The French Revolution

The Sans-Culottes
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 Consulted


Who were those revolutionary Frenchmen, those "sans-culottes" (men without fancy breeches) who stormed the Bastille, who extended their nations's borders by defeating the best armies of Europe's monarchs, who survived, and even prospered, amid the cruel excesses of the Terror? They were by no means the frenzied, mindless mob portrayed in most fictional accounts of the Revolution--accounts which have generally tended to favor the gentle aristocrats. Rather, they were clerks and tradesmen, lawyers and goldsmiths, bakers and merchants: a crowd of fighting patriots, not a rabble.

Dowd,The French Revolution, p. 7


 Anonymous print from Dowd

In this allegorical drawing some typical san-culottes dance around a liberty tree. Onthe right is the captured Bastille, and on the left is the Austrian army. The patriotic ardor of the sans-culottes is clearly expressed here.

The Sans-Culottes were the working men of Paris, who longed for a political voice in the tumultous political scene of the early 1790s. The man who provided them with a place to air their political views was George Jacques Danton. He founded the Cordeliers Club to give the Sans-Culottes a voice in government because they were too poor to qualify as voters. Members paid a few cents a month for the privilege of gathering as a group and hearing the Club's prominent members speak (Camille Desmoulins and Jean Paul Marat were among them). The sans-culottes circulated petitions that demanded the removal of the King and the declaration of a republic. Although their petitions were initially rejected, their demands were eventually met as the Revolution played out. The sans culottes were a powerful force in Paris throughout the Revolution, but disappeared from the political scene when Robespierre fell from power in 1794.


 This sketch of a sans-culotte was taken from Decaux.

This man is a sterotypical sans-culotte. He weres pants, and not breeches and a red stocking cap known as a bonnet rouge. His pants are red, white and blue: the colors of the French flag. He carries both a sword and a pike and appears ready to fight for France.

For connetions between the sans-culottes and Les Miserables click here.

For more information on opposing views of the Sans-Culottes click here


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