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The French Revolution, 1789-99

8. The Directory

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About this Lecture


In this module we think about the Directory and their efforts to bring stability to France in the later 1790s, focusing in particular on the problems facing France in 1795 (e.g. the threat of dictatorship, the continuing violence between rival political factions, war with Britain and Austria, hyperinflation, etc.), the Royalist uprising of 13 Vendémiaire and Napoleon’s famous ‘whiff of grapeshot’, the Conspiracy of Equals, the Directory’s attempt to restore stability and prosperity to the French nation through art, culture, science, and (above all) military success, and the overthrow of the Directory in 1799 and its replacement by the Consulate and Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul.


In this course, Professor Dave Andress (University of Portsmouth) considers eight key questions related to the French Revolution of 1789-99: (1) Did Louis XVI ever try to make the Constitutional Monarchy work? (2) To what extent did the National Assembly reform French society and government? (3) How important was the Catholic church in the Revolution? (4) How did the ‘abolition of feudalism’ affect life in the countryside? (5) To what extent was Robespierre responsible for the development of the Terror in the years 1793-94? (6) To what extent was the Terror about putting an end to the Counter-Revolution? (7) What did ‘Thermidor’ mean for the course of the Revolution? (8) How successful was the Directory in restoring stability to France in the years 1795-99?


Dave is a historian of the French Revolution, and of the social and cultural history of conflicts in Europe and the Atlantic world more generally in the period between the 1760s and 1840s. He has written a number of books, of which the best-known is probably The Terror, (London: Little, Brown, 2005), and recently edited a major collection of essays, The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution, (Oxford: OUP, 2015). He also regularly gives lectures and workshops for A-level students, and has written the Connell Guide to the French Revolution, (London: Connell, 2016) especially for this cohort.

His personal research interests embrace the ways in which the conscious and unconscious norms of pre-1789 French society and culture collided with the new conditions created by revolutionary upheaval, and the extent to which many of the subsequent conflicts developed from such collisions. He is interested in the current focus on emotions in revolutionary history, but believes that we need to dig deeper into how feelings drove action, on the one hand, and on the other were incorporated into narratives of identity and plotting that fitted existing cultural forms.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Andress, D. (2018, August 15). The French Revolution, 1789-99 - The Directory [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Andress, D. "The French Revolution, 1789-99 – The Directory." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,