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The Gilded Youth of Thermidor
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In this historical account of the Thermidorian Reaction following the fall of Robespierre in July of 1794, Francois Gendron describes how the sans-culottes - the lower-class radicals who had been the mainspring and vanguard of the French Revolution - were crushed, and analyses the role played by the jeunesse doree in their defeat. The jeunesse doree, or "gilded youth," were a parallel militia recruited from the ranks of minor officials and small shopkeepers. They formed a distinctive subculture, defined by age and social origin, with their own forms of extravagant dress, their own anthem, their own affectations of speech, their own regular meeting-places in the cafes of the Palais-Royal, and even their own passwords, which were usually indirect references to Louis XVII. Gendron sees them as the shock-troops of the Thermidorian Convention, encouraged and sometimes employed by its Committee of General Security to force the pace of the reaction against the "terrorists," the sans-culottes. This provocation led to the uprisings of Germinal and Prairial and the consequent eviction of the sans-culottes from the political arena. Gendron highlights the ways in which the jeunesse doree - although initially used as a means to counteract the revolts of the sans-culottes - were to become one of the driving forces of the reaction, carrying the Convention well beyond its political aims.
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An edition of this book was published by McGill-Queen's University Press.
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