Imagine that you are writing a study of Paris during the Terror.
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Imagine that you are writing a study of Paris during the Terror. In the form of a short essay (not more than 900 words) consider the following three questions: 1. What kind of primary source is this and what strengths and weaknesses does it have? 2. Are there any particular words and phrase in the document that require elucidation or special comment before you can make use of it? 3. What can you learn from this source with respect to Paris and the Terror? You should distinguish, where appropriate, between witting and unwitting testimony. This document in its original form as a speech is an unpublished document. However, because it has been translated and printed as a part of a book, it is now a published document. As a source for study, it has several strengths. Firstly, it is now a part of a recognized historical document. Secondly, it fulfills the criteria of being a relevant document because of the author's proximity to the Paris Terror.
How sure can the reader be of the accuracy of the information? While reading Jacques Roux's speech, it may be difficult to decipher certain terms, one of which is the sans culottes. If one investigates, one will be faced with the task of interpreting which version was meant and used by Roux. In order to truly understand the context of the speech, one would also have to understand what occurred at Marseilles and how it affected the sans-culottes. Another question that arose was how did the Capet family fit in? What was their role in the struggle? Is Roux singling them out because of some misperceived wrong done to him or did they commit a criminal offence? Reference is also made to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Constitutional Act. Before this speech can be completely useful as primary source, there has to be a clear understanding of what these documents are and how they would have influenced Roux's feelings.
The undercurrent in Roux's words is one of decadence and pack of interest from the upper class and government while innocent citizens suffered. To a historian, this unwitting testimony is a goldmine of information particularly as Roux was directly involved and affected. We also learn that the economy was being sabotaged by traders and manufacturers. According to Roux, the manufacturers were manipulating and misinterpreting loopholes in the law for their own benefit. His unwitting testimony reveals that he felt that although the clause stated that 'one is allowed to do everything that is not forbidden by law', merchants and traders should bear some moral responsibility towards the poverty stricken citizens of Paris. Although much of what Roux says can be checked against other documents of the era, his speech would be of significant use to a historian as except for the translation to English, it has not been manipulated in terms of personal interpretations or open to discussion. It is mainly for this reason that for a historian, Jacques Roux's speech is a minefield of information about the personal struggles of a Parisian living during the Terror.
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