Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution. (With a new preface) / Edition 1

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The years 1793 and 1794 marked the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, a bloody period characterized by the brutal repression of those suspected of being counterrevolutionary. The so-called Committee of Public Safety, which directed the Terror, ordered 2,400 executions in July 1794 in Paris alone, and across France 30,000 people lost their lives. R. R. Palmer’s Twelve Who Ruled is the classic study of the twelve men who made up the committee, the most famous of whom was Robespierre. Palmer approached each man as an individual, describing and explaining his inner motivations and dramatically portraying his revolutionary role. In addition, he saw the Committee of Public Safety as the prototype of modern dictatorships and the Reign of Terror as an early incarnation of the totalitarian state.

Palmer's other great classic, also from Princeton, is his Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800 in two volumes (vol. 1, The Challenge, 1959; vol. 2, The Struggle, 1964), for which Palmer received the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 1960. Palmer’s key idea was that a single great democratic revolution against an entrenched aristocracy swept Western culture between 1760 and 1800, and that the American Revolution was the most important single event in precipitating this revolutionary era. These two volumes have been of singular significance for historians on both sides of the Atlantic and together with his Twelve Who Ruled established Palmer as one of the most important historians of his generation.

This modern classic is being reissued in recognition of the bicentennial of the French Revolution.

From a review of an earlier edition: "This is wholly an admirable book: it is based upon all the most recent researches and itself makes some original contributions to scholarship; it is written in a bright popular style and deserves as warm a welcome from the general reader as from the historian."—A.J.P. Taylor, Manchester Guardian

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Editorial Reviews

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"Both professionals and amateurs will be tempted by the vibrant touch that has created a warm and understanding narrative."Journal of Modern History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691007618
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1970
  • Edition description: Bicentennial ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

R. R. Palmer (1909-2002) was Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and a guest scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study. Isser Woloch is Moore Collegiate Professor of History at Columbia University.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi
Foreword to the Princeton Classic Edition vii
Preface to the Bicentennial Edition xvii
I Twelve Terrorists to Be 3
II The Fifth Summer of the Revolution 22
III Organizing the Terror 44
IV The Beginning of Victory 78
V The "Foreign Plot" and 14 Frimaire 108
VI Republic in Miniature 130
VII Doom At Lyons 153
VIII The Missions to Alsace 177
IX The Missions to Brittany 202
X Dictated Economy 225
XI Finding the Narrow Way 254
XII Ventose 280
XIII The Culmination 305
XIV The Rush Upon Europe 335
XV The Fall 361
Epilogue 388
Bibliographical Essay 397
Index 405
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  • Posted October 12, 2011

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    Twelve Who Ruled studied the French Revolution, specifically the Reign of Terror. In order to deal with the difficult situation: invasion, civil war, starvation among other problems that France was facing at the time, the National Convention created the Committee of Public Safety, a group of twelve men who ruled France. They also issued some laws that were intended to save France from falling into ruin along with the revolution. The levée en masse was created as a mean to defend the nation from foreign invaders, and to clamp down on rebellions of its own people. During the fifth year of revolution France was at war with every main nation in Europe except Russia. It was being attacked from all directions, and rebellions broke out within its territory as well. The revolutionary uprising in the Vendée executed approximately two thousand people, and Nantes, prisoners of the revolt were drowned in the Loire. The Committee of General Security was created and the Law of Suspects established against people suspected of counter-revolutionary activity. However this law did not define clearly what a suspect was, since based on the law anybody could be accused of being a traitor. Since the beginning of the revolution, the different political groups were not united, there were differences between and within groups, and that's why the foreign plot increased the number of people executed and in prison. In an attempted to end the inflation, the operations of speculators and profiteers, the demands of impoverished masses and to allow the flow of food supply, the General Maximum set a maximum price for articles of prime necessity and maximum wage. Nevertheless this policy was a complete failure. Such was the necessity for supplies during the revolution that people who tried to take advantage of the bad economy such as grain holders ended up in the guillotine. It is true that the most urgent need was food, but it was not the only one; it was also a shortage in copper, coal and gunpowder as well. Many historians consider that September 5 is the day when the terror began because the army took the offensive. On this same date a group marched to the Common House to demand the government to take action against shopkeepers, aristocrats and tyrants. The lack of food and the supposed foreign plot only made things worse because it increased the fear and suspicions among people. As a result in less than two years the victims of the terror reached around forty thousand people; among the executed there were holders, some generals that lose wars, anyone who support the Allies or was part of a civil war. The terror was designed to fight the enemies of the revolution, yet most the victims were lower class people. The Reign of Terror had a significant impact to the French Revolution.

    I relate to this book because I have a great interest in history, specially when it's about Revolutions that have occurred in many different countries. I find it interesting to learn about past, and present governments that have made people stand up for what they believe. Most of this things explain how ambitious some people can become and what the can do in order to obtain what they want, protect what they love/believe, and how this can start wars among cities, countries, and people. In my own country there have been protests against the government, and its corruption.

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