Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Edition 1

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Winner of the Leo Gershoy Prize from the American Historical Association, 1998, for the best book in Early Modern European History.

Timothy Tackett’s Becoming a Revolutionary revisits one of the most controversial moments in history: the beginning of the French Revolution. How did it arise? Why did French men and women become revolutionaries? To answer these questions, Tackett focuses on the experiences of the 1200 members of the first French National Assembly. Drawing upon on a wide range of sources, including contemporary letters and diaries, Tackett shows that the deputies were a group of practical men, whose ideas were governed more by concrete subjects than by abstract philosophy. Though it may seem surprising now, most of the deputies were actually in support of the king. Instead of being initiated as a result of a specific ideology founded on Enlightenment principles, the ideas that eventually led to the French Revolution were, instead, a direct result of the actual process of the Assembly.

First published in 1996 and hailed as an “exemplary product of the historian’s craft,” Becoming a Revolutionary is now available in paperback for the first time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A major contribution to the history of the French Revolution.”

—Sarah Maza, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271028880
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 1/20/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 372
  • Sales rank: 1,039,499
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Tackett is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His most recent book is When the King Took Flight (2003).

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Table of Contents







The Enigma of the Revolution

The Witnesses and Their Testimony



1. THE THREE ESTATES: A Collective Biography

Numbers and General Profile

The Clergy

The Nobility

The Third Estate

2. A Revolution of the Mind?

The Deputies and the Enlightenment

Deputy Publications before the Revolution

The Religious Culture of the Deputies

Ideology and Revolution

3. The Political Apprenticeship

Political Mobilization after 1770

The Municipal Mobilization of 1788-1789

Birth of the Aristocratic Party

The Electoral Assemblies of 1789

Third Opinion on the Eve of the Estates General

Noble Opinion on the Eve of the Estates General


4. The Creation of the National Assembly

Factional Formation in the Early Third Estate

The Clerical Estate and the Dominance of the Episcopacy

The Noble Estate and the Culture of Intransigence

The Breton Club and the Emergence of a Third Consensus

The Revolutionary Moment

5. The Experience of Revolution

The Deputies and the King

The Mid-July Crisis


The Night of August 4

6. Fractional Formation and the Revolutionary Dynamic:

August to November

The Conservative Offensive

The September Debates and the Limited Victory of the Right

The October Days: Break and Continuity

The Formation of the Jacobins


7. The Deputies as Lawgivers

The Struggle for Self-Definition

Organizing the Assembly

Bureaus and Committees

Leadership and Oratory

Constituency Relations

8. Jacobins and Capuchins: The Revolutionary Dynamic through April 1790

The Deputy Outlook after October

Political Alignments at the Beginning of 1790

The Advance of the Left through February 1790

The Religious Question and the Abortive Resurgence of the Right

9. To End a Revolution

The King’s New Direction

Division of the Left and the Triumph of ’89

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy and the Suppression of the Nobility

Commemorating the Revolution: The Federation of 1790



Marriage Dowries of Deputies in Livres


Estimated Deputy Fortunes and Incomes in Livres at the End of the Old Regime


Leading Deputy Speakers during the National Assembly



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