Revolution and Social Upheaval Simon Schama
1 2

--unit one
--unit two
--unit three
--unit four
--unit five

image banks
--l'assiette au beurre
 --La Vision de Hugo
 --Zola au Pantheon

 --Les Quatre Saisons de la Kultur



In their own persons, Lafayette and Talleyrand embodied the split personality of the French Revolution. For while it is commonplace to recognize that the Revolution gave birth to a new kind of political world, it is less often understood that that world was the product of two irreconcilable interests—the creation of a potent state and the creation of a community of free citizens. The fiction of the Revolution was to imagine that each might be served without damaging the other and its history amounts to the realization of that impossibility.


Between 1814 and 1846 a plaster elephant stood on the site of the Bastille. For much of this time it presented a sorry spectacle. Pilgrims in search of revolutionary inspiration were brought up short at the sight of it, massive and lugubrious, at the southeast end of the square. By 1830, when revolution revisited Paris, the elephant was in an advanced state of decomposition. One tusk had dropped off, and the other was reduced to a powdery stump. Its body was black from rain and soot and its eyes had sunk, beyond all natural resemblance, into the furrows and pockmarks of its large, eroded head.
This was not what Napoleon had intended. Concerned with obliterating the revolutionary memory, he had first thought of siting a grand triumphal arch on the empty space vacated by the demolished fortress. But eastern Paris was unfashionable, and the decision was taken to move the arch to the west of the city instead. Rummaging around in the fancies of antiquity, Napoleon came up with another idea that would signify, just as decisively, he believed, the superiority of imperial conquest over chaotic insurrection.

Skidmore College Foreign Language Department web site design by Jennifer Conklin '98 revised August 1998