On July 28th, 1794, one of the great but enigmatic figures of the French Revolution, Maximilien Robespierre, along with his political group, met madame guillotine in front the Parisian crowds.
Misha Glenny, the renowned political writer and foreign correspondent, has made a number of programmes for BBC Radio-4 in which he investigates major turning points in the histories of the countries of Europe. Now it is the turn of France, which he is examining in a three-part series ‘The Invention of France’, currently being broadcast on Radio-4.
The second programme in the series examines what is arguably a major turning point, not just in the history of France, but in world history – that of the French Revolution, and the problem of how the idealism and humanitarianism of 1789 dissolved into the guillotine and the Terror in 1793 to 1794.
According to Misha Glenny, Robespierre still troubles many French people today – the plaque on Robespierre’s house has been scratched away in the past. Why has Robespierre taken all the blame for the executions and chaos of the Terror? Is this a fair verdict, or is there a more complex and accurate interpretation? During the programme Misha talks to several expert historians who have specialised in this subject, including Marisa Linton at Kingston University.
The programme aired on Monday 9th November, but is still available to listen at:
If you would like to read more about the enigmatic figure of Robespierre and why he continues to provoke controversy, then you may find the following discussion of great interest: Marisa Linton, ‘The Choices of Maximilien Robespierre’, on H-France Salon, at:
Marisa L. Linton is Reader in History at Kingston University