A discussion of the reasons for the Terror in France 1793/94
Outline the causes of the Reign of Terror in France in 1793/94.
The Reign of Terror (1793-1794) was an extreme violent phase of the French Revolution that saw many thousands of people across all social classes executed as enemies of the revolution in an attempt to conserve the integrity of the Republic.
It was instituted as national policy by the Committee of Public Safety after a coup where the more moderate faction of political revolutionaries, the Girondins, were overthrown by the more radical Jacobins. In this shift in the power balance it was then the more moderate faction that were held accountable for not delivering the equality and prosperity that were key promises of the early revolution and for the lack of success in the revolutionary wars that had begun in 1792 as a response to the onset of revolution.
Additionally, whilst under the threat of external invasion the strength of counter-revolutionary opposition led to civil war and unrest in areas such as the Vendee, Lyon and Marseilles. The Terror was therefore instituted to purge France of anti-revolutionary forces (internal and external) and to promote the revolutionary ideology.
In determining the appetite for retributive political violence during a period of proposed restoration it is also possible to point to the historical injustices inherited from the relationship of dominance and subservience that characterised the Ancien Regime and the lack of a parliamentary tradition of cultivated political opposition also left no model for the acceptance of a contrary view.
However, the Terror – as a product of the French Revolution – is inevitably part of a complicated set of socio-political developments that cannot be easily categorised and whether ideology or circumstance provided the key motivation remains the subject of significant discussion and debate.