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date: 06 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Historical debate over the political clubs of the French Revolution over the past two centuries has turned on the question of whether factionalism grew out of their democratic principles or from external circumstances. This chapter suggests that neither ideology nor circumstances can fully account for this radicalization. Instead, the conditions of a ‘weak state’ must be addressed. When authorities were unable or unwilling to implement legislation or to respond to demands coming from society, the clubs often intervened, militating for action to be taken. Tax collection and the crisis of subsistence constituted two crucial issues that the state failed to managed. The clubs, which were divided on these issues, found themselves debating them in a context in which no legal limits on slander (another state weakness) existed. Unchecked calumny poisoned intra and inter-club relations and contributed to factionalism.

Keywords: Clubs, Jacobins, subsistence, taxes, freedom of expression, calumny, honour, terror, free markets

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