Was the French Revolution necessary?

Historian Uwe Schultz on the French Revolution"You have to be ready for a bloody act"

Hardly any event in recent history is seen as a turning point more clearly than the French Revolution. A people abolishes the authoritarian state, a wave of violence and terror arises, but ultra-modern ideas are also prevailing: freedom and equality. What is celebrated every year on July 14th, namely the storming of the Bastille, has a long history before and after. Because whether the storming of the Bastille was the decisive turning point in the events in Paris and Versailles is perhaps not so clear.

Weak king - strong adversary

The publicist Uwe Schultz sees the origin in a long-lasting phase of dissatisfaction. The mood among the people was bad, the king weak. "Louis XVI did not dare use the military. That was his silent abdication". The king was afraid the situation could end in civil war. On the way to the scaffold, he complained that he was being punished for not wanting to shed someone else's blood.

Louis XVI and his adversary Robespierre had already met before July 14, 1789. Robespierre was still a student in Paris and Ludwig was supposed to give a lecture. It was raining, Ludwig stayed in the carriage, Robespierre was kneeling in the dirt, the King drives away without any reaction. Robespierre later becomes the king's judge. This meeting, which was humiliating for Robespierre, was never discussed again between the two of them.

Heated mood

At that time Robespierre was still a supporter of the constitutional monarchy, seeing it as a transition phase. His Bible, according to Schultz, was Jean Jacques Rousseau's social contract. "In any case, a heated mood is necessary if you want to bring about a change. You also have to be ready for a bloody act - that is the signal of July 14th."

Why the storm on the Bastille in France is celebrated as a symbol of liberation is still strange, so Schultz. "It was very cruel, the head of the responsible commanding officer was impaled and carried onto the town hall square. A process that French historians have found difficult to cope with today."

Uwe Schultz, born in Hamburg in 1936, has published numerous publications and monographs. He dealt particularly intensively with the history of France in the 17th and 18th centuries. Uwe Schultz has written several books on this. For almost twenty years he headed the "Cultural Word" department at Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt am Main. He has received numerous prizes for his work, including the 1999 Prize of the Franco-German Cultural Council for essay writing. Today he lives and works in Paris.

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