French Revolution documents

This collection of French Revolution documents and primary sources has been selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest or contribute a document for this page, please contact Alpha History.

The Ancien Régime

Jean-Louis Soulavie on the troubled legacy of Louis XV (1801)
Anne-Robert Turgot on the national finances (August 1774)
Extracts from Necker’s Compte Rendu (January 1781)
A letter to Marie Antoinette about the ‘Diamond Necklace affair’ (1786)
British tourist Arthur Young reports on his visit to Versailles and Paris (1787)
Justice minister Lamoignon speaks on the king’s authority (November 1787)
Memoir of the Princes of the Blood (December 1788)
A libelle about Marie-Antoinette and the king’s brother (late 1780s)
De la Platiere on the state of the French economy (1789)
A summary of French royal spending (1789)

The push for reform

Montesquieu on different systems of government (1748)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the social contract (1762)
Voltaire on religion in the ideal republic (1762)
Calonne presents his fiscal reforms (1787)
Petition of Women of the Third Estate (January 1789)
Extracts from What is the Third Estate? (January 1789)
Louis, King of the Third Estate (June 1789)
Arthur Young on the conditions in July 1789 (1792)
Arthur Young on public opinion of the parlements (1792)
A royalist account of the causes of the revolution (1797)

The Estates-General

The king convokes the Estates-General (August 1788)
The king orders the cahiers (January 1789)
Mirabeau on the Estates-General (February 1789)
Bailly on the Estates-General (March 1789)
The cahier of the First Estate in Saint-Malo (1789)
The cahier of the Second Estate in Roussillon (1789)
The cahier of the Second Estate of Berry (March 1789)
The cahier of the Third Estate of Carcassonne (1789)
The cahier of the Third Estate of Paris (1789)
The cahier of the Third Estate in Levet (1789)
The cahier of the Third Estate at Versailles (1789)
The cahier of the Third Estate in Gisors (1789)
The cahier of peasants in Menouville (1789)
The cahier of the shoemakers in Pontoise (1789)
An account of the seance royale (June 1789)
The Oath of the Tennis Court (June 1789)
Edmund Burke on the Third Estate in the Estates-General (1790)

The Paris insurrection

Madame de Stael recalls the sacking of Necker (July 1789)
Bailly recalls the king’s mobilisation of troops (July 1789)
Camille Desmoulins on the events of July (July 1789)
A Paris newspaper reports on bread shortages (July 1789)
Besenval, a military officer, reports on the July unrest in Paris (July 1789)
A newspaper report on the storming of the Bastille (July 1789)
The British ambassador reports on the storming of the Bastille (July 1789)
Keversau, a stormer of the Bastille, speaks (July 1789)
Humbert recalls the taking of the Bastille (July 1789)
The killing of Foullon and Berthier (July 1789)
Perigny on the Great Fear peasant uprisings (August 1789)
Decrees abolishing the feudal system (August 1789)
A participant in the October march on Versailles (October 1789)
Eyewitness accounts of the October Days (October 1789)
A French nobleman describes the October Days (October 1789)

Remaking the nation

George Washington’s views on the French Revolution (October 1789)
Duquesnoy on the changes brought by the revolution (January 1790)
Vincent Oge addresses the National Assembly on slavery in the colonies (1790)
Mirabeau responds to criticisms of the National Assembly (April 1790)
Decree abolishing the nobility and noble titles (June 1790)
A call for the formation of more political clubs (November 1790)
The Le Chapelier law (June 1791)
The Constitution of 1791 – government (September 1791)
The Constitution of 1791 – equality (September 1791)
The Constitution of 1791 – individual rights (September 1791)
The National Assembly debates political clubs (September 1791)
The Legislative Assembly reforms divorce law (September 1792)
The National Convention’s decree on uniform weights and measures (August 1793)

Creating a state religion

A Paris journal opposes confiscating church land and wealth (March 1790)
Civil Constitution of the Clergy (July 1790)
A radical Paris newspaper on the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (July 1790)
The National Constituent Assembly’s decree on the clerical oath (November 1790)
A non-juring priest’s declaration (January 1791)
A Paris newspaper justifies seizing church property (January 1791)
Charitas: Pope Pius VI responds to the Civil Constitution (April 1791)
The Legislative Assembly orders non-juring priests to be deported (August 1792)

