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date: 09 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The image of the sans-culotte as a popular archetype and a political movement has dominated discussion of insurrectionary crowd action for many decades. Yet historiography now shows a much more complex picture of (especially Parisian) pre-revolutionary attitudes and activities, while as yet this has not been comprehensively translated into a re-evaluation of popular action from 1789 onwards. Tendencies to assume a natural association between ‘radical’ and ‘popular’ identities and objectives may obscure the real textures of ordinary Parisians’ responses to revolutionary events. A re-evaluation of some classic accounts shows that there remains considerable space for rethinking how and why the image of popular militancy was so important, yet also perhaps at least partly illusory, in the struggles to control the politics of the revolutionary capital.

Keywords: Sans-culottes, Paris, insurrection, Sections, militancy, crowds, protest, workers, radicalism, artisans

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