Saint-Just was probably the most powerful man in revolutionary France after Robespierre. This book traces his career, and his part in the transformation of the revolution from an attempt at a new liberal order to a ruthless dictatorship. Saint-Just was 22 at the outbreak of the revolution in 1789. The event diverted him from literature to politics, and his writings at this time reveal him to have been a utopian with leanings towards anarchism. After he was elected to the Convention in 1792, his utopianism, it is argued, was changed into a commitment to the forcible regeneration of French society. After his speech advocating the execution of the king, he was elected to the Committee of Public Safety, the revolutionary government, in April 1793. Vigilance and the mania for improvement now became paranoia and he urged an indefinite extension of the terror to rid society of its ills. He was executed, along with Robespierre, in July 1794.
Norman Hampson is Professor Emeritus at the University of York. He is the author of many books on European history, specializing in the French Revolution. His previous works include biographies of Danton and Robespierre (both Basil Blackwell, 1988).