Event Title

From Pacifist to Monster: How the Politics of the French Revolution Changed Robespierre

Location

CSU 201

Start Date

20-4-2015 3:15 PM

End Date

20-4-2015 4:15 PM

Student's Major

History

Student's College

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Mentor's Name

Christopher Corley

Mentor's Email Address

christopher.corley@mnsu.edu

Mentor's Department

History

Mentor's College

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Description

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was one of the most polarizing figures throughout French Revolution. His actions and decisions sparked the Reign of Terror, one of the most violent periods in European political history. For much of his career, however, Robespierre did not advocate statesponsored violence. Transformations in his political and moral philosophy have been the topic of much discussion since the Revolution. Some historians have argued that the Terror was simply a product of the Revolution, and that it would have happened regardless of Robespierre. Others have strongly asserted that the Terror was born out of the circumstances created by political factionalism in the early stages of the Revolution. In this paper, I argue that Robespierre observed the changing circumstances of the Revolution and believed that he could achieve his goals by shifting his political strategies toward the side that he believed would gain power. He then used the Terror to remove his political enemies. Ultimately, this paper argues that Robespierre was a pragmatist who took advantage of available circumstances at the time. This research might raise questions about the use of violence as a tool, even in more recent political and revolutionary events that we see around the globe today. While the ideals of the French Revolution--Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity--are still carried forward in modern movements, much of the pragmatism that Robespierre demonstrated is also still used by contemporary political leaders.

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Apr 20th, 3:15 PM Apr 20th, 4:15 PM

From Pacifist to Monster: How the Politics of the French Revolution Changed Robespierre

CSU 201

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was one of the most polarizing figures throughout French Revolution. His actions and decisions sparked the Reign of Terror, one of the most violent periods in European political history. For much of his career, however, Robespierre did not advocate statesponsored violence. Transformations in his political and moral philosophy have been the topic of much discussion since the Revolution. Some historians have argued that the Terror was simply a product of the Revolution, and that it would have happened regardless of Robespierre. Others have strongly asserted that the Terror was born out of the circumstances created by political factionalism in the early stages of the Revolution. In this paper, I argue that Robespierre observed the changing circumstances of the Revolution and believed that he could achieve his goals by shifting his political strategies toward the side that he believed would gain power. He then used the Terror to remove his political enemies. Ultimately, this paper argues that Robespierre was a pragmatist who took advantage of available circumstances at the time. This research might raise questions about the use of violence as a tool, even in more recent political and revolutionary events that we see around the globe today. While the ideals of the French Revolution--Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity--are still carried forward in modern movements, much of the pragmatism that Robespierre demonstrated is also still used by contemporary political leaders.

Recommended Citation

Ennis, Corey. "From Pacifist to Monster: How the Politics of the French Revolution Changed Robespierre." Undergraduate Research Symposium, Mankato, MN, April 20, 2015.
http://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/urs/2015/oral_session_13/2