estates–General at Versailles, where they will advise the King on behalf of the nation.

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Cahiers from Rural Districts: Attack on Seigneurial Dues

The petitions from rural communities decried the abuse of seigneurial dues that peasants owed to lords in exchange for which they were supposed to receive protection and supervision.

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Three Cahiers from Orléans

The cahiers de doléances ("list of grievances") drawn up by each assembly in choosing deputies to the Estates–General are the best available source of the thoughts of the French population on the eve of the French Revolution.

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