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Reckoning with Terror: Retribution, Redress, and Remembrance in Post-Revolutionary France


Valery Jacobi Ninth Thermidor

Image Credit: Valery Ivanovich Jacobi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The events of 9 Thermidor marked not only the end of the Reign of Terror but also the beginning of a long process of coming to terms with its legacies. This chapter examines this process. It argues that in the aftermath of the Terror, contemporaries of the revolutionary era grappled with a series of novel dilemmas around retribution, redress, and remembrance, confronting a wide range of issues about responsibility, loss, and individual, familial and social identity as a result. What made these dilemmas new is that they would have been unthinkable under the old regime. They emerged from the democratizing thrust of the Revolution. In this sense, the French Revolution transformed how modern societies face the consequences of massive violence.

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