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

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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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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