The Reign of Terror began in France when Bertrand Barère, a member of the Committee of Public Safety, made a speech in favour of it that ended with the exclamation, “Let’s make terror the order of the day!”
Although there is debate amongst historians regarding the exact date that the Reign of Terror began, Barère made his speech at a time that Paris Commune was agitating for a more proactive approach against enemies of the revolution. Less than two weeks later the National Convention passed the Law of Suspects. This led to the arrest of both declared and suspected opponents of the government. This was one of the key causes of the more than 16,000 executions that took place during the Terror.
The following February Robespierre himself justified the government’s policy as ‘nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice’. While some historians disagree with Robespierre’s argument that the Terror was necessary to combat counter-revolutionary elements in French society, there can be little doubt that France’s fortunes improved during its time.
However, the Terror had also begun to face opposition. By the end of 1793 two factions – one calling for an escalation, the other for moderation – had emerged. Although the leaders of both groups were executed, Robespierre’s dominance of the Committee of Public Safety was now seen as a threat to the National Convention itself.
In the session on 27 July 1794, members of the Convention turned against Robespierre and his allies. Shouts of “Down with the tyrant! Arrest him!” were heard in the chamber. Robespierre and 21 followers were arrested, and later executed, in what became known as the Thermidorian Reaction.
The Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War, was signed by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America.
The American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence, began on 19 April 1775 between Great Britain and her Thirteen Colonies that had declared independence as the United States of America.
The conflict lasted for over eight years from its first shot to the signing of the Treaty. The Americans, having formed an alliance with France in 1778, had accepted the surrender of British troops under Charles Cornwallis on 17 October 1781. This resulted from the decisive victory at Yorktown by a combined force of American troops led by General George Washington and French Army troops under the Comte de Rochambeau.
A vote of ‘no confidence’ in the British government under Lord North soon led to the creation of a new government that began peace negotiations in April 1782. By the end of the summer the Americans had begun to negotiate directly with the British Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne, a move that forced France to agree a separate peace with Britain and which had the effect of weakening the relationship between the two allies.
The Treaty was drafted on 30 November, 1782 and signed the following year. It formally recognised that the United States would be free, sovereign, and independent. The land granted under the agreement to the United States by Britain has subsequently been described as “exceedingly generous”. However, in an excellent piece of diplomatic prediction by Lord Shelburne, this went on to provide Britain with a fast-growing and lucrative trading partner.
On the 27th August 1928, Germany, France and the United States signed the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy – otherwise known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. A total of 62 nations eventually went on to join them in signing the agreement, which promised to never use war as a way to settle conflicts.
Jointly created by the United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand, the Pact stemmed from France’s desire to protect itself against possible future German aggression. Unwilling to join what could be interpreted as a military alliance, Kellogg suggested that they invite all countries to sign a condemnation of war unless in self-defence. The United States’ involvement meant that the Pact was signed outside the League of Nations, of which America was not a member, and therefore means that it is still in force today.
At the time it was hoped that the signing of the Pact would stop any future wars, but the impact of the worldwide depression in the 1930s led nations such as Japan and Italy to launch invasions of Manchuria and Abyssinia respectively. Such invasions began without the aggressor ever declaring war but, despite this, the Pact was ineffective since it provided no way to enforce its terms anyway. However, it did act as the legal basis for the notion of a crime against peace, and in turn became the basis for many of the key prosecution arguments in the Nuremberg Trials and the Tokyo Trials that followed the Second World War.
On the 26th August 1346, one of the most decisive battles in the Hundred Years War was won by the army of the English king Edward III. The Battle of Crécy was fought against the French army of King Philip VI and eventually led to the port of Calais becoming an English enclave for over two centuries.
Determined to unseat Philip from the French throne and claim it for himself, Edward had already been involved in a series of conflicts across the Channel. However, the invasion force he brought in 1346 was notable for its large number of longbow archers who made up between half and two-thirds of the approximately 15,000 men who made up the army.
