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Was terror an integral part of the mentality of the revolutionaries in France?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Description of the meaning of the terror.
  3. The French revolution and the terrorist aspect.
  4. The ideology behind the concept of terror.
  5. Various schools of thought on terror.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Bibliography.

No part of the Revolution calls as much pictures to mind as the ?Terror?. The endless lines of people waiting to be guillotined, the Committee of Public Safety with the heartless figure of Maximilien Robespierre, Marat's corpse lying in his bath more and more bloody pictures until Robespierre's fall. This is the popular image of ?The Terror?, popularized by several movies, especially Eric Rohmer's L'Anglaise et le duc, and many books, such as Victor Hugo's Quatrevingt-treize. It is always compared with the generous laws and declarations of 1789, in particular the Declaration of the rights of man and tends to be blamed, or at least ignored. Thus the of the Terror period was overlooked in 1989 in the celebrations of the bicentenary of the French Revolution. But what is actually this so-called ?Terror?? Here we enter the field of historiographical debates, which are particularly vivid on this subject.

[...] Another failure in the thesis of a terror inherent to the Revolution is the oblivion of the precedent events -older than the immediate circumstances. Going back to 1789 and say that the Revolution was almost certainly doomed to end as terrorist, does not recognize that a lot happen between 1789 and 1793. The flight to Varennes in 1791 and the fall of the monarchy on August were not known -or even possible to imagine. Or, maybe the birth of the terror is on these years. [...]


[...] To conclude, I will say that the dialectic made by some historians between terror and the French Revolution is an far too simple attempt to understand the happening of the Terror in the Republic of 1792. I do not believe that history is that simple and that the French Revolution bore the Terror within itself since its beginning. However, we cannot put everything on the circumstances anymore. In my opinion, I do think that if the circumstances were the spark that lit the fire of the Terror, ideology played the role of the wood alcohol. [...]

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