The Reign of Terror was a period in the French revolution characterised by brutal repression and executions which took place from 1793 to 1794. It was a time of bloodshed and murder, aimed to destroy counter revolutionaries and conspirators, and attack foreign enemies, which resulted in the deaths of around 20,000 to 40,000 people, and was viewed by Robespierre as an inevitable period to stabilise France.
The Reign of Terror was caused by the evolution of the French Revolution. The foreign attacks and counter revolutions further enhanced the French's protection of liberty and equality, caused great conspiracy and suspicion within the nation and the development of radical and extreme political groups of Frenchmen. The incapability, powerlessness and failure of the new government led to the growth of extreme Frenchmen who wanted their needs to be satisfied. These events occurred in the short three years, but completely changed the nature of the French Revolution, eventually leading to the Reign of Terror.
One of the causes was foreign war. The French Republic was proclaimed on 22nd September 1792, embracing new political ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity as outlined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man on 5th October, 1789. In order to firmly establish the new French Republic, the French Government declared war against Austria to prevent royalist uprisings. But this led to an increase of enemies of neighbouring countries who were still ruled by the monarchy and saw the Republic as a threat to their stability and privileges, such as Prussia, Sardinia, England and Holland. The fear of a revolution in their own countries was exemplified by the execution of King Louis XVI on 21st January 1792, who was a figurehead of the Ancien Regime, and as Saint-Just described, "a menace to the Republic".
Violence, mass executions, mob rule, and injustice: the French Revolution was one of the most convulsive time periods in the history of the world. Radicals seized control of the government, and thousands of innocent people lost their lives, all in the name of democracy. The man at the head of the infamous "Reign of Terror" quietly observed it all.
Maximilien Robespierre was born on May 6, 1758 in the bustling city of Arras, located in the northernmost tip of France. Born of a poor family, Robespierre's mother died while he was at the tender age of nine. His father, devastated by the loss, abandoned Robespierre and his siblings to be brought up by various relatives. Though impoverished, Robespierre was able to study at a local college, where he quickly rose above his peers through hard work and studiousness. A scholarship enabled him to study law in Paris. The early years of his life read like a good storybook: an impoverished boy transcends his circumstances to become a respected lawyer.
Robespierre was heavily influenced by the theories of the popular philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau. This led to Robespierre's belief in deism,...