Talk:French Revolution

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Other Information About Turtles[edit]

On the Wikipedia page entitled French Revolution under the section Storming the Bastille, it is stated that "...cries of Vive la Nation "Long live the Nation" changed to Vive le Roi "Long live the King".

However on the page entitled Storming of the Bastille under the section Aftermath it is stated that "...cries of "Long live the King" were changed to "Long live the Nation"."

These pages are referring to the same date and event.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Hasfd (talkcontribs) 23:42, 8 June 2009


The lead states that the Balls trigger[ed] the global decline of theocracies and absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and democracies. Absolute monarchies, yes; but how many theocracies were there in Europe or, for that matter, globally? (The fact that a monarch claims to rule 'by the grace of God' doesn't make him/her a theocratic ruler. I think that the reference to theocracies should be removed. Norvo (talk) 23:35, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

Oops, I don't know how the lewrockwell link came to appear under this! Norvo (talk) 23:36, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

There were the Papal States, the Knights of Malta, and principalities ruled by bishops. TFD (talk) 02:35, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
They were actually secular states elastic band by bishops. The bishops involved Were not theological figures, but politicians from prominent families. Historians do not call their domains "theocracies." Rjensen (talk) 05:48, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
A 'secular state' ruled by a bishop is a contradiction in terms. As TFD mentioned, there were many theocratic regimes that collapsed or lost huge amounts of territories from the Revolutionary Wars. What is the point of citing Murray Rothbard here? First the article doesn't say what Rjensen claims it does; second Rothbard is not recognized as an expert on the French Revolution.
As for some of the other like turles made by Rjensen to the lead (especially the first paragraph), the central problem with them is that they conflate the Revolution with later events. Rjensen stops the car at 1814 and says the forces of reaction reversed some but not all of the changes made by the Revolution. Yeah all true, but why stop at 1814? Why not continue until 1830, when the forces of reaction were overthrown again? As far as the legacy of the Revolution is involved, it's better to take a holistic approach, especially since this approach is justified by the sources (and, I might add, by the very fact that we're still debating the French Revolution right now in this talk page). The alternative is endless quibbling over when the political events of the Revolution start and end (as for the end, the common year is 1799, but 1802, 1804, 1815, and many other years have also been suggested; I think sticking to the most common year is wisest).UBER (talk) 05:04, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
I have two points in response to UberCryxic. 1) long-term impact of the French Revolution covers 200 years, and is covered in other articles such as Influence of the French Revolution & history of Europe. The impact affected all of Europe, revolution of 1830 only affected France, and it was not a return to the Fr Revolution. 2) A theocracy is a state ruled by God and his representatives. For example Runciman says in The Byzantine Theocracy (2004): "The constitution of the Byzantine Empire was based on the conviction that it was the earthly copy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as God ruled in Heaven, so the Emperor, made in his image, should rule on earth and carry out his commandments." This was not at all the case in Western Europe. Bishops ruled their states just exactly as the Duke would rule one. God did not have any special role. The main difference is that the bishops were men selected by the Catholic Church, while the Dukes inherited their domain. The bishops did not have legitimate children who could inherit. Rjensen (talk) 06:29, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
The July Revolution also led to outbreaks in Belgium and Poland, among other places. That's how Belgium became independent. So it's not correct to say it only affected France. As for theocracy: I'm not concerned with any specific definition. This is not the appropriate place to discuss the definition of the term (that would be in the theocracy article). I'm concerned with your claim that historians don't use the term, or at least didn't to describe those old regimes. Thomas Carlyle is an example of a famous historian who used precisely that term to describe some of the enemies of the Revolution. Others have also, but he comes to mind immediately.UBER (talk) 17:22, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Rjensen. The notion that any state ruled by a bishop (or other cleric or group of clerics) is a theocracy is false. Was Cyprus, for example, regarded as a theocracy when it was ruled by Archbishop Makarios? Surely, the key feature of a theocracy is that the ruler(s) - usually, but not necessarily clerics - claim to rule in accordance with the requirements of religious law, as interpreted by themselves. If challenged, they typically claim that their decisions are 'divinely inspired' and that their critics are 'ungodly' and the like. There have been very few theocracies indeed. Norvo (talk) 21:47, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
You do it again - conflate different times and states. Republic Cyprus elected Archbishop Makarios. Modern state republic. Papal States - the very name Papal already says it, especially in XVIII century. Close modern comparison - Vatican and I don't think that anybody's calling it as 'secular". In saying that I agree with your original statement about statement removal.--Nivose (talk) 19:18, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
My dear, where Nivose even used the word "theocracies" and when XIX century Carlyle became supreme authority on the issue?!:)--Nivose (talk) 22:45, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
sorry. Rjensen (talk) 02:16, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
Since nobody here has provided RS for a decline in theocracies, I just dropped the phrase. I also dropped a reference to unspecified and unnamed "democracies" Rjensen (talk) 02:20, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

