Antislavery Agitation: Abbé Raynal, Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies (1770)
Abbé Guillaume–Thomas Raynal (1711–96), known by his clerical title [abbé refers to ecclesiastical training], first published his multivolume history of European colonization anonymously in French in 1770. Today many sections of it seem almost quaint and hopelessly detailed, for Raynal and his collaborators (among them Diderot) gathered every imaginable fact to support their scathing... Read More »
Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) was an Italian intellectual who joined first the Socialist and then the Communist Party. Between 1924 and 1926 Gramsci was the head of the Italian Communist Party. In 1926 he was arrested by the Mussolini fascist government and sent to prison where he remained until 1937. The excerpt that follows comes from his prison notebooks and demonstrates his fascination with... Read More »
The second image, a color drawing by the popular English caricaturist James Gillray in 1805 during the Empire, takes a different view of the Directory, suggesting that it is a time of moral decadence and self–aggrandizement. It depicts Paul Barras, while in power as a member of the five–man executive Directory in 1797, being entertained by the naked dancing of two wives of prominent men, the... Read More »
This 1789 article from the Révolutions de Paris, a leading radical newspaper, argues that the Revolution has not been achieved, because all of the changes to date could still be reversed. Moreover, it warns that "anti–patriots"—"nobles" in the National Assembly and "aristocrats" in the royal ministry—would like to do just that by starting a "civil war." To prevent this, it calls on civic–... Read More »
This color drawing, produced in 1793 at the request of the Committee of Public Safety and then published as an engraving, caricatures the British army and its king, George III, as incompetent, who, despite fine uniforms, cannot defeat shoddily clad, yet energetic sans–culottes (on the left), who humiliate the British by defecating on the advancing troops. The British vainly try to respond with... Read More »
These images, all engraved and widely circulated years after the event, show four different moments of the arrest. Each successive image renders the scene increasingly dramatic. The first, a woodcut executed shortly after the event, shows the postman alone recognizing the King.
When the revolutionaries, led by thousands of women, marched to Versailles, they triumphantly seized and then brought the king to Paris, where he would live in the midst of his people. Here this image attempts to maintain a perception of royal pomp and grandeur, ignoring the reality that the king was forced against his will. Still few could fully foresee the ultimate changes underway –– that... Read More »
Arthur Young, an Englishman, traveled across France on the eve of the Revolution recording his impressions of life there, particularly those aspects that seemed to him to compare unfavorably with his native land. In the excerpt below, he comments on the peasantry’s landholdings, remarking on the multiple arrangements of land tenure and on the small size of peasant farms, all of which seemed... Read More »
An arrested Corday is hustled out of the door, while the inquest begins. The expired Marat, ghastly pale, looks much more realistic than in the David rendition of his death. Also, the bath in the shape of a boot, which differs from most images, is apparently accurate.