LesTheThe MThT                                       The French Revolutionhe iites and Sounds of Revolutionary Paris

The Terror
Revolutionary Tradition and Les Mis
Revolution 1789
--The Monarchy
--Tennis Court Oath
--Fall of the Bastille
--October Days
--Declaration of War
--Palace Invaded
--Louis XVI
--Reign of Terror
-- Fall of Robespierre
--At war
1789 in Les Miserables
--The Terror
--The People
--The Students
--The Monarchy
--Place de Concord
--Notre Dame
Daily Sites
--Street Names
--Children's Names and Games
Works Consultedts


In '93, according as the idea which was afloat was good or bad, according as it was the day of fanaticism or of enthusiasm, there came from the Faubourg Saint Antoine sometimes savage legions, sometimes heroic bands.
Savage. We must explain this word. What was the aim of those bristling men who in the demiurgic days of revolutionary chaos, ragged, howling, wild, with tomahawk raised, and pike aloft, rushed over old overturned Paris? They desired the end of Opressions, the end of Tyrannies, the end of the sword, labour for man, instruction for children, social gentleness for women, liberty, equality, fraternity, bread for all, ideas for all. They were savages, yes; but the savages of civilisation.

Les Miserables, Saint Denis, Book First, Chapter V


In this quote, Victor Hugo describes the men of the Foubourg Saint Antoine who participated in the Terror of 1793. In Les Miserables, the people of this Faubourg are again at the center of the uprising as well as at the center of the barricade. They helped to build it and they intend to protect it from the Paris gaurds. Hugo puts a positive spin on the events of 1793 in this passage. Although many historians view the Terror as the darkest part of the French Revolution, Hugo reveals that the men who committed the most violent acts were actually "the savages of civilisation." He is lauding the people who murdered the Swiss guards at the Tuileries, carried the heads of royalists through the streets of Paris on pikes, and cheered when they witnessed deaths at the guillotine.

This positive description of some of the most violent men of the Revolutionary period reveals Hugo's sympathy forthe republicans of France. The students in Les Miserables are also republicans, fighting for the same noble cause as the people of 1793. Hugo encourages the reader to be sympathetic to thise who desire democracy, from the "savage legions" and "heroic bands" of 1793, to the idealistic students of 1832.


 Anonymous print, "It is dreadful but necessary" ("Cest affreux mais nécessaire"), from the Journal d'Autre Monde, 1794.

This image shows the guillotine surrounded by the heads it has been responsible for removing. Although the print is sinister, its caption states that the Terror is dreadful, but necessary. This was a commonly held belief in 1793-1794 when the guillotine was a means of purging France of those who were deemed a threat to national security (Spielvogel, 696).

For more information on the guillotine click here.