History of a Day: Time, Terror, Agency and the Overthrow of Maximilien Robespierre

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Friday, April 26th, 2019

Friday, April 26, 201910:00AM - 12:00PMExternal Event, Natalie Zemon Davis Room
Sidney Smith 2098
100 St. George Street
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On 27 July 1794 – 9 Thermidor year II in the new Revolutionary Calendar – Maximilien Robespierre, the most notorious politician of the French revolution, was toppled from his position on the Committee of Public safety which was running the Terror in France. He was executed the followjng evening. His overthrow is conventionally viewed as marking the beginning of the end of the Terror. Events on 9 Thermidor started with a parliamentary coup in the national assembly led by many of his colleagues on the Committee of Public Safety. It was followed by a mobilisation of the Parisian popular movement in support of Robespierre led by the Paris Commune, before the national assembly reorganised and won the day. Many historians have seen the ootcome of the day as inevitable. Yet for those who were caught up in it, it was anything but. The forces behind Robespierre looked superior to those of his opponents and the outcome of the action wavered dramatically over the 24 hours. It was a day that involved tens of thousands of Parisians. How, then, does one tell the story of those 24 hours, in ways which do justice to the experience of those Parisians and the forces of sheer contingency and chance?

Colin Jones is Professor of History at Queen Mary University of London and since 2018 is also Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He is Fellow of the British Academy and Past President of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of many books on the history of France including The Great Nation. France from Louis XIV to Napoleon (1715-99) (2002), Paris: Biography of a City (2004), The Smile Revolution in 18th-century Paris (2015) and Versailles (2018).


Colin Jones
Queen Mary University


Department of History

Centre des Études de la France et du Monde Francophone

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