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date: 07 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

To what extent should the Revolution of 1789 be understood as a crisis of legitimacy expressed widely across society as well as a collapse of arrangements of power among ruling elites? Was it from the outset a social as well as a political revolution? This chapter argues that, while there was no one point at which ‘peasants’ or ‘urban working people’ became politicized or revolutionary, they were inherently and incipiently revolutionary well before the massive revolt of July–August 1789. While some historians have questioned the level of political awareness of the urban and rural masses, even as late as July 1789, from late 1788 their grievances, as expressed in collective protest and the cahiers, could not have been accommodated within the ancien régime.

Keywords: Bastille, Cahiers de doléances, Estates-General, food riots, ‘Great Fear’, October days, peasants, Réveillon riots, Seigneurialism, taxation, urban working people

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