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As regards 1789-1794, I would agree that most of the leaders were from higher social strata; underneath, there was insurrection though, bubbling through, and the sans culottes made their voices heard, to simplify, ultimately via Robespierre and his early allies Danton Marat and Saint Just among a few others.

But the power base of the Revolution at that time was from below, especially from 1792 forward. The Girondins, the initial power base of lower local gentry and city bourgeoisie, were defeated and then arrested with this popular support, and the Revolution really got interesting, speaking again of course as an enthusiast of history.

by John Redmond on Thu May 26th, 2016 at 12:22:15 PM EST
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...speaking again of course as an enthusiast of history.

John, I am much more an enthusiast of history than a professional historian. As a beginning grad student I was concerned about my lack of breadth and I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as the graduate reader for the new French History Professor's series of courses in French History, which consisted of six courses of three semester hours each. For those I read an average of six books each, took the course myself and graded the undergraduates according to the professor's key. I probably retained as much from the lectures as I got from the readings.

Similarly with English history and Russian history. It was the National Schools period of American college curriculum, with all of the attendant problems. For Russian History I had already had an excellent series by a much better Yale educated professor while an undergrad in physics, as accompaniment to two years of Russian language. The Russian history professor was a Stanford educated neo-con who also graded the athletes' papers himself. He was a cold warrior and I was advised that declining to grade his courses would be bad for my career. It turned out that the history department as a whole was bad for my career.

I don't regret any of it, but wish I had had the sense to transfer to a better university, one more open to alternative views. The attitudes of the Russian and English History professors at the U. of Arizona were that the only thing worse than the total incomprehension most students displayed for ideas from the left was that I not only understood them immediately but actually embraced them. They considered themselves guardians at the gate of academe.

So I hardly consider myself a professional historian and I made my way in the world based on my Physics B.S. and attitude. For the next twenty years of so I spent more effort on anthropology and psychology than on history, but resumed my reading in the early '80s.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 26th, 2016 at 01:11:47 PM EST
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I only insist on the "enthusiast of history" line in order to dispel (whatever for?) any doubts one might have regarding political sympathies, partisanship and the like...
by John Redmond on Fri May 27th, 2016 at 09:45:46 AM EST
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