25 12 / 2012
So someone’s already made this post based on costuming but augh it’s been like my pet peeve for literally years so I just haaaave to and I’m sorry.
The French Revolution: 1789-1799 (though the ending date is disputed, but generally people pin to Napoleon’s ascent to power)
Delegates elected to deal with France’s massive financial crisis instead broke off and formed their own assembly and wrote a new constitution. Initially a constitutional monarchy, was meant to become something resembling a republic after the execution of King Louis XVI, but in practice entered into what was more or less a police state, called the Terror (also known as the bit where everybody got guillotined). Leaders tended to be educated professionals: most of the big names of the revolution were lawyers. Occasional outbursts of brutal street violence tended to come out on the side of the people (though not always). Ultimately something of a hot mess, but also ultimately a win for those who were fighting against the status quo.
July Revolution/Revolution which is confusingly right before Les Mis and is referenced in the book but doesn’t directly feature in the action: 1830
King Charles X came from the House of Bourbon; that is, the house that Louis XVI came from, and which was restored to the throne of France (though now a constitutional monarchy rather than an absolute monarchy) as part of treaty negotiations after Napoleon’s defeat. The July Revolution overthrew him and installed the House of Orleans and King Louis-Philippe as constitutional monarchs instead. Massive unemployment combined with journalists angry about the recent suspension of the freedom of the press led to revolt. Barricades rose, and three days of street fighting saw the rioters victorious and Charles X dethroned.
The June Rebellion/The One In Les Mis: 1832
That France continued to possess a constitutional monarchy left those with more radical and liberal leanings frustrated, having hoped that the July Revolution would lead to more substantial changes in the French government— perhaps, even, a republic. Concurrently with (more) massive unemployment, a major cholera outbreak, and pro-Bourbon uprising in the provinces, mostly student-led groups in Paris staged a demonstration of their own, concurrent with the death of a popular liberal politician, General Jean Lamarque. A network of barricades was constructed in eastern Paris, but unrest failed to spread, which made it simple for the National Guard to crush the uprising after only one night.
So, the biggest and most important difference is that unlike the French Revolution and the July Revolution, the June Rebellion of Les Miserables was something of an utter failure. The ideals of 1832 eventually would be victorious in 1848. But these are not the rebels of 1848: the beauty and tragedy of the barricade is that of the inheritors of a republican tradition, the spiritual sons of a successful revolution, fighting desperately for an idea whose time had not yet come.
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