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Why was there a terror in France?

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"Why was there a Terror in France in 1793-1794?" The causes of the Terror in France are one of the most hotly debated topics in modern history. The Terror was implemented to purge France of those who were deemed to be against the new Republic. There are three main causes of the Terror. Firstly, the European war was not going well- despite some victories. The defeats they suffered were more significant than their victories. Secondly, economics played a role. There was great inflation in France which caused great unhappiness and even riots. Thirdly, the Civil War in the Vend�e caused national unrest and weakened the army as it drew troops away from the front and back to fight in France. In addition, there was resistance to the Revolution right from the start, these people are referred to as counter-revolutionaries and specifically there were linked to the church and the provinces. Each of these factors helped to contribute to the Terror becoming the order of the day on September 5th 17931. There is a division in the historiography over this event. Traditionalists such as Lefebvre2 and Soboul3 believe that the Terror was due to circumstances at the time. They argue that socio-economic problems in France were so severe that the Terror was needed to control the discontented population. In addition, the war against the majority of Europe was going badly at the time- reinforcing their thesis. ...read more.


In February 1792 money was worth 50% of its value- declining 15% since January25. Rud�- the main perpetrator of this argument- states that between May and June 1793 the assignat (paper money) was worth only 36% of its original value and by August it was only 22%26. As a result of this, shopkeepers were only receiving 20-50% of the market value of their goods27. Due to the inflation, farmers were beginning to keep their stock, since they would not be making a profit. The already troublesome food crisis worsened. This caused food shortages in major cities and resulted in riots. Houses were pillaged in Orl�ans, V�rsailles and Ramb�uillet to name a few28. Whilst in November 1792, grain riots became endemic29 and from 25-28th June there were soap riots30. This can be attributed to a general rise in prices - in 1790 soap cost 12 sous whilst in 1793 it cost 23-28 sous31. It was not only soap that had risen in price; refined sugar had risen from 24 sous in 1790 to between 47 and 60 sous in 179332. To put this in perspective- in the countryside, wage earners earned, on average, 20 sous per day, whilst people earned 40 in Paris33. Prices of essentials had doubled or even trebled in price, yet wages had not risen accordingly. These pressures would have put considerable stress on the average family to buy essential items. ...read more.


Without the war, there would not have been a Terror. Yet, without economics there may not have been a Terror. Inflation was terrible; the assignat was worth only 22% of its value in August 1793- only a month before the Terror began47. This caused food riots and the introduction of set prices, which only helped in empyting markets and encouraging the emergence of a black market. Prices of essentials more than doubled but wages stayed the same- the public were becoming desperate. Finally, the opposition caused the Civil War in the Vend�e, the provinces and the Church did play a significant role. The Civil War drew troops away from the front simply enhancing the argument that the terrible state of the war was an indispensable factor. The unhappiness in the provinces was due to the Government not fulfilling their ambitions which caused riots and huge amounts of anger at the state. Finally, the policy of dechristianization caused huge opposition from the Church and the people. With the removal of the statue of Catholicism causing the equality of all religions caused huge amounts of contempt48 along with the Republic forcing the clergy to take an oath of loyalty. It has to be said that the new Republic believed that they had began a new era in human history and their aim was to "realise the destiny of humanity"49. This era was being threatened by these factors, thus the Terror was needed to halt the 'problems' the French were facing. ...read more.

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