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About this Guide
The purpose of this guide is to provide a time-saving pathway to information on the French Revolution, particularly "The Reign of Terror" period that ran from September 5, 1793 - July 28, 1794.
Declaration of the Rights of Man...
Image Details: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65758
Why the Guillotine?
The Guillotine was developed by a doctor and politician, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin who advocated medical reform and opposed the death penalty. Guillotin's revolutionary method was considered least painful means of execution, and therefore--for the person being executed--most humane.
Marie Antionette awaiting execution - Jacques-Louis David, Musée du Louvre, Paris
These works are public domain in country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or fewer.
Lessons of History
The Furies by
Publication Date: 2013-05-16
Book Review: ..The distinguished historian Arno J. Mayer revisits the two most tumultuous and influential revolutions of modern times: the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Although these two upheavals arose in different environments, they followed similar courses. The thought and language of Enlightenment France were the glories of western civilization; those of tsarist Russia's intelligentsia were on its margins. Both revolutions began as revolts vowed to fight unreason, injustice, and inequality; both swept away old regimes and defied established religions in societies that were 85% peasant and illiterate; both entailed the terrifying return of repressed vengeance. Contrary to prevalent belief, Mayer argues, ideologies and personalities did not control events. Rather, the tide of violence overwhelmed the political actors who assumed power and were rudderless.
The Estates General: three political bodies with the majority of voting power being held by the 3% of the population, which included clergy (first estate) and the nobility (second estate). The third estate, 97% of the population, included peasants, artisans, and the bourgeoisie (middle class, which also owned most of the land in France). Moreover, the nobility and clergy were exempt from taxation!
Political Issues and Time Line
- July 1788: France Bankrupt: Louis XVI calls the Estates General to address taxation
- June 1789: Third Estates declares itself the National Assembly
- July 14, 1789: Storming of the Bastille
- August 4, 1789: Nobles surrender their privileges
- June 1791: Failed escape of Louis XVI (with Austrian troops waiting to greet them at the border--and initiate a counter-revolutionary plan, disguised in bourgeois clothing, the royal family was caught at Varennes, France).
- April 20, 1792: France declares war on Austria
- September 1792: Abolition of the Monarchy, Terror Begins
- Jan 21, 1793: Execution of Louis XVI (the Queen’s execution followed in October)
- April 5, 1794: Execution of Georges Danton (and his loyal friends)
- July 28, 1794: Last execution of the Reign of Terror: Maximilien Robespierre
The King and Queen of France, 1774–1792
Photograph of monument to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, King and Queen of France (both executed in 1793) located at the Basilica of St. Denis, Paris. Photograph taken May 30, 2016.
The Scarlet Pimpernel (film, streaming)
This 1934 British production is the classic film version of Baroness Orczy's famous novel, about a British nobleman who daringly saves French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French Revolution.
Without losing sight of the dire inequities in 18th century France, this program paints a portrait in which Marie Antoinette emerges as a sympathetic and courageous figure.
Narrator: Blair Brown.