Robespierre: The Reign of Terror


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Robespierre: The Reign of Terror

On 21 January 1793, a gruesome scene unfolded at the place de la revolution in Paris. After attempting to address the crowd only to have his words drowned out by drums, King Louis XVI the King of France was decapitated by the Guillotine. Spectators rushed forward and soaked their handkerchiefs in his blood to create a macabre souvenir of the event. A critical figure in the demise of Louis XVI was the revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre. He had argued that giving the King a trial would undermine the Republic. His fate was already sealed. As he put it, Louis must perish because our country must live.

But just one year later, the incorruptible revolutionary, and reformer would meet the same fate on the very same spot.

In this episode, I examine the life or Maximilian Robespierre, his development from a precocious child into a lawyer, then a revolutionary and ultimately – in the eyes of many – a tyrant.


Marisa Linton Professor Emerita at Kingston University in London.

I am a historian of the French Revolution, also eighteenth-century politics and the Enlightenment. I have written numerous books and articles on the politics of the French Revolution, including, Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013), and, most recently, Terror: The French Revolution and its Demons, with Michel Biard (Polity Press, 2021). I also work as a historical consultant. I am currently working on a study of four leaders of the French Revolution – Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Danton, Louis-Antoine Saint-Just, and Camille Desmoulins.

Music: Pixabay

Picture: Portrait of Maximilien Robespierre, artist unknown. Public Domain

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