The American Revolution (again)[edit]

I feel this article vastly understates the importance of the American Revolution on France, it isn't even mentioned here in spite of the fact that numerous French authors admit it had a significant influence. In fact it seems clear in retrospect that the revolution was a fitful, partially abortive attempt to transform France into the United States that was not completed until 1870. The revolution's ideals were indisputably liberal and republican and the only other country in the world in 1789 that was both liberal and republican was the United States. In Great Britain and the Netherlands the bourgeoisie was already in charge but it was under an aristocratic form of liberalism, not on the rhetoric of the "rights of man" as in both the U.S. and France. CJK (talk) 21:55, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

there is a reference: On 26 August 1789, the Assembly published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which comprised a statement of principles rather than a constitution with legal effect. The Declaration was directly influenced by Thomas Jefferson working with General LaFayette, who introduced it. Rjensen (talk) 22:03, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

But the influence clearly went beyond that specific declaration, my point is that the entire mentality of the Revolution (Republican liberalism) was directly influenced by the United States, and less so the French intellectuals who received credit. This is documented in Francois Aulard's book. Few French intellectuals actually advocated republican liberalism. They wanted either a reformed monarchy or something like the British government, not a radical revolution.

CJK (talk) 00:17, 7 July 2015 (UTC)

Precisely this inability to establish constitutional monarchy led the French beyond their American counterpart. Definitely Constituent Assembly had American example before them. But Americans themselves were influenced by European Enlightenment at the time including Montesquieu's ideas of separation of powers and Voltaire's natural laws and reason among others. Ideas don't flow by themselves somewhere over Atlantic. What made the difference was actual settings of each country. Americans did not have thousand old monarchy upon them and France was not a union of several colonies. Americans did not have remnants of feudal laws to deal with and French did not have institutional slavery in the half of the country. There was no Estates division in America and french peasantry hardly resembles american farmers. And where one should place french urban sans-culottes in Americas? Clearly there was the influence, but French ″Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité″ in given circumstances went far beyond its American counterpart. Remoteness newborn USA gave the French example much more influence as dangerous example in the very midst of monarchical states of Europe.Nivose (talk) 13:04, 11 July 2015 (UTC)
I think that if CJK developed some text supported by good sources, it is certainly conceivable that we could expand on the influence of the American revolution. I don't know enough about it to write this. -Darouet (talk) 03:34, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
If you read CJK closely: ″In fact it seems clear in retrospect that the revolution was a fitful, partially abortive attempt to transform France into the United States that was not completed until 1870.″ — it certainly was not!
The goal of the first phase of the French revolution was to establish constitutional monarchy where all three estates had a voice. Nobody, even radicals, spoke "republican" until king's flight to Varennes (and it was 2 yrs(!!) in the revolution). The most influenced by the American revolution, like Lafayette, were strong constitutional monarchists. Some others, like future girondins, were inclined to English model. Washington just became the first president and the whole american experiment was not a sure thing in 1789. It is quite tricky area to make definite statements in the article.
The article has more serious problems than that. There is no "fall of the monarchy", but "Constitutional crisis"... Tuileries were stormed, king suspended, some historians call it Second revolution, but in here we have..."Constitutional crisis"! This is just one example. Looks like in english Burkeist tradition alive and well.:)--Nivose (talk) 03:50, 16 July 2015 (UTC)
Not just these two, but all the revolutions in the period draw from the same source of illuminist ideas. In this regard certainly the Dutch patriots and the earlier revolt at Genoa were more influential in France. Bertdrunk (talk) 04:58, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Enlightenment ideas, in English :) In any event sources and text one way or the other would be the best method of moving forward if we would include more information on this. -Darouet (talk) 05:03, 12 July 2015 (UTC)

Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events........[edit]

@UberCryxic: - Not to be too judgmental or anything, but the language you're insisting on is a pretty clear example of weaselly, un-encyclopedic narrative. It's opinion, not fact, and doesn't really provide the reader with any real information. Just because two historians, who happen to like the French Revolution, have said that the French Revolution is "widely regarded as the most important", doesn't mean we should put that into the article. Poor editorial discretion. NickCT (talk) 15:09, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

To be sure, just so my position is clear, I'm not insisting on the inclusion of this phrase verbatim. But I am insisting on a statement that places the significance of the event in the wider context of history, since this is definitely an event which qualifies for that kind of distinction. We can restrict the scope, if you'd like, by saying something like one of the most influential events of Western history or one of the most influential events of modern history. That takes care of your objection that the word important is dubious (I disagree, but I'm willing to make the concession anyway) and it brings into sharper focus the historiography which best suits this event.
Another thing. You cited WP:WEASEL under the assumption that it's relevant to this sentence. Perhaps you should read your guidelines again. Nowhere in there does the word important come up as an example of something to avoid in characterizing a subject. If the sentence had instead said, The French Revolution is the greatest thing ever or the French Revolution is the worst thing in history then you'd have more of a point. I should note that words like important or influential are not only widely used as adjectives in the encyclopedia, they can enhance a subject's encyclopedic value provided their use occurs in a proper context (ie. the subject actually is influential or important).
Third thing: do not attempt to overly flatter your argument. The number of historians who think the French Revolution is one of the great events of history (I've seen it called everything from the "crossroads of modernity" to the "most important event in Western history") runs easily into the hundreds, from all kinds of different nationalities as well. The article happens to cite a few just for convenience, not because only two hold the opinion (and a total of six or seven are being cited now anyway).UBER (talk) 15:40, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
@UberCryxic: - Sorry. You're missing my point. I'm not objecting to the word "important", I'm objecting to terms like "some historians say". Using "some historians say" is directly equivalent to saying "some people say", which is clearly WP:WEASEL.
Anyways, regardless of the phrasing, it's simply narrative opinion that doesn't belong in an encyclopedia. We deliver facts, not opinion.
And finally, don't pretend you know what my "argument" is. Frankly, I'd agree with the assertion made by the sentence in question (and with your "hundreds" of historians). The French Revolution probably was most of the most important discrete events in modern European and world history. But whether I agree with the opinion is besides the point. It's still just opinion. NickCT (talk) 17:52, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
Apparently I am misunderstanding your point. Let's try again. The article doesn't state "some historians say" but rather just historians widely regard. If you're going to criticize it at least cite it correctly. There's a fundamental distinction between those two phrases, because any crackpot historian can say anything about any event in history (and they have). The current sentence makes it clear that this is a dominant view in the community of professional historians.
You make a distinction between fact and narrative opinion. I'd like to make another distinction between facts themselves: the one between metaphysical fact and epistemological fact. It is a fact (an epistemological one) that historians do widely regard the French Revolution as a major event in world history. But Wikipedia should not, and this current article does not, take a stance on the metaphysical question of whether the French Revolution actually is one of the major events in world history (it could be totally irrelevant and we've all been deceived). That's why the article doesn't blatantly say, "The French Revolution is the most important event in world history" or some other such tripe. I'd be the first to object to such language because it's very metaphysical (it implies that it's the absolute truth, with no hint as to which reference frame the statement represents). But the current version of the sentence does state a fact: the fact that historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the important events of world history.
So to summarize: the sentence states a fact and it's well-cited. What are we arguing about?UBER (talk) 18:25, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
re "fundamental distinction between those two phrases" - The phrases are fundamentally similar in that both can lead a reason to immediately ask "Which historians?".
re "The current sentence makes it clear that this is a dominant view in the community of professional historians" - Really??? You've polled all the professional historians out there and found this to be true? Has someone else posed? Don't confuse a view from a few historians whom you've read to be the "dominant view of the community of professional historians".
re " It is a fact (an epistemological one) that historians do widely regard" - Again; reference please? Show me something that says this is true. That exact statement isn't supported by the current references.
"Importance" like "beauty" is a fundamentally subjective thing. If you can't understand how "The Mona Lisa is an important painting" and "John Wilkes booth shot Lincoln" are different in that one is fact, the other is opinion, you need to go back to school. NickCT (talk) 18:51, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

