Profession(s): Academic, historian
Books: The Peasantry in the French Revolution (1988), Reform and Revolution in France: the Politics of Transition 1774-1791 (1995), The French Revolution in Social and Political Perspective (1996), Liberty and Locality in Revolutionary France: Six Villages Compared (2003), The French Revolution (2003).
Peter Jones is a British academic who specialises in the history of modern France. Jones completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds. His doctorate was undertaken at Oxford under the supervision of the notable historian Richard Cobb; his doctoral thesis examined revolutionary committees in southern France during the Terror. Jones currently holds a professorship at the University of Birmingham, and has studied and undertaken several secondments at French universities. Historiographically, Jones has followed a similar path to Georges Lefebvre, examining the revolution from the ‘bottom up’. In particular Jones has focused on the relationship between the French peasantry and the ideas and events of the revolution.
“The peasantry felt [taxation] injustices keenly. When two villages of similar population, similar agricultural vocation and similar income levels paid out vastly differing sums in royal taille and vingtiemes, even the dullest minds realised that something was wrong. Taxation retained a formidable capacity to mobilise public opinion.”
“The most dangerous moment for an authoritarian government occurs when it embarks on reform.”
“While the [National Assembly] deputies busily planned for the future, country dwellers found themselves re-fighting the battles of the past. Obstinately, feudalism refused to lay down and die. On the contrary, it arose from the ashes of August 4th like a phoenix, rejuvenated and with a fresh lease on life.”
“The Terror started at different times for different people. The first executions for charges of royalism pure and simple took place in Paris… on the uprising of August 10th 1792.”