The picture to the left
portrays five 'sans-culottes', including a market porter, a cobbler,
and a joiner; who are all armed with a pike.
This picture was taken
from a contemporary painting. It can be found on page 107 in
Gwynne Lewis' Life in Revolutionary France.
of the Sans-Culottes on Page Two
- Importance of Sans-culottes Movement
were a prominent political group at the end of the nineteenth
century, and played a large role in the French Revolution. The
sans-culottes movement was important to the Revolution of 1789
and later revolutions, because it was one of the first working
class groups that incorporated both a political stance and a
- The Members of Sans-Culottes
- The sans-culotte
consisted of the working-class. During the height of the sans-culottes
movement, Momoro remarked, "A
sans-culotte is someone who goes everywhere on foot, who isn't
loaded with money like the rest of you, but lives quietly with
his wife and children . . . on the fourth or fifth floor"
(Lewis, 102). The reference to the
upper floors comes from the fact that the poorer workers tended
to occupy the top floors or attics of apartment
blocks. Such descriptions are evocative, but misleading.
The sans-culotte did not necessarily represent the poorest section
of the urban crowd, as pictured above. Some were poor, but the
militant sans-culottes were more often than not skilled workers
and shopkeepers from the middle class.
elite members of the sans-culotte preferred the trousers of the
working-man. They disdained the breeches of the aristocracy or
upper-middle classes. They felt that all classes were equal and,
therefore, should not be segregated by fashion. In the picture
above, the members are working-men and hold the pike to symbolize
their militancy. The pike was a common weapon of the lower class,
because it was easily constructable. It evened the playing field
between the lower class revolutionaries and the king's army.
The sans-culotte depicted in the caricature to the right is also
wearing the typical sans-culotte garb.
- This caricature is of a Parisian
- between 1792 and 1793. Taken
from (Furet and Ozouf, 362)
- The Desires and Politics of Sans-Culottes
the sans-culottes were anything but cohesive. The politics of
any member of the movement, or French society for that matter,
depended on personal vendettas, professional jealousies, literacy,
and economic factors. Although their politics could differ, sans-culottes
did hold one opinion in common: they were against the rich.
- Sans-culottes believed in the ideology
that all men were equal.
- Ideally, each citizen would own one piece
of property, such as a farm or shop, and no one would control
large enterprises or estates.
- The sans-culotte were not opposed to the
concept of private property, but did despise the indulgent wealth
by the bourgoisie and the elite aristocrates.
- Food should be taken from big landowners
and grain-merchants and to be given to small workshops.
- They called for a radical Republic based
on Direct Democracy.
- They wanted a tax on the rich.
political ideologies of the sans-culottes often clashed with
the established French authorities in the late eighteenth century,
causing the middle and upper classes to view the sans-culottes
with hesitation and even fear. The depiction
of the sans-culotte as a militant savage was commonplace
in France at the time.