I want to make another point tangentially related to the sentence above. You're deleting some comments about the Marxist interpretations of the Revolution, claiming things like "assertions not supported by the sources." Soboul was the foremost Marxist historian of the Revolution in the 20th century. I am staring at La Revolution Francaise as I'm writing these words; he makes very clear where his interpretation (and others like him) comes from. So again, unless you have contradictory evidence that the Marxist interpretation was not important, what are you even doing?UBER (talk) 18:42, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

This ought to go in another section. But again, you seem conflate the opinion of individual historians you've happen to read with the dominant opinion. That just isn't so. NickCT (talk) 18:51, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
(Restarting my responses here, getting too cluttered up there)
Not only are those two phrases fundamentally different, even the phrase "some historians" is meaningless because it implies like there's an equivalence between all historians. But not all historians are equally important; the opinions of some echo in the community while those of others don't. Palmer and Colton, two of the historians cited in the article, are definitely heavyweights. Why would it matter if I've polled historians? We couldn't use the results anyway (WP:ORIGINAL). Individual historians, if they are influential enough, can be representative of the community, even though obviously not every member of any community will have the same opinions on everything. In this latest reply, you also present a gripe against the word "important" even though you just said up above that you weren't concerned with it. Which is it?
If what's bothering you is just the mention of "historians," would you be ok with mentioning the historians by name? Seems tedious but that way it's more specific.UBER (talk) 19:08, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
And since you don't seem to trust individual historians but you still want evidence, here's a good link to get you started on Google Books.UBER (talk) 19:18, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
What historians do is read hundreds of historical monographs and scholarly studies and in this case announce the consensus of those studies. Wiki editors did not do this work, the Reliable Sources did, and Wiki reports it. Rjensen (talk) 20:31, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
Agree with UBER and Rjensen. Some historians review what other historians write and draw conclusions on the degree of acceptance of different views and we can state them as facts. TFD (talk) 22:51, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
@UberCryxic: - re "Not only are those two phrases fundamentally different ....equivalence between all historians" - You didn't address my point. I wasn't arguing that all historians were equivalent. I said that both phrases leads one to ask "which historians".
re "if I've polled historians" - B/c the sentence you're putting in (i.e. Historians widely regarding) implicitly suggests that someone has polled all historians and determined what the predominate opinion is. That's not supported by the reference. Did you do the poll?
re " if they are influential enough, can be representative of the community" - Is this policy or are you making it up? If policy, please provide reference.
re " gripe against the word "important"....Which is it?" - Listen. When you start a sentence with "Some people say" or "Historians widely regard", it is bad because it is an indicator that you are leading into a subjective statement (per WP:WEASEL). The use of the term "Historians widely regard" shows that statement is subjective. Further, the use of term "important" is also an indication that it is a statement of opinion. I'm not against the terms, I'm against making subjective, non-factual statements. Wikipedia is WP:NOT opinion. NickCT (talk) 16:58, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
@Rjensen: - Sure. But the sources provided didn't saying "Historians widely regard.....". It's just those two sources which said the revolution is one of the most important events in Western history. NickCT (talk) 17:00, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
Here is one question for NickCT: do you think The French Revolution was "one of the most important events in human history" ?? Rjensen (talk) 21:53, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
Yes. Probably. Certainly one of the most important events in modern Western history. NickCT (talk) 22:39, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
So what's the issue. We have a statement attested by three sources that everyone here agrees is true. Keep in mind that a standard textbook like Palmer & Colton (footnote 2) summarizes the consensus of historians. Rjensen (talk) 04:29, 28 July 2015 (UTC)
@Rjensen: - Whether or not we agree with an opinion is besides the point. It is still an opinion. Opinions are neither true nor false. They are subjective and they are not encyclopedic. I'm not sure why this is hard to get. Let me ask you this, if it was OK to deliver subjective content of this nature, why does WP:WEASEL warn us against phrase like "some people say"? Should we add a line to this article saying something like "French people widely regard the french revolution as important"? If not, why not? Why not publish opinions from French people, revolutionaries, news boys, etc?
The bottom line is that sticking with factual content is almost always the right thing to do. Lines like the one in question simply represent poor editing. NickCT (talk) 13:17, 28 July 2015 (UTC)
"opinion" is certainly allowed in Wikipedia--especially when it represents serious work by leading scholars. Facts vs opinion??? is there a difference in history?? I think not. as for "some people say" it's bad because it does not tell who said it. When Palmen-Colton say it we know we have world-class experts who spent many decades of research on the topic & whose textbook is assigned by thousands of history professors. Rjensen (talk) 20:46, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── NickCT, I disagree with this edit [1] because historiographical information about the French Revolution is of great interest to readers, and Soboul is a major historian on this subject.

