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"Letter from a Gentleman in Paris to His Friend in London" (1757)

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The news of Robert–François Damiens’s attack on the King and his subsequent trial spread rapidly and generated great interest across France and all of Europe. This pamphlet, published in London, describes for English readers the goings–on in Paris, especially the public outpouring of sympathy for the King and the general hostility toward Damiens. Damiens, even for this English observer, was... Read More »

"Letter to Fréron: Émigrés Return" by Thérèse Bouisson

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Once in power, the Directorial government appeared poised to preserve the gains of the Revolution while undoing what some considered the excesses of the period of Jacobin ascendancy. Yet precisely what the Revolution’s gains were—beyond the elimination of the monarchy and remnants of feudalism—remained unclear. One perspective, that of the émigré nobles, held that the fall of the Convention... Read More »

"Memorandum to Her Majesty the Queen Concerning the Diamond Necklace Affair" (1786)

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Controversy surrounding the Queen reached a fever pitch in 1785–86 in what was known as the "diamond–necklace affair." A court schemer, Jeanne de la Motte, wove a complex web of intrigue, in which she convinced Cardinal Louis de Rohan—an aristocrat from a long–standing noble family who was determined to become the Queen’s lover—to purchase for Marie Antoinette an elaborate jewel necklace (made... Read More »

Title page of Observationes Medicae

"On Scarlet Fever"

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There are many fevers listed as the cause of death in early modern England that do not translate well into modern diseases (worm, spotted, pining, nervous) but scarlet fever is still with us. The Puritan Dr. Thomas Sydenham (1624-89) is often referred to as the "English Hippocrates" because of his emphasis on the need to observe the course of diseases and not just theorize about them. His two... Read More »

"Petition of the Jews of Paris, Alsace and Lorraine to the National Assembly" (28 January 1790)

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When the Jews of Paris and the eastern provinces presented their case to the National Assembly, they leaned heavily on the precedent of granting full rights to the Protestants and on the language of human rights philosophy. They insisted that the Jews should be treated no differently from anyone else and refuted one by one all the customary prejudicial arguments used against the Jews, such as... Read More »

"Terror Is the Order of the Day"

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Responding to pressure from the sections, the Convention voted on 5 September 1793, to declare that "Terror is the Order of the Day," meaning that the government, through internal "revolutionary armies" that were formed two days later,should and would use force against its own citizens to ensure compliance with its laws, including the law of the Maximum.

"The Declaration of Pillnitz"

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In response to the "Padua Circular," King Louis’s brother, the Count of Artois, a leader of the émigré nobles, expressed his support for Emperor Leopold II of Austria. Leopold, in conjunction with Prussian King Frederick–William III, then issued this "Declaration of Pillnitz"; the "resolution to act quickly" was perceived as a declaration of war on France for the purpose of ending the... Read More »

"The Padua Circular" (5 July 1791)

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Even after the aborted flight of the royal family in June 1791, Emperor Leopold von Habsburg of Austria, brother of Marie Antoinette, continued his efforts to organize a coalition of French émigré nobles and other European powers that would invade France and put an end to the Revolution. In this letter, written shortly after the forced return of Louis and Marie Antoinette to Paris (which... Read More »

"The Royal Orgy" (1789)

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In 1789, with the collapse of old regime censorship as well as a sense of liberation from traditional moral constraints, printed libels against the Queen became both more common and more intense. An example of this greater intensity is this light opera, with raunchy lyrics set to popular tunes. Not intended to be performed, the pamphlet spoofs the Queen’s great interest in opera and her... Read More »

"The Song of the End": The Whole World Now Chases Him

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Where Napoleon was once the conqueror, the world now avenges itself. This sense of reversal, felt widely outside of France, characterized a number of the caricatures of Napoleon, and indeed of the entire Revolution.

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