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Jean-René Aymes

1789: The French Revolution and its repercussions URL:

The French Revolution is presented starting from the spring of 1789 as an accumulation of incredible and transcendental events which are normally considered the beginning of the modern world. The event has deep and differentiated impacts all along Europe, and their echoes still can be perceived in the present. They gained a special intensity when its two hundred year anniversary took place in 1989 in France, but also in Spain, through international symposia and the publication of important studies. But all in all, it has not been possible to reach a historiographic agreement because since the time of the events and until the present, the Revolution may be alternatively used either as an admirable example or as a repulsion pole.

It is absolutely mandatory to avoid the methodological approach of seeing the decade of 1789-1799 as a long series of lineal and homogeneous events, but should be seen as a series of sequences of different nature and different meanings. When observed from a foreign country, the big events of 1789 are the Storming of the Bastille; the meeting of the General States later transformed into the National Assembly and the Constitutional Assembly; the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen"; the apparition of new great figures like Mirabeau, Marat and Siéyès; the emerging role of women and young people; and the emergence of the "public opinion" thanks to the proliferation of gazettes and the activities of the "clubs".

In opposition to what occurred in other European territories where there were national emancipation movements inspired by the Parisian uprising, in Spain the reaction of the authorities, probably motivated more by fear or rejection than by admiration and hope, was essentially counterrevolutionary, with the exception of a few individuals, like José Marchena, who celebrated the hopeful revolution. The Revolution was indeed a matter of controversy between liberals and absolutists during the War of Independence, during the constitutional reforms adopted in Cadiz, and during the management of concepts full of new significance like "nation", "liberty", and "equality", supposedly imported from France.  

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