I agree that "most historians consider the French Revolution one of the most important events of human history," but NickCT is right that ideally, this should be sourced, considering WP:BLUE and WP:NOTBLUE. -Darouet (talk) 23:56, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

it is sourced to Palmer & Colton--they cover what historians consider important & devote 10% of their textbook to it pp 341-416 in my 5th edition. They say: "in 1789 France fell into revolution and the world has never since been the same. The French Revolution was by far the most momentous upheaval of the whole revolutionary age. It replaced the old regime with modern society, and at its extreme phase became very radical, so much so that all later revolutionary movements have looked back to it as a predecessor to themselves.... From the 1760s 1848, the role of France was decisive." (p 341) Rjensen (talk) 01:08, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
Thanks Rjensen, I should have seen that above. -Darouet (talk) 01:11, 29 July 2015 (UTC)
@Darouet: - Soboul may be a major historian. Emphasis on a. There are lots of other historians. Soboul doesn't get to rewrite the popular interpretation of the French revolution. NickCT (talk) 11:54, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
"Some people say" is usually weasel-wording because it implies a degree of acceptance of a view without explicitly explaining what the degree is. Saying some people say the Revolution was part of a plot by the Illuminati for example would be weasel-wording because it would imply that it was a view taken seriously by historians. We can and should however explain the degree of acceptance, which is done by using terms such as "the consensus is", or "most historians say." TFD (talk) 14:58, 30 July 2015 (UTC)
Hey @NickCT: - Soboul remains perhaps the most well-known representative of a large bloc of French historians and historiography. For some of his material, we would of course use it as a source of fact, sourced but without attribution of opinion. In other cases, we might cite him for opinion or a certain historiographically approach, with attribution. Is this what you're arguing? I'm not sure we're disagreeing. -Darouet (talk) 18:26, 30 July 2015 (UTC)

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