The French Revolution of 1789 has served as a role model for subsequent revolutions particularly in the 20th century. But are the clichés and stereotypes which have shaped the French Revolutionary iconography pertinent today ?
John Green discusses the causes of the French Revolution and its initial events, including the French debt crisis under King Louis XVI,the convocation of the estates general, the rise of the third estate, the formation of the National Assembly, the tennis court oath at Versailles, the storming of the Bastille, the women’s march, and the moving of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to Paris.
Part II: The French Revolution and the Exiles
John Green continues his introduction to the history ofthe French Revolution, discussing Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s flight to Varennes, the constituent assembly’s attempts to write a constitution of France,France’s brief experiment with constitutional monarch, war with Austria and Prussia and then eventually the rest of Europe, and the rise of the French Republic–also guillotines and the use of the guillotine in Revolutionary France.
Part III: Reign of Terror
John Green completes his introduction to the history ofthe French Revolution, discussing the rise of the Committee of Public Safety,Maxmillien Robespierre, the reign of terror, the guillotine, the death of Marie Antoinette, the Directory, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and some thoughts on why we study history in the first place.
Although a turning point in history many other nation’s failed their revolutionary experience in trying to emulate this radical recipe for change often wrongly thinking that all revolutionary movements automatically follow a determinisitc irreversible path as if history was rocket science. Many popular revolutions actually led to totalitarian systems with far more brutal regimes than the previous one against which the people had revolted.
Nearly two centuries after the Revolution, France today is a fully democratic society and despite an eduring guilt regarding the way the French Royals were beheaded there is little chance of seeing a Restoration of the Monarchy as has been the case in Spain or as in Great Britain both of which are equally democratic.
But how relevant are the clichés and stereotypes which have shaped the French Revolutionary iconography today ? Particularly given all the upheavals inthe past 32 years where Peaceful Velvet Revolutions set Eastern Europe Free or the very different revolutionary outcomes which are currently shaking and shaping the Middle East and North Africa it is interesting to observe how different regime’s in the région have responded to the upheavels.
Interestingly Monachies deemed absolute like Jordan and Morroco today seem for the time being at least to have responded with a sense of responsability and compassion towards their people’s demands:
Iran’s current so called « Green Protest » was also met with far more brutality by an Iranian regime which calls itself a Republic and was founded upon the toppling of a monarchy whose King was ready for dialogue but whose words of caution at the time were greeted to deaf ears by a nation too impatient and too blinded by hatred to fully grasp what they were about to produce and endure for the next 3 decades.
SimilarilyNever it seems has the expression : « A Revolution Eats it’s Own Children » been so ironically true in the Case of Libya or Syria both of which have lost complete legitimacy in the way they have been responding to the natural demands of people hungry for Freedom and thirsty for self determination.
I guess there is no definitive answer to this question But definitively it is one which cannot be so easily dismissed in the name of romantic clichés which have often cost millions of lives for an ideal which for the most unfortunate nations was never acheived !