New Research Article

We are delighted to present here an entirely new research article by Annie Jourdan of the University of Amsterdam, exploring the context of the French Revolution’s infamous ‘Law of 22 prairial’. The full article can be downloaded from the link below:

Les journées de Prairial an II

All comments and reflections welcome!


2 thoughts on “New Research Article”

  1. This is a really fine analysis, and I thank Annie Jourdan for her characteristic generosity in making it available in this way. I found her analysis compelling, that the Law of 22 Prairial needs to be placed in the context of the parallel urge for public ‘virtue’ (the Festival of the Supreme Being was just two days earlier), the ultimate statement of the intimate relationship between ‘virtue and terror’, as well as the assassination attempts, the committee and personal rivalries, and so on. Annie Jourdan refers to the proliferation of “rumeurs les plus fantaisistes” and might have speculated on both the exhausted fearfulness of the key individuals and the reasons for Robespierre’s long absence after the Law was passed (the result of physical and mental collapse as much as anything else, in my view). And what was the importance of the news of victory at Fleurus and elsewhere in the northeast in the weeks after the Law was passed, and the consequent tension over the ‘banquets populaires’?

    This is a wonderfully lucid and instructive overview, thank you.

    1. The Law of 22 Prairial has so often been invoked, and yet so little understood. It has been seen by generations of historians as a monstrous production that enabled the ‘Great Terror’ in Paris over the seven weeks of summer 1794 leading up to the fall of Robespierre in Thermidor. Yet what was this law meant to achieve and how did the processes it put in place actually work? Annie Jourdan is to be warmly congratulated for the best and clearest account I have yet seen of the historiography, context, provisions and, above all, implementation of this legislation. Her study is a major piece of original scholarship which is bound to generate interest and debate. For myself, I find her contention that the spiralling death toll in Paris over that summer came not so much from the provisions of the law itself as from the ways in which it was implemented and the speed of the processes, to be very persuasive. There is much food for thought here, much more than I can deal with in a short comment, and I join with Peter McPhee in recommending this article to anyone who wants to understand more about the labyrinthine politics of this notorious piece of legislation.

      Marisa Linton

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