Order and democracy in Paris from the oath of the clergy to the tricolour terror, January-August 1791.
The first chapters of this thesis explore the picture of eighteenth-century Parisian popular culture emerging
from recent research, and suggest how it may be incorporated into a history of Parisian popular
disturbances in 1789. Developing themes from this, the thesis explores the interaction in 1791 between
popular perceptions of the revolutionary situation and the perceptions of popular activity by the authorities
and other opinion-forming groups, notably the press and the popular societies. The picture which emerges
from comparison of police records with press and administrative reports is one of near-paranoid suspicion.
Suspicion focused on the conception that popular discontent over socio-economic and political
issues was necessarily the product of ignorance coupled with rabble-rousing by agents of aristocratic
factions. In a situation of rising political tensions, stimulated by dissent amongst the clergy and royal
reluctance to approve the new settlement, records show popular concerns over these events falling into
spirals of growing alarm, as the press reflected back to the people the fears that their activities were
provoking. Confusion over the identity of alleged seditious elements, coupled with social prejudices
continuing from the ancien regime, made this process chronically destabilising, and eventually led to the
Champ de Mars Massacre.
The thesis concludes that individuals at all social levels appear to have had a meaningful
engagement with the issues of freedom and equality raised by the promises of the Revolution, but that
attempts to express these independently by members of the lower classes led to conflict and repression.
It further suggests a path from this position to a new hypothesis on the formation of the sans-culottes
under the Republic.