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Heaven on EarthThe Varieties of the Millennial Experience$
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Richard Landes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199753598

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753598.001.0001

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Democratic Millennialism

Democratic Millennialism

French Revolution (1789–1815 CE)

(p.250) 9 Democratic Millennialism
Heaven on Earth

Richard Landes

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the French Revolution as an attempt to realize the millennial dream of an egalitarian society articulated by some of the currents within the Enlightenment. It identifies the enthusiastic response to the King's calling of the Estates General in 1788 as the onset of apocalyptic time, and traces the shifting emphases from transformational (largely peaceful and legislative attempts to dismantle the prime divider) to increasingly violent and paranoid actions in response to the failure of the earlier efforts. As opposed to many historians who either argue that 1789 had little to do with the Terror of 1793, or that they were one and the same, an apocalyptic model suggests that it was the revolutionaries’ response to disappointment that produced the Terror.

Keywords:   French Revolution, Robespierre, democracy, Louis XVI, guillotine, Terror, Estates General, National Assembly, Jews, Napoleon, Egyptian Campaign

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