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The French Revolution's reign of terror

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 26 May 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the reign of terror during the French Revolution. On Monday September 10th 1792 The Times of London carried a story covering events in revolutionary France:
"The streets of Paris, strewed with the carcases of the mangled victims, are become so familiar to the sight, that they are passed by and trod on without any particular notice. The mob think no more of killing a fellow-creature, who is not even an object of suspicion, than wanton boys would of killing a cat or a dog".
These were the infamous September Massacres when Parisian mobs killed thousands of suspected royalists and set the scene for the events to come, when Madame La Guillotine took centre stage and The Terror ruled in France.

But how did the French Revolution descend into such extremes of violence? Who or what drove The Terror? And was it really an aberration of the revolutionary cause or the moment when it truly expressed itself?

With Mike Broers, Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall; Rebecca Spang, Lecturer in Modern History at University College London; Tim Blanning, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge.

  • Further Reading

    Hugh Gough, The Terror in the French Revolution (Palgrave 1998)

    Simon Schama, Citizens (Penguin)

    Tim Blanning, The French Revolution: Class War or Culture Clash? (Macmillan, 1997)

    Tim Blanning, The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars (Longman, 1986)

    The Oxford History of the French revolution ed. William Doyle (OUP)

    Graeme Fife, The Terror: the Shadow of the Guillotine, France 1792-94 (Piatkus 2004)

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