Why has the guillotine become one of the best known symbols of the French Revolution? Why did a revolution, which set out to provide French people with constitutional government and freedom in 1789, end up with a dictatorship that executed tens of thousands of them in 1793-4? Such questions have fascinated observers of the French Revolution since the 1790s and those concerning the Terror have remained the most controversial. This book examines the arguments, analyses the Terror's background and plots a path through the historical minefield that lies between the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and the work of the guillotine during the Terror. It puts the Terror into context and shows how events and ideas interacted to create an event that has haunted the political imagination of Europe ever since.
HUGH GOUGH is Statutory Lecturer in History at University College Dublin.