Title page for The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Slave Ship


From the 16th to the 18th centuries, an estimated 20 million Africans crossed the Atlantic to the Americas in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Until recently, slave studies rarely discussed children's experiences, but it has been estimated that one quarter of the slaves who crossed the Atlantic were children. Olaudah Equiano, kidnapped at age 11, became one of the most prominent English... Read More »

The Jingban tianwen quantu Map of the World


Like many maps in the pre-modern and early-modern world, this map from China at the end of the 18th century reflected a deeply egocentric worldview. Steeped in a pervasive "sinocentrism," this map portrays China as the symbolic center of the world as well as the largest entity in both the western and eastern hemisphere as depicted at the top of the map, squeezing the rest of the continents... Read More »

The Joyous Accord


This allegorical image represents the sentiments of social unity that the National Assembly sought to promote through the Festival of the Federation of 14 July 1790 during the French Revolution. This festival, though technically but a military parade of units from around the country, also implied to most observers the unity of all orders and classes.

The King Accepting the Constitution amid the National Assembly, 14 September 1791


The Estates–General, reborn as the National Assembly, finished its work by completing a new constitution. This document provided for an executive—the King—as well as a legislative body. Suffrage was male and restricted to certain economic levels. Overall, it was a moderate document that created a constitutional monarch and privileged the wealthy to a considerable degree at a time when the... Read More »

The King Flees Paris (20 June 1791)


After 14 July, some of the King’s entourage had urged him to flee so that he would not have to approve a new Constitution. Aristocrats such as the Baron de Breteuil and the Marquis de Bouillé, along with the King’s brothers, who had already fled France, urged the King to join them in Austria, where they could organize a military invasion that would put an end to the changes being wrought by... Read More »

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The King Returns to Paris


From Berthault’s series of great moments in the Revolution, this engraving presents a version of events on 6 October 1789 favorable to the King. Reminiscent of orderly ceremonial royal appearances, this image suggests that the outcome stemmed from the King’s own will and that his heroic intervention prevented the massed National Guard units from firing.

The King Seeks Foreign Assistance (20 November 1790)


Despite a show of support for the Revolution, by the fall of 1790, the royal family and its entourage increasingly felt that the changes of the past eighteenth months had cost them their dignity and power. Unable to stop or even control the changes being wrought in the Constituent Assembly, the King and Queen began to seek assistance from other European monarchs to help them regain their lost... Read More »

The King Speaks to the "National Assembly": Royal Session of 23 June 1789


On 17 June, the deputies of the Third Estate, locked out of the Estates–General meeting hall in Versailles, convened in an empty tennis court, where they swore an oath. In it, they expressed their commitment to drafting a written constitution and proclaimed again that collectively, the deputies represented not three separate orders but a single French nation. In response, the King addressed... Read More »

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Although the most immediate threats to the security of the Republic—foreign invasion, the civil war in the Vendée, the Federalist uprisings, the grain shortage in Paris, and hyperinflation—had abated by June 1794, Robespierre and his allies on the Committee of Public Safety argued all the more strenuously that virtue needed to be enforced through terror. To this end, on 22 Prairial (10 June),... Read More »

The Law of Suspects


This law, passed on 17 September 1793, authorized the creation of revolutionary tribunals to try those suspected of treason against the Republic and to punish those convicted with death. This legislation in effect made the penal justice system into the enforcement arm of the revolutionary government, which would now set as its primary responsibility not only the maintenance of public order but... Read More »