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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Two hundred and twenty-five years after 1789, the French Revolution is no longer invoked with great frequency in world politics. Few contemporary moments take its events as a script to follow. Nonetheless, many of its conceptual legacies remain strong. This article traces these legacies in six broad conceptual fields: nationalism, republicanism, human rights, war and peace, political ideology and ‘revolution’ itself. In each case, it makes clear that the concepts have not been transmitted down to the present unchanged. For instance, the linkage between human rights and citizenship in a particular polity, which the revolutionaries affirmed in their Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, has given way to a widely shared idea that rights act as a limit on sovereign authority. The article closes by observing that the Revolution’s most powerful legacy may be the concept of ‘revolutionary’ change itself, and its status as a synecdoche for ‘modernity’ in general.

Keywords: Nationalism, sovereignty, republicanism, human rights, war and peace, pacifism, political ideology, revolution, modernity

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