The fate of the king

Jean-Paul Marat urges Parisians not to trust the king (September 1789)
A bourgeois man on the October Days (October 1789)
The king’s note left after fleeing Paris (June 1791)
De Bouille on his role in the royal flight to Varennes (1791)
Jacques Hébert on the flight to Varennes (June 1791)
Henri Gregoire on the flight to Varennes (June 1791)
The king explains his flight to Varennes (June 1791)
Princess Marie-Thérèse’s journal of the royal family’s flight to Varennes (June 1791)
Barnave calls for an end to the revolution (July 1791)
The Jacobin Club petitions for the king’s abdication (July 1791)
The Cordelier Club petitions for the abolition of the monarchy (July 1791)
An account of the Champ de Mars massacre (July 1791)
Jacques Hebert calls for ‘no more kings’ (July 1791)
The Paris sections demand the suspension of the king (August 1792)
The Legislative Assembly votes to suspend the king (August 1792)
A Paris journal opposes the execution of the king (September 1792)
Jacques Hebert calls for the execution of the king (November 1792)
The National Convention’s charges against the king (December 1792)
Maximilian Robespierre on the fate of Louis XVI (December 1792)
Thomas Paine opposes executing the king (January 1793)
The National Convention decrees the execution of Louis XVI (1793)
A British report on the execution of Louis XVI (January 1793)
Jacques Hebert celebrates the execution of the king (January 1793)
Antoine Barnave on the failures of the king (1793)

Revolutionary war

Austria’s Emperor Leopold II on the French Revolution (July 1791)
The Padua Circular (July 1791)
Declaration of Pillnitz (August 1791)
The Legislative Assembly’s decree on émigrés (November 1791)
Louis XVI is urged to condemn émigrés (November 1791)
The Legislative Assembly declares war on Austria (April 1792)
The Legislative Assembly declares “La Patrie en danger!” (July 1792)
The Brunswick Manifesto (July 1792)
The Legislative Assembly bestows French citizenship on ‘friends of liberty’ (August 1792)
The National Convention’s Levee des 300,000 hommes (February 1793)
The levee en masse (August 1793)

Growing radicalism

Jean-Paul Marat condemns the August Decrees (September 1789)
A radical newspaper warns of the dangers of counter-revolution (November 1789)
Jean-Paul Marat calls for “general insurrection” (December 1790)
Olympe de Gouge’s Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791)
Sanson on the development of the guillotine as an execution device (1792)
Jean-Paul Marat on the betrayal of the revolution (July 1792)
Retif describes the September Massacres (September 1792)
The National Convention forms the Committee of Public Safety (April 1793)
Parisians mobilise against the Girondins (June 1793)
Extracts from the Jacobin Constitution (June 1793)
Jacques Roux: the Manifesto of the Enragés (June 1793)
Extracts from the Law of Maximum (September 1793)
What is a sans culotte? (1793)
Pere Duchesne on the life of the sans culottes (1794)
A British account of the execution of Charlotte Corday (August 1793)
Edmund Burke laments the execution of Marie-Antoinette (November 1793)

The Reign of Terror

Robespierre advocates continued insurrection in Paris (June 1793)
The Law of Suspects (September 1793)
The National Convention decrees emergency government (October 1793)
Fouquier-Tinville: “Why should we have witnesses?” (October 1793)
Laplanche on his contributions to the revolution (December 1793)
Benaben on recriminations against rebels in the Vendée (December 1793)
General Turreau’s tactics in the Vendée (January 1794)
Robespierre justifies the use of revolutionary terror (February 1794)
Saint-Just proposes the Laws of Ventôse (February 1794)
A Parisian on the fall of Danton and the growing Terror (April 1794)
The execution of Danton (April 1794)
Robespierre on virtue and terror (May 1794)
Decree establishing the Cult of the Supreme Being (May 1794)
The Law of 22 Prairial (June 1794)
Witnesses to the Festival of the Supreme Being (June 1794)
Robespierre pays homage to the Supreme Being (July 1794)
Madame de Staël on the power of Robespierre and the CPS (1798)

Thermidor and beyond

An account of the arrest of Robespierre (July 1794)
Jacques-Joseph Cassanyes describes the execution of Robespierre (July 1794)
Fréron on the violence of the White Terror (1795)
Raualt on the uprisings of 12-13 Germinal, Year III (April 1795)
Boissy d’Anglas argues for a government of property owners (June 1795)
Thibaudeau on the revival of culture in Paris (1795)
Madame de Staël on conditions in Paris in 1795 (1795)