The key advantage of the longbow was its ability to be fired over long distances. Although research has shown that longbow arrows could only pierce the plate armour worn by knights at a distance of 20 metres, they were highly effective against their horses and the lighter armour worn on limbs. Being able to bring down knights before the onset of hand-to-hand combat was incredibly important. Furthermore, the psychological effect of thousands of arrows raining down is known to have affected the fighting spirit of the enemy.
After forcing over 4,000 Genoese crossbowmen in the service of the French King to retreat, the French cavalry were similarly overwhelmed by the archers. Philip abandoned the battle around midnight, with his remaining knight and men-at-arms fleeing the field soon afterwards. French losses mounted into the thousands, while the English lost barely a hundred.
On the 25th August 1944, the Nazi German garrison in Paris surrendered the city to the Allies. Having been rules by the Nazis for over four years, the liberation of the capital was not a priority for the forces under General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Furthermore, the Allied commanders were unwilling to risk the destruction of the city since they were aware that Hitler had said it, “must not fall into the enemy’s hand except lying in complete debris”.
A series of actions by the Nazis against French political prisoners and members of the resistance sparked mass civil unrest that began on the 15th and climaxed on the 18th August with a general strike. Aware that the US Third Army led by General Patton was close to Paris – but unaware that they did not intend to attack the city – the Nazi military governor ordered explosives to be placed at strategic points.
When the German military withdrew down the Champs Élysées on the morning of the 19th, the French Forces of the Interior – the French resistance – seized the opportunity to begin a full-scale uprising. Barricades were erected the next day, with fighting reaching a peak on the 22nd. It was this that persuaded Eisenhower to change his plan and allow Allied troops to enter Paris.
Over 800 resistance fighters died before the Free French 2nd Armoured Division arrived to assist the uprising just before midnight on the 24th August, led by Captain Raymond Dronne. On the 25th, the US 4th Infantry Division entered the city. Von Choltitz, the German military governor, surrendered later that day.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre on the 21st August 1911. Described by some as the greatest art theft of the 20th century, the museum itself didn’t even realise that the painting had been stolen until the next day.
Italian Vincenzo Peruggia had previously worked at the Louvre. Acting alone, he hid in a cupboard inside the museum on the evening of the 20th August and exited on the morning of Monday 21st – a day when the museum would be closed for cleaning – wearing a smock identical to all the other museum employees. With the museum deserted of visitors, he entered the Salon Carré where the painting hung and simply removed it from the wall.
Making his way to a stairwell, Peruggia removed the glass that had only recently been fitted to protect the painting from vandalism, and discarded the frame. Leaving both the glass and the frame behind, he simply hid the painting – which was painted on a plank of poplar wood – under his smock and left the museum.
The Mona Lisa lay hidden in Peruggia’s Paris apartment for two years before he decided to take it to Italy in 1913. Here he made contact with Alfredo Geri, a gallery owner, on the 10th December who in turn contacted the director of the famous Uffizi gallery. The two men took the painting ‘for safe keeping’ and informed the police. Peruggia served just six months in jail for the robbery, and was hailed by many Italians as a nationalist hero for returning the Mona Lisa to her real home.
On the 10th August 1792, French revolutionary troops stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Referred to by some historians as ‘the Second Revolution’ the events of the 10th August suspended the monarchy under King Louis XVI.
The royal family had lived in the Tuileries since the October Days of 1789 saw them brought back to Paris from Versailles. Louis and his family were virtually imprisoned, as proved when crowds barred them from moving to their summer residence in April 1791. This may have influenced Louis to carry out the failed Flight to Varennes two months later, after which the family were more officially held under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace.
The relationship between the royal family and the people of Paris continued to decline throughout 1792. The king did himself no favours by vetoing a range of decrees passed by the Legislative Assembly, but the situation grew worse with the threat of invasion from foreign armies. By the time of the Brunswick Manifesto on 1st August that lent foreign support to the royal family, the crowds of Paris held Louis and the concept of monarchy in absolute contempt.
On the morning of the 10th August, crowds massed outside the Tuileries. With Louis opting to take shelter in the Legislative Assembly building, his Swiss Guard who were left to defend the palace were eventually overrun after they ran out of ammunition. Approximately 800 people on the king’s side were killed, and Paris was put in the hands of the revolutionaries while the royal family were sent to the Temple prison.
On the 30th July 1792, a group of volunteer soldiers from the city of Marseille were the first to introduce and sing “La Marseillaise” in Paris. Written by the French army officer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle and originally called “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” or “War Song for the Army of the Rhine”, it was designed to rally soldiers in Strasbourg during the French Revolutionary Wars. However, the song was soon adopted as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille after one of the volunteers sang it at a patriotic gathering in the city. The song became the official French National Anthem three years later, on the 14th July 1795.
The song was written when the French revolutionary army was facing significant military difficulties in the War of the First Coalition. Facing the combined forces of both Austria and Prussia, the disorganised and numerically inferior French army had suffered a number of defeats in the first weeks of the war. This helps to explain the militaristic lyrics of the song, since it was written at a time when France was facing the very real threat of invasion and defeat.
The song’s close ties with the French Revolution meant that it often suffered at the hands of those who were against the revolution. For example, when Louis XVIII – the deposed Louis XVI’s brother – was declared king of France after the defeat of Napoleon, he banned La Marseillaise outright. The song was restored to its position as the French national anthem in 1879.
Napoleon granted a patent for the Pyréolophore to Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude.
Nicéphore Niépce had fled France during the Revolution as he was the son of a wealthy lawyer who was suspected of having royalist sympathies. He later returned to France where he served in Napoleon’s army before resigning on health grounds and becoming the Administrator of the district of Nice.
By 1801 Niépce and his older brother Claude had returned to manage the family’s estate while conducting scientific research. It was here that they developed their internal combustion engine, which harnessed the power of hot air expanding during an explosion. Their first fuel was lycopodium powder, made of dried plant spores, which was ignited inside the airtight copper machine.
The brothers presented their internal combustion engine in a paper to the French National Commission of the Academy of Science in 1806. However, the engine’s major test came in 1807 when it was installed on a boat on the river Saône. Small amounts of fuel were released into a jet of air provided by mechanical bellows inside the machine. The pressure of the explosion forced water out of an exhaust pipe protruding from the boat’s rear. This in turn propelled the boat forward in short bursts, and successfully moved it upstream against the flow of the river.
Following the successful boat test, Napoleon granted a patent to the brothers. However, despite experiments with other fuel sources, they struggled to find a commercial use for their invention. Nicéphore instead turned his attention to photography, and became the first person to produce a permanent photographic image.
On the 19th July 1799, an announcement was made of the discovery of a slab of rock covered in carvings by French Lieutenant Pierre-François Bouchard in the area around Fort Julien near the Egyptian town of Rashid or, as it also known, Rosetta. The Rosetta Stone was soon identified as the key to understanding hieroglyphics, but it would be another twenty-five years before the ancient Egyptian language was actually deciphered.
Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt had begun the previous year with the dual aim of protecting French trade in the area and undermining Britain’s access to India. However, his force also included 167 scientists and scholars who had been tasked with various jobs including researching a possible Suez Canal and creating accurate maps of the country.
It was while some of the engineers were working with the army to strengthen Fort Julien that the granodiorite block we now know as the Rosetta Stone was uncovered. It was soon sent to the newly-created Institut d’Égypte in Cairo who announced the find and devised ways to make copies of the inscriptions which soon made their way to universities and museums around the world.
The inscription is a decree written in three different scripts that all say effectively the same thing: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Ancient Greek. It is because the scripts effectively convey the same message that transliteration was able to take place.
When the British defeated the French army in 1801 they seized a large number of French finds, including the Rosetta Stone. It has been exhibited in the British Museum ever since.